The Sorkin Youth Israel Trip is no Dream

December 20, 2018 in Rabbi Greg Harris

“If you will it, it is no dream.”

These words of Theodor Herzl from his book Altneuland, Old New Land (1902) resonate with me today.  Herzl had a vision of establishing a political state for the Jewish People.  He wrote at a time of rising nationalism and anti-Semitism.  Herzl’s solution to the pogroms and hatred he reported on as a journalist was to press for the establishment of a safe haven for Jews where they (we) could thrive, contribute to mankind and be proud of our heritage.  Herzl’s son and last direct relative died in 1930, 18 years before Theodor Herzl’s dream was willed into reality.  It is a misfortune of history that no Herzl relative was able to witness the establishment of Midinat Yisrael (the modern State of Israel).

As you read this blog, I will be just arriving in Israel on the inaugural Sorkin Youth Israel Trip with 18 Beth El students.  This trip was a dream of Jerry Sorkin’s z”l, Beth El’s immediate past president.  Jerry wanted to create a trip which would tie our students closer to Israel and be a capstone experience of our Religious School.  This Confirmation Class experience will draw the participants together in very special ways and be something for younger students to anticipate as they remain engaged throughout the Religious School years.

Over the past two years a committee worked to develop, and to raise the funds to implement this initiative.  Through generous contributions, Beth El is subsidizing roughly 50% of this trip for all participants.  We are excited about future donations of support to make this trip a regular part of the Beth El experience for years to come.  The chaperones are Elisha Frumkin, Beth El’s Education Director, Matthew Jacobson, a graduate student at UMD and a lifelong enthusiastic Beth El member, and myself.  With the leadership of Sara Gordon and David Mills, guidance from Lisa Sorkin, and administrative coordination by Tali Moscowitz, Beth El’s Assistant Education Director for Youth Engagement, this trip will be incredible.

The trip is formed around three values reflecting Jerry’s outlook of Commitment, Resilience and Leadership.  The itinerary is designed to focus on one of these values each day.  For 12 days, we will apply these values to questions surrounding being a Zionist in the Diaspora, complex national narratives in the region, where the focus or foci of Jewish life is today and having fun together the entire time. We will see how Israel as a country, Jews over time and specific Israelis embodied these values.  The students and staff will also reflect on the importance of nurturing these characteristics within ourselves.

From the Galilee to Mitzpe Ramon, the dream of this experience is now a reality.