Shorashim Newsletter

Shorashim Presents Udi Krauss in Concert

Join Shorashim for a free concert with Israeli rock star Udi Krauss! Gather all of your friends from your trip and meet at the Tonic Room (2447 N Halsted, Chicago) on January 17th at 7pm.

RSVP at the Facebook EVENT >>

In addition to his role as an Educational Coordinator with Shorashim, he is a member of bands Batzir 76 and Sulema, and the songwriter, producer and drummer for one of Israel’s top singer/songwriters, Eric Berman. On January 17th, Udi will perform a vibrant and interactive show aimed at exposing the audience to contemporary Israeli music.

This event is free and open to the public. 21+. We look forward to seeing you all at the Tonic Room!

Mifgash on the Asperger's Taglit-Birthright Israel Trip

For the 4h year, Shorashim has run a Taglit- Birthright Israel trip for 18 to 26 year olds with Asperger’s Syndrome in conjunction with KOACH. This year’s trip was held December 23-January 3 and was incredibly successful. The trip was the largest it has ever been (21 Americans) and participants were from all over the country. One highlight of the program was the participants’ mifgash with Israelis who have Asperger’s at Shekel, a community services program for Israelis with special needs.

To learn more about the Asperger’s trip, please visit the trip home page: and this year’s group blog at

Save the Date - Taglit-Birthright Israel Registration Opens Next Month!

Registration for Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trips is opening on February 13th at 10am EST for new applicants and on February 11th at Noon EST for returning applicants.

On a Shorashim trip, you will have the opportunity to visit the Western Wall, float in the Dead Sea, climb Masada at sunrise and explore Tel Aviv all with Israelis by your side. Israeli peers will join you for the entire ten-day journey. 
Shorashim has a variety of trip dates and program options. Tell your friends and family to sign up at For further information, please contact


Club Israel Update

So far during the 2012-13 school year, Shorashim’s Club Israel has brought Israeli culture during 50 sessions to more than 1000 students in the Chicago area. Our biggest program was the annual Excursion Day to the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.  About 300 Hebrew Students from Evanston Township, Niles North, Chicagoland Jewish, Highland Park, Glenbrook North and New Trier High Schools watched the Israeli film “Dusk” and then enjoyed an Israeli feast and program entitled, “What Israel Teens Are Really Like” on October 30 and 31st. The teens heard what it’s like to be an adolescent in Israel from 10th graders at Shalon High School in Kiryat Gat enrolled in Vivian Cohen’s English class.

Registration for Teen Summer Programs Open!

Shorashim is excited to announce the opening of registration for the Euro Plus and Israel Adventure program. For over 25 years, Shorashim has helped teens make a personal and lasting connection to the land of Israel and Israeli friends through our amazing summer programs. Americans and Israeli teenagers have the opportunity to travel side by side for an entire summer as they discover Israel together. 

Alumni Spotlight - Joshua Jacobs

Where are you from?
Northfield, New Jersey a.k.a not Jersey Shore

What do you do?
I study Biology as a 3rd year student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, Massachusetts.

What's one restaurant that you couldn't live without?
It’s not necessarily a so-called “restaurant,” but I can’t live without Dunkin Donuts. They should start delivering. OMG that would be the BEST!

What were you most surprised about in Israel?
I was most surprised at the fact how modernized and industrialized Israel has become in such a relatively short amount of time, what, like 64 years according to current times. An enormous amount of high quality technology is invented and manufactured in Israel to which most of the world is oblivious. It amazed me how the modern/recent history and the ancient history of Israel coexist together wherever you travel within Israel. What also surprised me were the beauty and the vibrant greens and colors among the trees, plants, flowers and especially the vegetables. I was overwhelmed by awe and amazement the entire trip.

Alumni Spotlight - Erica Weindruch


Where are you from?

