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October 5, 2015 | 22nd Tishrei 5776

Emily Grotta


A new program endorsed by the Union for Reform Judaism will allow North American high-school graduates to spend a remarkable year living and learning in Israel before entering college.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Overseas Studies at the University of Haifa and the Lokey International Academy of Jewish Studies at the Leo Baeck Education Center, the Carmel program will include formal and informal learning at both institutions. In addition to academic coursework, workshops, and a Reform beit midrash (traditional study method) with a focus on Judaism and Israel, students will receive intensive Hebrew instruction, participate in field study trips throughout Israel, and build personal connections to the people, places, and culture, and history of Israel.

The first students will arrive in Israel this September, and will live in dormitories at the University. Most importantly, they will form a living Reform Jewish community with their fellow Reform students from North America, Israel, and around the world, engaging in worship, prayer, celebration, and tikkun olam projects in their area.

"The Carmel program is designed to help students build a lifelong relationship with Israel," said Rabbi Andrew Davids, co-director of the Youth Division of the Union for Reform Judaism. "The participants in this program are at a formative age, during which they're coming to understand Jewish values in a more mature way and looking for new answers to their questions about Judaism and Israel. This program gives young people a sustained, in-depth Israel experience-an experience which will allow them to return to their North American college campuses strengthened as Reform Jews and ready to engage in dialogue about Israel."

Highlights of the program include:

  • Leadership training courses and experiences that prepare students for the responsibilities of Reform Jewish leadership;
  • An intensive Hebrew Ulpan designed to start learners on the lifetime journey of Jewish linguistic, cultural, and religious literacy;
  • Two separate programs in the southern Arava Desert, which combine desert hiking with an exploration of the opportunities, challenges, and issues related to community life at Reform kibbutzim;
  • A weeklong Pesach seminar in Jerusalem, held in cooperation with the city's Reform communities;
  • Academic courses and workshops offering a Reform perspective on Jewish history, culture, and theology;
  • Mentoring with Israeli Reform rabbis and opportunities for connection with Israeli families and individuals.

Carmel also aims to ready its participants for North American college life. Students will experience a year of study within an environment that is attentive to the needs of each individual, and sharpen their academic research and writing skills in a workshop specifically designed for that purpose. At the year's end, they will return to North America with broad international experience, mastery of a foreign language, and the ability to live and grow Jewishly among new, unfamiliar surroundings - while standing firm in the face of a sometimes-difficult environment for Reform Jewish students.

The Carmel program is a rigorous one, and is open only to high school graduates who maintained a "B" average and scored a minimum of 1100 on their SATs. Students who are interested in the program are advised to apply to college during their senior years of high school, and, upon acceptance, defer for the year.

As the University of Haifa is an accredited university of the highest international caliber, credits earned by Carmel participants will be transferable to most North American universities.

For more information about the Carmel program, please visit


The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of the Reform Movement in North America, and represents 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 congregations in the United States and Canada. The Union services include youth camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, adult education programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.


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