The secular-religious beit midrash for teens in Ashkelon, run by Ilan Ivgy – one of the Yachad Program for Jewish Identity‘s 48 facilitators across Israel – brings together youth of different populations to meet, mix, examine Jewish sources and share ideas. “Some heated discussions have erupted, since each group arrives with its own perspective,” says Ivgy. “Our goal is to teach them to be open-minded and respectful of others’ views, and to hammer home at this young age that what unites us is so much stronger than what divides us.”
This is just one of several similar activities for teens that Yachad runs throughout the country. The dialogue groups have a profoundly modern look and feel, though the contemporary subjects discussed are generally broached by delving into classic Jewish texts or examined through the prism of Jewish values.
“This week we focused specifically on acceptance of the ‘other’ and celebrating ‘the unique in me’ through theatrical exercises,'” revealed Ivgy. “Our youth are thirsty for meaning and direction. They give themselves over so completely to the discussions that they even forget about their cellphones.”