NFTY IN ISRAEL THE LARGEST GROUP TRAVELING IN SUMMER 2005 CLOSE TO 600 TEENS LEFT SUNDAY FOR FIVE-WEEK TRAVEL & LEARN PROGRAM
(New York, NY -- June 25, 2005) -- Close to 600 teenagers from the far corners of the continent left today for a summer in Israel with the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), the youth affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism. The 589 high school students are the largest contingent of teens traveling from any American youth movement this summer.
Noting that more than twice as many teens are on the 2005 trip as the previous summer, Paul Reichenbach, director of Camping and Israel Programs for the Union for Reform Judaism, said, NFTY is once again the preeminent sponsor of summer programs in Israel for North American high school youth.
Prior to the intifada, which caused widespread security concerns among parents, NFTY sent more high school-age children to Israel each year than any other North American group. The program has slowly been rebuilding since 2002, as NFTY altered its program to ensure the safety and security of the teens. Participants reside in secure facilities outside of urban areas; itineraries are reviewed daily to determine if the route and destination provide the highest level of safety; and parents can reach NFTY personnel 24 hours a day in case of emergency.
This summer is a success because most parents now recognize that Israel is a safe and appropriate destination for teens, and most teens recognize that a summer trip to Israel is an amazing adventure, Reichenbach said.
The five-week Ldor Vdor Exodus journey begins in Prague, where the youths spend three days exploring the heritage of one of Europes oldest and most distinguished Jewish communities. They will then spend three days sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, recreating the voyage of the Exodus with their new friends.
The students will then spend the next 28 days exploring Israel from border to border and sea to sea. They will walk on the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, ascend to the summit of Masada at dawn, float in the Dead Sea, and snorkel in the Red Sea. Theyll visit the Galilee and Golan accompanied by a group of Israeli teens, explore the Negev desert, and shop on Tel Avivs famous Dizengoff Street. During a five-day experience module, they can choose to participate in hands-on tikkun olam projects, join a real archaeological dig, or test their endurance by hiking and biking from the Galilee to the Mediterranean.
Our goal is not only that young people have a safe journey and a great time, but that they have a transformative growth experience that they feel proud of themselves and the Jewish people when they return home, Reichenbach said.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.