Kotel

The Kotel, also known as the Wailing Wall, is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was originally constructed as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great.

 

Each year, The Bronfman Fellowship – a nonprofit founded in New York in 1987 – selects 26 North American students from the Jewish community to embark on a five-week summer trip to Israel. 

Arcadia News reached out to Eliana Rosenfeld, a Phoenix Country Day School senior, who was one of the specially chosen travelers.

“The Fellowship is a transformative, year-long learning experience for intellectually adventurous Jewish teens who want to see the world through a lens different from their own,” said Program Officer Stefanie Weisman. “At the end of their Fellowship year, students join an incredibly active, nearly 1,400-member alumni community.” 

Bronfman’s rabbis, educators and artists join the group as they explore the Jewish texts and their meanings and ideas in-depth. This type of study and interaction allows for important conversations that help everyone grow and expand their global outlook. The program also works closely with its peers from the Israeli branch, Amitei Bronfman.

“We help Fellows develop a capacity to channel their passions and make a significant impact on the world, particularly on Jewish life,” Weisman said. “We are committed to building a community from as wide a spectrum as possible.”

This spectrum includes “diversity in religious and cultural affiliation, race, ethnicity, spiritual beliefs, origin, socioeconomic status, gender, physical abilities and political views.” 

“As a diverse community, we have the opportunity to learn from one another and to appreciate and value distinctiveness as a source of strength,” she said. 

To become a Bronfman Fellow, Jewish high school juniors in the U.S. and Canada can apply to the Fellowship. The application period begins on the first of September.

“The Fellowship is important because of its commitment to pluralism: learning from the other,” Eliana said. “Each Fellow is unique in their observance, political opinions and passions; yet we agree to be flexible in our convictions to prioritize learning.”

Eliana found out about Bronfman from a writing fellowship she did last year called Rising Voices. 

“I was encouraged to apply by the faculty there as a continuation of my work,” she said.

During the trip to Israel, students explored many significant historical and religious sites. According to Weisman, they “treat sites like texts, listening for the voices and thoughts the places provide or manifest.” 

From the ancient fort of Masada to the Old City of Jerusalem to the more modern Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, the students live and learn while immersed in the Jewish tradition.

Eliana said that the experience consisted of lessons with faculty, trips around Israel, “magical” Shabbats (days of rest), casual walks around Jerusalem, seminars with the Israeli Amitei and, most importantly, meeting and forming lifelong bonds with the other Fellows. 

“The best wisdom is extracted in between the scheduled learning times – from friends who become teachers,” Eliana said.

After graduation, Eliana plans on attending school on the west coast to study history and pre-med. 

“I am interested in health policy and want to fight health inequity within the U.S. through medical research and other avenues,” she said. “I also want to explore Jewish Studies while at school and engage with campus life.”

bronfman.org