Chancellor Schwartz’s Visit to Israel

Read Chancellor Schwartz’s account of her two-week trip.

I’ve just returned from an emotionally stirring and memorable two-week trip to Israel.

In addition to visiting family and friends and experiencing at close range the emotionally and tangibly laden reality of their lives post October 7, I met with JTS Rabbinical School students who are studying at Machon Schechter for the year. While their experiences barely resemble what they had expected to encounter when they imagined this year, the students have grown incalculably as they adjusted to an Israel at war. Volunteering and assisting Israelis in a wide variety of ways, the students also found deep nourishment from their studies. I felt privileged to hear their heartfelt reflections, and I know that their rabbinates will be forever enriched by these months.  

JTS Rabbinical School students Israel Shuly Schwartz

I also had the opportunity to speak with a group of Masorti rabbis about the challenges of the moment—both those unique to our respective communities and those that we share. While there is much to be concerned about both locally and globally, we drew strength from one another as we discussed rising global antisemitism, threats to democracy and religious pluralism, and the search for a more hopeful and peaceful future. While the answers remain elusive, our honest exchanges proved mutually fortifying.    

Though I spent time in Hostage Square, the plight of the hostages remained front of mind for me throughout the country from the moment I disembarked at the airport to when I went to the town square of a small village. At the same time, I felt the soul of the country soar through the magnificent new National Library. Bringing together the literary and cultural production of the Jewish people over time and space underscores both the unity and the diversity of our people.  

Shuly Schwartz Israel, JTS

I am not the only member of the JTS community to have visited Israel recently. In December, Rabbi Naomi Kalish, director of the Center for Pastoral Education, traveled to Israel with the American Friends of Sheba Medical Center and Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. During her trip she met with pastoral care colleagues to discuss spiritual and emotional care in the context of the war and made hospital visits to people injured since October 7. She also visited Kfar Aza, one of the Israeli communities near Gaza that was devasted by the attack. There she met with the families of hostages to hear their personal stories and to offer them support.   

 Rabbi Naomi Kalish Israel

In January, three of our faculty members traveled on a Jewish Studies Scholars Solidarity Trip. Dr. Robert Harris (professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages), Miriam Meir (senior lecturer of Hebrew Language), and Dr. Jonathan Milgram (associate professor of Talmud and Rabbinics) joined 21 Jewish studies professors. Together they traveled throughout Israel bearing witness, offering support to Israeli academics, and engaging in conversations about how to further deepen intellectual ties. This powerful experience has since led to the founding of a new group called the Jewish Studies Scholars Israel Forum, where support for Israel is a continued topic of discussion. You can read more about the trip in an article written by Dr. Harris in the Times of Israel.  

Jewish Studies Scholars Solidarity Trip

Upon returning from this powerful trip, I felt grateful to walk through the doors of 3080 Broadway. I feel thankful to be part of this institution, shaping the minds and hearts of the next generation of Jewish leaders. It is a privilege to lead JTS during these difficult times and to know today’s students will have the education, experience, and commitment to fortify the Jewish future—a future I hope is filled with peace.