Great question: I was born in Los Angeles, raised in Madison WI, lived for 6 years in LA, went to school in Chicago and now live in San Francisco!
What do you do?
I work in sales at Google
What's one restaurant that you couldn't live without?
Noodles & Co. (and no, they don't have it in the Bay Area so I have to fill up when I am back in the Midwest!)
What were you most surprised about in Israel?
How incredibly beautiful the country was and how many different landscapes are encompassed in such a small area!

Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim Registration Opening Soon!

Save the date! Registration for this winter’s Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trips opens on Monday, September 10th at Noon Eastern for returning applicants and Wednesday, September 12th at 10 am for new applicants.

Shorashim offers a variety of trip dates and options. With Shorashim, you experience the adventure of Israel through the eyes of Israeli peers for all ten days. Many alumni say the best part of the trip was traveling with the Israelis and learning about Israeli culture directly from them.

For up to date registration information, tell your family and friends to sign up for the mailing list: We are excited to take you to Israel this winter!

CCP Teens Explore Europe and Israel

Shorashim teens recently returned from an excellent summer in Europe and Israel. For the first time ever, participants were able to choose to begin their journey in Poland or Spain followed by a three week adventure in Israel.

The first trip to Spain was very successful and as the teens traveled throughout the country, it felt as though they were excavating Jewish history and Sephardic traditions. As the group wound their way through the “Call”, Jewish quarter, in Toledo, Girona and Barcelona, they uncovered ancient synagogues, recognized stains on doorframes where Mezzuzot were proudly placed, and imagined their ancestors living a vibrant Jewish life hundreds of years ago. They were also able to spend Shabbat at a synagogue Comunidad Israelita de Barcelona, and partake in the Bar Mitzvah celebrations of a local boy. The CCP teens were struck by how engaging and charismatic the congregation was and also noted that it was neat to be able to pick out similar traditions and tunes amongst the Spanish and Hebrew service.

The teens that traveled to Poland had a very moving and memorable experience as they delved into the history of the Holocaust. They learned about the rich livelihood of Jews in Krakow and Warsaw prior to the Holocaust and saw the stark contrast of their lives as they paid visits to Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek. The teens lit Yartzeit candles and commemorated the millions of lives lost while also paying tribute to their personal family histories throughout the journey.

Alumni Spotlight - David Solotke

Where are you from?
I'm from Chicago.

What do you do?
I teach theatre and film at Highland Park High School.

What's one restaurant that you couldn't live without?

What were you most surprised about in Israel?
There’s a vibration in the air, especially at the holy sites. People told me that the country was beautiful and that certain parts would be really powerful. No one’s words prepared me for how moved I would be when standing at the Kotel, walking through Yad Vashem, or watching the sunrise on top of Masada to name a few experiences. I felt the energy and life-source of thousands of years of civilization and culture flowing through me.

What was your favorite food in Israel?

Why did you decide to go on Birthright?
I wanted to connect culturally and spiritually with my roots. My Judaism is very personal – I don’t really attend Friday or Saturday services, I observe the major holidays on my own, and few of my friends are Jewish. I wanted this experience to connect with others like me and take my personal Judaism to another level.

What is your favorite Shorashim memory?
I have two: playing with children at an after school center in Kiryat Gat, and visiting the Kotel on the second night of Hannukah.

What is your special talent?
I’m an actor and improviser.

Tell us about the most interesting place you saw?
I don’t know how to pick just one…There were so many experiences and events that carry such a strong resonance with me. Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, the Kotel, a farm in the middle of the desert

What do you wish you would have known before you went on Birthright?

Enter the Shorashim Photo Contest!

Sometimes the best way to tell a story is through a photograph. Shorashim is calling all alumni to share their Israel story by entering our photo contest. Submit your favorite photo from your Shorashim trip to Israel and be entered to win an iPad and Amazon gift cards. Make sure to check out all of the entries and vote for your favorites. The top ten entries will be chosen by our Facebook fan community, and they will be judged by our panel of Shorashim staff and associates.

