1,100 French Jewish High School Students Celebrate Hanukkah in Jerusalem

Photo by Avi Dodi for Amit Productions

1,100 high school seniors from twenty-five Jewish schools across France celebrated the third night of Hanukkah (Thursday, December 18) in Jerusalem. Participants enjoyed performances by Israeli singer-songwriter Yonatan Razel and IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson, accompanied by the IDF Rabbinate Troupe. Bac Bleu Blanc ("High School Seniors in Blue and White") is a program run by The Jewish Agency for Israel, with the support of Keren Hayesod-UIA, that brings French Jewish high school seniors to Israel on a one-week educational trip every winter. Since Bac Bleu Blanc's creation eleven years ago, some 10,000 students from twenty-five French Jewish high schools have come to Israel as part of the program. This year marks the program's twelfth session, and for the first time ever, several … [Read more...]

More than 800 Russian-speaking Israelis Celebrated at Limmud FSU Kinneret

Photo by Andrey Deveykin

More than 800 Russian-speaking Israelis between 20 and 40 years old, many with their children, gathered Dec. 11-13 for Limmud FSU’s Festival of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) at Kibbutz Ginosar. The event was held in collaboration with the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and with the support of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the Israeli Ministry of Absorption, the Jewish National Fund, and others. Limmud FSU’s Festival of the Sea of Galilee, which included many first-time participants, celebrated the Zionist poet Rachel Bluwstein, known as Rachel the Poetess (Rachel HaMeshosheret in Hebrew). Rachel was born in Saratov, Russia, then lived and worked in the Galilee. She is considered the founding mother of modern Hebrew poetry by women. At the opening event on Dec. 11, an … [Read more...]

Helmsley Trust Announces More Than $11m in Grants to Israel Related Groups

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced more than $11.3 million in grants to support Israel. These grants are in addition to the $9.6 million granted to Israeli institutions in October, 2014, and are part of a continuing effort to strategically invest in Israel’s leading institutions and critical initiatives toward the goal of strengthening Israel as a successful and secure nation. Since the Helmsley Charitable Trust began awarding grants to Israel in 2009, it has committed over $140 million to a wide range of charitable organizations in Israel. In addition to providing various grants to the medical/scientific/research communities, over $1.3 million was allocated to 8 organizations for educational trips to Israel: Academic Exchange: Trip for more than 20 … [Read more...]

Jewish Community Foundation of LA Awards $1m in Israel Grants

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) has awarded approximately $1 million in grants to meet Israel’s emergency needs, as well as for initiatives to support that country’s economic development and to strengthen Jewish identity. Monies this year were awarded to nine programs in total and reflect an increase of approximately 65 percent from $600,000 granted in 2013 under its Israel Grants program. The Foundation awards its multi-year Israel Grants annually to organizations that have the potential to create meaningful change in the country, have achievable short-term outcomes, affect a significant number of people or regions, and offer opportunities for partnerships with other funders. Since 2006, The Foundation has made 43 Israel Grants for a total of more than $6 … [Read more...]

Limmud FSU Kinneret Opens Today at Kibbutz Ginosar

Limmud FSU Israel 2014

Some 800 Russian-speaking Israelis between 20 and 40 years old, many with their children, will come together today for Limmud FSU’s Kinneret Festival at Kibbutz Ginosar. The 3-day event is being held in collaboration with the Jordan Valley Regional Council. Limmud FSU Kinneret celebrates the Zionist poet Rachel Bluwstein, known as Rachel the Poetess, who was born in Saratov, Russia, then lived and worked in the Galilee. She is considered the founding mother of modern Hebrew poetry by women. At today's opening event an original musical based on Rachel’s songs and produced by the “Beit Zvi” acting school will debut. Israeli musician and singer Marina Maximilian will also perform. The volunteer-run festival will include workshops, tours, exhibitions, cultural events and lectures on art, … [Read more...]

Russian Jews’ Love of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi at Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem.

How does a religious movement that made its way to Israel via America end up appealing to immigrants with roots in the atheistic Soviet Union? By Judy Maltz Haaretz When worshippers arrive for Friday-night services at Israel’s newest Reform congregation, they don’t greet one another in Hebrew. Not in English either, as they would in some of the more established Reform congregations founded by Anglophone immigrants around the country. At this brand-new congregation in Tel Aviv suburb Ramat Gan, Russian rules. Not only is it the mother tongue of every single worshipper showing up for services, it’s the language in which many of the prayers are recited and the rabbi’s sermon is delivered. Set up specifically to serve Russian speakers, the congregation doesn’t yet have a name, but it … [Read more...]

Can 72 Hours Really Change the World?

photo courtesy TOM São Paulo

The voice on the other end of the line had a heavy Brazilian accent. "Olá, this is Linamara Battistella, São Paulo’s State Secretary for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities..." To ROI and Reut Institute staffer Arnon Zamir, the phone call seemed out of the blue. But several weeks later, he and a small team boarded a plane to Brazil. The challenge presented by Battistella? To lead a São Paulo-based, 72-hour “TOM” - a “Tikkun Olam Make-A-Thon.” A concept advanced by Zamir and his colleague, Josh Gottesman, TOM brings together engineers, physical therapists, people with disabilities, and all the high-tech and low-tech tools of modern manufacturing - including 3D printers - to create real solutions for some pressing challenges faced by people living with disabilities. Luckily, Zamir and … [Read more...]

An Accelerator for Ultra-Orthodox Women and a New Brand of Feminism


By Frayda Leibtag On a typical morning, the bus stop outside Modiin Illit, an ultra-Orthodox city in Israel, is crowded with bright, energetic women headed off to work to support their large families. One of the many challenges facing the State of Israel is the issue of employment for Israel’s ever-expanding ultra-Orthodox communities. This year, Temech, a nonprofit organization founded in 2005 to help advance employment for ultra-Orthodox women, partnered with PresenTense Israel to create “Yazamiot,” the first-ever entrepreneurship accelerator for ultra-Orthodox women. Twelve women aged 24 to 60 participated in the accelerator, traveling on public transportation to Jerusalem from locations including Beit Shemesh, Modiin Illit and Ashdod. Most of the program’s fellows were also mothers, with … [Read more...]