When the 382 U.S. and Canadian participants in the 2007-2008 Young Judaea Year Course
program leave for Israel at the end of the month, they will constitute the largest class ever and one that is an impressive 25 percent bigger than last year’s.
Coming from 30 states, Puerto Rico, and three Canadian provinces, they will be joined by 99 participants from Britain’s Federation of Zionist Youth
and 17 members of the Israel Scouts. With the total class size nearly 500, this is the fourth year in a row that the Year Course attendance has grown to record numbers.
"Over the years, we have seen that the backgrounds of Jewish teens who are attracted to Year Course have become more and more varied. In light of this fact, we are offering more tracks than ever to address the special interests of Jewish North American teens," explained Shelley Sherman, coordinator of Young Judaea, the Zionist youth movement of Hadassah. "We believe we have something for everyone interested in spending a structured year in Israel – and that that shows in our numbers."
This year for the first time, 75 members of the class will participate in one of two new Olami tracks, which will not only take students to Israel but to countries around the world. Year Course Olami: the Zionist Revolution, will introduce students to five areas – France, England, Budapest/Prague/Krakow, Morocco, and Ethiopia – from where Jews risked everything to leave their homes and start anew in Israel.
Discovering remote Jewish communities of the world is the goal of Year Course Olami: the Lost Jewish Communities, in which participants will visit communities in Portugal, South Africa, India and Uganda. During the course of their academic year in Israel, students will alternate their travels with Year Course’s core components of classroom study, touring Israel and volunteering.
Year Course provides up to one year’s worth of college credit through the American Jewish University-in-Israel, while building leadership skills and developing and strengthening their relationship with the country’s land and people. Participants spend a third of their time in Bat Yam/Holon, where they engage in an array of educational activities with local school children, from teaching English to coaching basketball.
Another third is spent in the new Beit Ar-El, Young Judaea’s educational center in Jerusalem, where participants take courses in Jewish history, religion, language and current events. The third segment is spent doing hands-on volunteer work with organizations like Magen David Adom, the Israeli rescue service, an ecological farm, and the Israel Defense Forces, to name but a few.