Chabad course designed to combat Israel apathy
By Toby Tabachnick
Responding to an alarming result in a national survey, which showed young American Jews are showing less interest in Israel, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will launch a new six-week course entitled "Israel: The Land and the Spirit" starting the end of this month.
The course is the Rohr's attempt to combat apathy toward Israel among Jewish youth. There will be no charge for the course to those under the age of 30. The course, which will be offered at 750 locations worldwide, comes just weeks after the Jerusalem Post reported the results of a survey finding that fewer than 50 percent of Jews under the age of 35 would view the destruction of Israel as a tragedy.
JLI had already planned to offer the course when the results of the survey came out. "Then we launched an incentive, a special program, where Jews under 30 could come to the course for free," said Rabbi Yisroel Altein, director of Chabad of Pittsburgh. "We have a lot of work to do," said Rabbi Ely Rosenfeld, director of the Fox Chapel Center for Jewish Life.
Rosenfeld believes that the pride in Israel prevalent among middle-aged and older Jews tends to evade younger Jews because they do not remember Israel's War of Independence and the 1967 War.
"We have to re-educate our youth about why Israel is important to Judaism as a whole," Rosenfeld said, "It's not just a homeland, but has much more to do with our Judaism."
"It's of the utmost importance to not only bring in the young, but also the middle-aged Jews who already have a sense of Jewish pride in Israel," he continued. "You can never learn enough about Israel."
While the course will explore the Chasidic and Kabalistic view of the land, Altein said, it is not a Chasidic course.
"The course is based on classic Jewish teaching, starting from the Chumash and the talmudic perspective," he said.
"It's about what Judaism has to say about Israel. At the same time, we'll see the Chasidic perspective, the mystical and spiritual side to the land."
The classes will be accessible to people with various levels of knowledge, from "people just coming in off the street," to people who have lived in Israel, said Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, director of Chabad of the South Hills. The course will cover questions "even Jews in Israel don't reflect upon when dealing with the daily grind of life."
The course will be offered in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, South Hills, Fox Chapel, and Downtown, and will begin the week of Oct. 29 at all locations.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)