Shalom, and welcome to the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) Intern Blog. My name is Mitchell Israel, I am 20 years old, and hail from Deerfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I study Marketing and Jewish Studies at Indiana University, where I am in my junior year, however, I am currently studying abroad in Jerusalem, at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School.
I have been involved in URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) programming all my life. I grew up attending Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, a Reform congregation. I spent 10 summers at URJ Olin-Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), as a camper and staff member, and I was active in the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) when I was in high school.
I have visited Israel three times prior to this year: I came with my family for my Bar Mitzvah, went on a community trip called Ta’am Yisrael,. and came on a URJ Kesher Birthright Trip last December, with many of my friends from OSRUI. I have wanted to experience living in Israel for a long time now, even before I started university. I realized there was no better place to do so than at the Rothberg School, so when it came time to study abroad, I applied there.
Living and studying in Israel has been a totally different experience from visiting. I have learned about the public transportation system, the best places to get falafel, and many other tips and tricks to living in Jerusalem. One thing I was lacking, however, was a connection to the Reform Judaism that I grew up with in the US. I chose to seek out an organization to work with that aligned with my values, and was fighting for more visibility for non-Orthodox movements in Israel. I found all that and more with IRAC, and was extremely excited to get the opportunity to intern for them.
So what will I be doing? This blog will be a way to show the work that IRAC does to promote religious pluralism and fight racism and discrimination in Israel, through the eyes of an American. I am enthusiastic and eager to learn more about this incredible organization, and share the perspectives that I learn. Through this internship, I hope to get a better understanding on the work that still needs to be done to make Israel more equal and welcoming to all its citizens. I also hope to gain a connection to the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and see how it is similar and different to the URJ. I will be here until the first week of June, so this will be the first of many (usually) weekly posts from me.
Until next time,