Nativ Jewish Zionist Identity Program participants are gaining stronger, deeper
connections to their Jewish identities.
April 29, 2010 / 15 Iyar 5770
David's family settled in Israel when he was five-years-old. Eventually, his family moved back to Canada, but he stayed on, determined to serve in the army and be a full-fledged Israeli citizen. And yet, life in Israel has not always been so easy for him, the son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother.
The Jewish Agency's Nativ: Jewish Zionist Identity Program, has helped David and thousands other immigrant soldiers like him, forge stronger and deeper connections to their Jewish Identities.
"When I enrolled in the army, I met a lot of affiliated Jews and the religion really intrigued me," said David. "Through Nativ, I learned that … I am a part of the Jewish People."
Since its inception in 2001, over 8,000 soldiers have participated in the program, with over 3,600 completing the conversion process.
Nativ is generously supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Jewish Agency, and many Jewish Federations and individual donors. It is a unique program doing vital work in Israel within an often overlooked population: Young immigrants serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), more than half of whom come from countries where Jewish and Israel education is very limited, including a significant number who are not recognized as Jewish by Israel's rabbinic authority. As a result, many of these young immigrants feel disconnected from their Jewish heritage and history and not fully integrated into Israeli society.
Through Nativ, these young immigrants are given a unique educational opportunity that combines study with experiential activities to strengthen their bonds to their Jewish heritage, Zionism, Israeli culture, and history. The program also offers a supplementary course on Judaism for those interested in conversion.
The seven-week Nativ course is intense and well-rounded, with participants learning five days a week for approximately 14 hours a day. Classroom lectures are taught by professional educators as well as commanders of the IDF. And lectures are augmented by field trips around the country to ancient sites and Shabbat weekends spent on kibbutzim or in people's homes, to share with these young people a more living, tangible Judaism and to help foster community. Beyond that, participants work on personal projects, such as building a family tree or researching the Jewish community of their home country, to better bridge the theoretical and the personal.
These experiences are priceless.
As David, the Nativ participant said, "When I am with the host families for Shabbat, I thoroughly enjoy every minute. I only hope that my family will be like that one day."