JTS Mission to Israel a Transformative Experience

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

August 28, 2007, New York, NY

JTS Mission to Israel participants listen in rapt attention as Rabbi David Hoffman discusses sectarianism in the Rabbinic period at Qumran.

”What I have discovered on this trip is rabbinic inspiration. The bush was not consumed. This mission has given me a new fire as I start a new chapter of my life and a new commitment to Jewish life,” said Eden Kasle, 25, as he expressed his gratitude to his mother, Annette.

Eden, together with his mother who encouraged him to join her, was one of forty people from across North America who participated in The Jewish Theological Seminary’s 2007 Mission to Israel led by Chancellor Arnold Eisen.

What compelled many of the participants to sign up for the mission, most of whom have been frequent visitors to Israel, was the opportunity to spend ten days with Professor Eisen. The journey was Professor Eisen’s first official act as Chancellor, sending a clear message that JTS’s relationship with Israel, and by extension American Jewry’s relationship with Israel, are at the forefront of his agenda.

In order to maximize the experience the group embarked on a unique pilgrimage in which it retraced the path of two revolutions in Jewish history: the Rabbinic Period and Modern Zionism.

As the group made its way from Tel Aviv, to Caesaria, to the Galilee and finally to Jerusalem, visiting ancient ruins and modern Conservative institutions, Rabbi David Hoffman, Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, Dr. Adrianne Leveen, and Chancellor Eisen had rich opportunities to teach using an extensive sourcebook filled with passages from the Talmud, modern Zionist philosophy, and historical documents. Along the way, the mission was addressed by a stellar line-up of Israeli insiders that included MK Collette Avital, Rabbi David Golinkin, Dr. Alice Shalvi, and Miri Eisen, Foreign Media Director for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as cutting-edge writers Ari Elon and Sari Nusseibeh.

Chancellor Eisen recently completed an interim year as Chancellor-elect, during which he criss-crossed the country, listening to Conservative Jews express their concerns, hopes, frustrations, and dreams about the state of Conservative Jewry. Not surprisingly, this journey followed in the same spirit, with his fellow travelers enjoying ample opportunities to hear his visions and plans for the Conservative Movement and for JTS, while they shared their thoughts and feelings with him.

"This pilgrimage to Israel represented the best of JTS. The learning was substantive and passionate. There was a palpable sense of spirituality and community in the group. It was a transformative experience for us all," said Chancellor Eisen.

Mission participants were deeply affected by the experience and expressed their feelings in a moving round-table discussion. Diane Wohl of Mill Neck, Long Island, had this to say: “I was just here in April, but this trip was so different. Being able to walk through history being able to personally meet Arnie Eisen without all the formalities was just incredible. I’m on the List College Advisory Board, but I realize I don’t know as much as I want to about JTS. We all need to be ambassadors; our congregations need to understand the connection. We don’t want to be the generation to be left behind.”

Editors/Reporters: For further information about the JTS Mission to Israel, contact Sherry S. Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world-class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.