April 21, 2024
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Faculty-Initiated Kushner Israel Fund Plans Second Annual Event

The second annual Kushner Israel Fund concert will be held at the JKHA/RKYHS building on Saturday, March 4, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Rabbi David Schlusselberg, a faculty member at the school and popular Jewish music performer, will headline the concert, accompanied by Yair Shahak on violin and RKYHS sophomore David Wolkoff on percussion. Admissions is $10 for students and $15 for adults. Last year’s inaugural concert, held at Congregation Etz Chaim in Livingston, raised roughly $3,000 and the hope is to top that amount this year.

In the fall of 2014, an inquiry was made by an RKYHS Judaic faculty member about where a particular student would be spending her gap year in Israel. This teacher was surprised to learn that the student would likely be going straight to college, foregoing her gap year. While many students do make that decision, this particular student was uniquely religiously motivated, and a gap year in Israel seemed like a natural next step for her. The teacher discovered that this girl’s family was not be able to afford to send her to seminary, even though the girl desperately wanted to attend. While the yeshivot and seminaries and organizations like Torah Letzion and MASA do an admirable job providing scholarship opportunities, sometimes students need additional financial assistance.

Bothered by this situation, the teacher, along with other members of the JKHA/ RKYHS Judaic Studies faculty, began the Kushner Israel Fund, with the intention that it would provide scholarships to enable Kushner students to spend a gap year in Israel. In its first year, the fund raised most of its money from faculty members, and a number of scholarships were given out to students, including the one whose story was the impetus for this fund, enabling her to attend a seminary for her gap year.

The opportunity to spend a gap year in Israel is a gift with immeasurable value. There are many obstacles to living as a religiously committed Jew. Jewish day schools and high schools provide a critical religious backbone for students; living and studying in Israel for a year allows students to take the values they have been taught at home and in school, and to actualize them in a whole new way. Whether students need to strengthen their emunah (religious commitment) or gain skills in learning, spending a gap year in Israel is a tremendously worthwhile experience. Of course, a person can be a strong Jew without spending a year in Israel, but as one recipient of the Kushner Israel Fund stated, “Spending the year in Israel is an experience like no other. Being able to learn whatever sparks my interest has allowed me to grow in many ways, challenge beliefs and gain a better understanding of Judaism. My love and appreciation for the Jewish State has grown, and I am more determined than ever to advocate for Israel when I return to the United States to attend college.”

To date, the Kushner Israel Fund has raised over $13,000, helping seven students make the year in Israel a reality. In response to receiving the scholarship, one student stated, “I am truly blessed that I have people in my life that saw my potential for growth in seminary, and supported me through this fund.”

Kushner is located at 110 South Orange Avenue, Livingston, NJ 07039.

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