Though finances are still tight, after a two-year hiatus, the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey is again offering financial aid to young people who want to visit Israel.
While $500 subsidies will be available throughout the year, applications for scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year need to be submitted by Jan. 13. Those approved by the reviewing committee will be invited for an interview in February.
Federation executive vice president Stanley Stone told NJ Jewish News, “We’re certainly not out of the woods financially, but this is an area we feel we can’t neglect. It’s an investment in our future.
“When the economic crisis hit, we had to concentrate our resources on the physical well-being of those in need in our local community,” he continued. “We were very reluctant to cut the Israel study grants, but we had to identify who and what was in most urgent need of help.
“But for the long-term viability of the Jewish community, we have to encourage our children to develop their roots in Israel. We can’t neglect that. And while we want families to make it a priority for themselves, we want to encourage as many people as possible to go, and not to be prevented from going by the financial burden,” said Stone.
In 2009, the last year the federation gave Israel grants, some 30 young people received subsidies or scholarships. So far, said Linda Poleyeff, the organization’s Jewish education director, the application rate has been much lighter, and the federation is eager to encourage more people to apply.
“The scholarships are needs-based,” Poleyeff said, “for year-long academic programs or possibly for other study programs, like a three-month summer course. We’re looking for young people with a deep feeling for Israel and the Jewish community and a readiness to be involved afterward — to tell others about their experiences or to volunteer, like at Super Sunday.”
She pointed out that the federation also supports other Israel opportunities, like MASA, the Israeli nonprofit organization that supports study programs for young Jewish adults from around the world.
‘Spread the message’
Yocheved Bomrind of Elizabeth received a federation grant to help cover the cost of the year she spent at Michlalah Jerusalem College after graduating from Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth in 2008. “It was an amazing experience,” said Bomrind, who is now finishing a degree in psychology at Stern College in Manhattan and hoping to go on to graduate school. “I think it’s really important — for girls and boys — to go to Israel to connect with their Jewish identity. You learn so much, from teachers and friends and from the other people you meet. It was wonderful. I’d love to go back.”
With the help of a federation grant, Jared Lindenberg of Scotch Plains spent three months in the spring of 2008 at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon. In an essay about the experience he wrote for the federation, he said, “Jerusalem is truly one of the most significant places I have ever been, and because of it, I now know why my parents warned me that I would want to stay in Israel. Just being in a place where everyone is Jewish really makes you feel significant.
“Now I will spread the message to other teens about the importance of going to Israel, about learning of our heritage, and about living a Jewish life.”
For more information or application forms, go to www.JewishJerseyCentral.org.