The Center offers thoughtful short term study programs. Through our walking tours and in-classroom sessions these educational frameworks employ biblical and rabbinic texts as well as Modern Hebrew poetry and prose to create a powerful connection between sacred text and sacred space. In addition to meaningful Jewish learning we help participants gain a firm grasp on what is happening in Israel, its connection to Jewish tradition while creating an experience that is run through the lens of Progressive Judaism.
The Center’s educational programs provide visiting congregations with a unique Jerusalem learning experience. Our staff, specially trained in informal education, will engage communities with discussions, walking tours, creative services and age-appropriate activities. Programs include Shabbat programming, holidays and festivals, Hebrew studies, meetings with Israeli families and learning about outstanding biblical and historical personalities. These templates are an invaluable addition to any Progressive Jewish congregation visiting Israel.
College Year Abroad Programs
These intensive seminars are designed specifically for college-age students and young adults. Each year, we bring hundreds of students who, at a formative moment in their Jewish journeys, are exposed to the unique melding of study and experience that only Jerusalem and Israel can offer. The Center provides exciting and meaningful learning opportunities that will set these participants on a course of lifelong learning and commitment.
Post High School Programs
Post high school programs in Israel are attended by thousands of Diaspora Jewish youth each year, and are growing in popularity. Participants are offered opportunities to learn about Judaism, Israel, and Hebrew (in some cases for college credit). They volunteer, travel, and befriend peers from Israel and around the world. These programs often lead to personal growth and strengthened Jewish identity. Last year in total 5,572 students participated in post high school programs. The focus is to expose students to what Judaism is, both in Israel and around the world The growing number of students spending a year in Israel stems from overall excitement and from interest in taking a gap year. In recent years admissions directors of prestigious universities publicly expressed support for gap-year study, and some students view taking a year off to pursue meaningful activities as a leg up. The role of the Center is to visit these different programs a number of times a year to teach about Progressive Judaism – its history and its future.
Each NFTY Birthright program brings around forty young adults who have never been to Israel. These programs meet with the center and our staff to learn more about Progressive Judaism in Israel and around the world. Often times Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel is their last stop in Israel. The goal of this program is to have these young people leave with the understanding that Progressive Judaism is a force in Israel and around the world. The demographics of these groups range from college seniors to young adults ages 26. This demographic is now considered one of the most important age groups in the Jewish world today. Reaching them is critical for our movement.
Each year rabbinical, cantorial and education students come to study at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem for a year. The Center works with these students, teaching about Progressive Judaism around the world and offering them opportunities to serve these communities at different points during their studies. Exposure to Progressive Jewish communities around the world is invaluable educational experience for these future leaders, as well as an opportunity to serve world-wide congregations.