A group of 22 Israeli students and professionals from University of Haifa’s Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies are visiting the U.S. this week on a 10-day academic program, marking the resumption of an initiative promoting closeness between Israel and American Jewry following a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
During this year’s trip from August 1-10 in New York City, the Israelis will meet American Jewish leaders; visit synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, and museums; and attend lectures by prominent members of the local community. Highlights of their itinerary include stops at Ellis Island, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Tenement Museum, the New York University campus, and other key landmarks. The trip, made up largely of professionals in the field of Israel-American Jewish community relations, is a centerpiece of the Ruderman Program, which is offered as a master’s program in University of Haifa’s Department of Israel Studies and acts as the only one of its kind in Israel.
Launched with the support of the Ruderman Family Foundation in 2013 with the goal of increasing Israelis’ awareness of the diverse Jewish community in the U.S., the program covers a range of issues pertaining to American Jewish life; American society; and the long-lasting and important bond between the Jews of America, the State of Israel, and Israeli society. The program caters to outstanding students who seek to expand their grasp of American Jewish life and who want to take part in a unique academic and intellectual experience.
“By adding a tangible experience to the curriculum, the field trip is not only a crucial capstone experience for Ruderman Program students, but also a key point of connection for Israelis and Americans at a time when they need it the most,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “We are grateful that the current conditions of the pandemic have allowed the annual trip to resume its purpose of bridging the gap between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.”
Notably, the Israeli students are visiting at a time when the Jewish community in the U.S. is navigating several high-profile challenges and complexities — from rising anti-Semitism, to the reopening of communal life after the disruption of COVID-19, to a growing sense of disconnection with Israel.
“The individuals that study as part of the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies dedicate ample time and resources to learning about American Jewry. With this academic delegation to the United States, they get to see and hear about the community first-hand, which is incredibly valuable,” said Gur Alroey, Rector of University of Haifa and Director of the Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies. “The importance of teaching Israelis about the American Jewish community cannot be overstated, and this trip is meant to enrich the students’ professional knowledge and their ability to do informed work in the field.”