From January 10th-20th, 91 YU undergraduate student leaders took part in an array of hands-on community building projects in Israel, the United States, Nicaragua and Mexico while developing their own leadership, teaching and advocacy skills.
Under the direction of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, and building on the success of the “Counterpoint Israel” summer program, 39 YU students ran a series of Counterpoint “Winter Camps” for over 450 Israeli teens in Jerusalem, Kiryat Malachi and Dimona that focused on English enrichment and self-exploration through art. Throughout the 10-day service learning mission, the YU students guided the Israeli teens through the process of developing a personal narrative and using multiple mediums to create multi-dimensional autobiographies.
The students were also active in the respective host communities, working with youth at risk and running workshops for the parents of high school dropouts.
During the same timeframe, 20 students met with local rabbis, educators and communal leaders in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, TX in an effort to gain a better understanding of the unique challenges faced by these diverse Jewish communities. Known as “Jewish Life Coast to Coast,” this experiential education mission’s aim was to broaden the students’ Jewish communal knowledge through informative meetings, hands-on volunteering, and the students’ implementation of educational programs in schools, synagogues and community centers.
Highlights included meetings with executive staff members from the Houston and Dallas Federations and Jewish community members employed by NASA.
Students also participated on two humanitarian missions in Mexico and Nicaragua that explored the relationship between social justice, service and Judaism. In Mexico, 16 students collaborated with Hombre Sobre La Tierra (HST- Humankind on Earth), a local nonprofit organization that works within the Mayan community to promote environmental sustainability, advance the integration of women in the economy, and strengthen the capacity of grassroots groups. Continuing the work of previous student visits, the group assisted with a variety of projects, including farming and harvesting in local private and public gardens, building pools for aquaculture development, and contributing to the community’s ecotourism project.
In Nicaragua, another 16 participants volunteered with Servicios Médicos Comunales (SMC), an NGO that promotes community-based sustainable development in the southwestern district of San Juan del Sur. An outgrowth of SMC’s educational programming, the students assisted with the construction of a public library, a project started by previous CJF winter mission participants.
As in the past, the CJF winter missions are run with support from and in partnership with the Jim Joseph Foundation, Repair the World, and the American Jewish World Service.