Returning to the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, everything felt familiar. My experiences, however, were not. Last summer, I had participated in the Kelim programme: a 4-week course of Jewish learning and development run by Marom and the yeshiva. I returned to Jerusalem this summer with Kelim, to help coordinate with Noam and Marom UK, and again to take part in the programme.
While last year I had spent mornings learning Hebrew, this year I chose to spend my mornings working at the Jewish charity “Rabbis for Human Rights”, as part of the yeshiva’s ‘volunteer and study’ placements. Rabbis for Human Rights does incredible humanitarian work in both Israel and the West Bank, working with a wide range of groups in those areas, and I was lucky to get a placement there.
To be involved in the organisation, and to see what they were doing, really helped me shape my own identity as a Zionist Jew, as well as giving me some of the tools to enact that identity in the real world: I gained skills and experience, both with charity fundraising, and with some of the outcomes of that fundraising. For example, one morning I sat in on a session given by Yehiel, the organisation’s Development director, to group of Israeli teenagers, on the value of Jewish teaching in the pursuit of justice. I am grateful to Rabbis for Human Rights, and I recommend finding out more about them.
In the afternoon, I would take the bus from the Talpiyot district back to the yeshiva, where afternoon classes were being held. I took classes on Torah, Mishnah, and Jewish philosophy. Some of teachers even recognised me from last year, and there were familiar faces amongst the students.
Every day was exhausting. The Kelim cohort, a group of 6 others, would return to our apartment most evenings and go straight to bed. On other nights, we might go explore Jerusalem, or have sessions on in the evening, but a full day of learning is somewhat tiring. One day we might be up at 6am to daven at the Kotel, as part of Women of the Wall, or one day we might stay up late to go to one of Jerusalem’s few karaoke bars. It was a busy schedule.
It was amazing to be a part of that group, as we spent those 4 weeks. A group of young, British, Masorti Jews, living in Jerusalem, living out Jewish lives, and forging Jewish identities. Struggling with questions, having experiences, and enjoying themselves, all together.
For most of us, growing up in Jewish communities has raised issues for us which were unresolved. The programme gave us an opportunity to seek answers for ourselves.
Jakob Stein was the Rosh of this year’s Kelim group. He was a madrich, and more recently, an educator on Noam camp, and is involved in Marom.