One of the bolder projects that has recently emerged from Jewish philanthropy is a trip to Israel called Leading Up North. Run by the newly created Center for leadership Initiatives and funded by philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, the trip

will involve repair of cities and towns, bomb shelters, and forests which have been devastated by the violence [caused by Hizballah Katyushas this summer]. A specially tailored educational curriculum will be offered by scholars-in-residence with expertise in service learning.

The 500 trip participants were drawn from Hillel students, young professionals recruited by the Jewish Coalition for Service and ROI120 alumni who paid a mere $180 for the 10-day trip and the opportunity to lend a hand to the residents of northern Israel. It seems like everyone I know in New York just left and it’s just me and David Kelsey holding down the fort here in New York, standing guard over Babylon.

The trip seems like an awesome idea and I hope it goes well, but, as in all things Jewish, there have been rumblings of discontent and the usual logistical issues. For instance, some municipal officials in northern Israel have noted that the money spent on the trip would have done their constituents more good had it come in the form of cash rather than otherwise well meaning young diasporah Jews. It has also been noted that the trip organizers purchased a type of paint unsuitable for use in bomb shelters. But hey… anyone can make a mistake. What’s important is that certain goals are met:

By allowing 500 young people to engage in real engagement in Israel’s North, CLI is seeking to reduce the distance between Israel and the Diaspora and to model global Jewish community.

Reducing distance… engaging in real engagement. That’s what it’s all about.

So how’s it going so far? The participants landed in Israel early this morning. They travelled up north and were shuttled from speaker to speaker prior to attending a dance party. People were dropping left right and center because no one saw fit to let the kids rest after a long plane ride. Hotels were unavailable until after the party. I don’t know how wise that planning was… how effective can our young Jewish leaders be if they are completely knackered?? Oh well… stay tuned for more updates. Looks like I’ll be the only one posting about this too because no one there has Internet access either… Good luck guys!

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • Reducing distance… engaging in real engagement. That’s what it’s all about.

    [wiping away sarcasm that dripped on me]

    Business buzzwords, marketing jargon, that’s what Jewish philanthropy is all about. 😉

    Good G-d, man. If Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion tried to use such stuffy, lackluster crud to inspire the youth to build a Jewish state, we’d still be stuck in Exile with no Israel.

  • Its nice to hear that people are signing up and are involved. The amount of money, time, and resources that have been poured into rebuildnig the North is very nice- But i would like to see the same being done to our brothers & sisters who were living in Gaza- why havent the federations raised money for them? Why arent we building them houses? I hope with the billion!!! dollars that have been raised for the North -that it acutally gets used for making the place nicer- and not just gets lost in the pockets of some of these NGO’s (JNF, JA etc) who claim to do work but really do nothing but pay huge salaries..

  • As someone who sleeps in the same bed as a Jewish Agency worker I can assure you that a record number of Federation and JA money has been making its way to both the North and the South. My wife has put her heart and soul into helping better the lives of Israeli residents in both the north and south. There are numerous programs for former residents of Gaza that are organized and funded by the JA. I can provide you with examples if you are interested, but somehow, I don’t think that will fit in with your agenda. And the huge salary accusation? You should see our bank account.

  • To me all of this sounds like trapping a mosquito with a Patriot, better leave the rebuilding to people who are used to have dirty hands.

  • JvTzT: There’s nothing more patriotic than using a multi-million dollar weapon to blow up a mosquito to smithereens. Seriously, I hate those buggers.

    Yeah, yeah. I know the Midrash about Shlomo & the honeybee, and the spider & the cave. But still, there must be some creepy crawlers of creation that we can do without…