JEWISHcolorado has announced that its previously cancelled Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour is back on for this summer, with not just one but two trips for Colorado students. Just 12 days after announcing that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism would not be granting enough visas for this year’s trips, organizers were able to deliver the good news that 86 students will travel to Israel this summer.
In a first for the program, JEWISHcolorado will run two trips this June, one comprised of students who were scheduled for the 2020 trip that was cancelled because of the pandemic and one for students signed up for the 2021 trip. All students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and must participate in testing prior to the trip and upon entry to the country.Students will follow similar itineraries to those in years past, including hiking and camping in the Negev, climbing Masada, visiting the Dead Sea, snorkeling in Eilat, visiting the Western Wall, and going to Yad Vashem. While the Israel portion of the trip remains unchanged, the Poland portion was cancelled due to COVID-19.
The change in plans came about through the partnership with RootOne and the Jewish Agency (JAFI), working with Israel’s Ministry of Health to identify an alternative path for student trips to run. JEWISHcolorado’s Joyce Zeff Israel Study tours are one of the few community trips that are taking place this summer, and this is the longest continuously run community-wide trip in the country, according to JEWISHcolorado’s Julie Lieber, Chief Jewish Life and Engagement Officer. RootOne is an initiative powered by the Jewish Education Project that aims to help bring thousands of Jewish teens from the US to Israel on immersive summer trips.
“This has been a roller coaster ride for everyone, and the decision to cancel was made even because our teens especially have dealt with so much uncertainty through the pandemic. Now, it’s even more meaningful that we can provide this experience. Among this summer’s ISTers are the children and even grandchildren of those who have participated in this trip in decades past. This is part of a legacy in their families and in our community,” she said.
Despite the uncertainty, JEWISHcolorado staff, including Jillian Feiger, the staff lead for IST and director of Jewish Student Connection, and Michelle Schwartz, director of the Teen Emissary Program, have been meeting monthly with students to provide educational experiences. JEWISHcolorado’s shaliach (Israeli emissary) Itai Davinsky has been working directly with the tour provider to create a meaningful itinerary and a powerful experience for the students.
JEWISHcolorado’s CEO Rabbi Jay Strear said, “We’ve been so appreciative of the support from the community, as well as for the patience and understanding on the part of families. We know Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour is a long-standing and beloved tradition, and it has created a web of connectivity—including lasting friendships and even marriages—that binds each successive class together in a way that is both special and irreplaceable.”JEWISHcolorado is both a programming and funding entity working with more than 100 community organizations to ensure a thriving and lasting Jewish community in Colorado and around the world.