Alumni Spotlight

Shorashim is lucky to have interesting, dynamic, and creative alumni who are passionate about their Israel experience. We are excited to introduce a new ‘Alumni Spotlight’ series in which we will feature alumni from America and Israel, have the opportunity to connect with them and hear about their journey through Israel. This week’s Alumni Spotlight is on Jessica Vaughn, a sushi-loving Medical student who went to Israel in June. Read more to learn about her 10 days on Birthright.


Jessica Vaughn

Where are you from?

Northridge, CA but living in Chicago, IL

What do you do?

Medical Student at Chicago Medical School

What's one restaurant that you couldn't live without?

Sushi Para II in Lincoln Park---yum!

What were you most surprised about in Israel?

Seeing soldiers casually walking around different sites with some serious weapons! You just don't see that in the U.S. I was also surprised how much Tel Aviv reminded me of Santa Monica!

What was your favorite food in Israel?

Halva--I had the best coffee halva in Mahane Yehude Market in Jerusalem!

What is your favorite Shorashim memory?

Singing "Salaam" (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu) on the last night with everyone (Bus 228!) and reflecting on our favorite memories of the trip. It was really a great culmination to an emotionally and spiritually overwhelming/exciting journey.

What's your special talent?

Walking on my hands!

Tell us about the most interesting place you saw?

Club Israel

Shorashim has always held the belief that the love of Israel emerges from the love of its people. Shorashim lives that philosophy not just on our Israel trips, but through our work with Club Israel. For the past several years, Club Israel has brought the "real" Israel to public schools and synagogues by running programs that help students get to know the Jewish state through a better understanding of what everyday people there do and love.

Club Israel has been fortunate for the last three years to have Shlichim from Israel to lead its programs, and bring an authentic voice to the curriculum. Shorashim’s newest Shaliach, Lior Chacham, led Israel cultural activities at eight high schools and 12 religious schools last year, reaching over 2000 students in the Chicago suburbs. The activities included a comparative music program looking at contemporary Israeli vs. American music; a presentation of the Gilad Shalit children’s book-The Shark and the Fish; virtual Israel carnival highlighting Israel's high tech society and much much more. For the 2012-13 school year, Shorashim will be bringing 8 high schools to the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema and expanding the number of schools that we visit. Our calendar is getting booked, but is not full for the 2012-13 school year. If you are interested in Shorashim coming to your school or synagogue, please contact Sharna Marcus, Director of Education, at

Taglit-Birthright Israel Registration Begins Next Week!

Mark your calendars! Registration for this summer’s Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trips is opening on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. Eastern for new applicants and Feb. 14 at noon for returning applicants.


Shorashim has many different dates and trips to accommodate your various needs and schedules. And don’t forget:  Shorashim is the trip where Israelis and Americans travel side by side for 10 days. Don’t see Israel without getting to know the people who live there! Our alumni will tell you that they can’t imagine their Taglit-Birthright Israel trip without having Israelis with them the entire 10 days.
To get up to the minute registration information, tell your friends and family to sign up at
We can’t wait to see you in Israel this summer! 

Become a Shorashim Ambassador!

Do you want your friends to go on a Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trip? Do you want to get credit for referring them to Shorashim, maybe even a trip back to Israel! No problem! Just sign up to be a Shorashim Ambassador
Recruit at least three people and receive $20/person paid via an (email) Amazon gift card from Shorashim for each deposit.
The top three recruiters (20 deposit minimum) receive a flight to Israel from New York area (up to $950) or equivalent reward to be negotiated with Shorashim.
What are you waiting for? Sign up at

Shorashim to bring High School Students to Spain

Shorashim is excited to announce a new option for this summer’s CCP trip.  For the first time, CCP participants will have the choice between visiting to Poland, CCP’s traditional first stop, touring Spain, or traveling directly to Israel.  
While travelling in Spain, participants will learn about the cradle of Jewish Civilization and the home of some of Judaism's greatest thinkers and spiritual leaders.  They will begin the journey in Madrid, where they will enjoy a panoramic night tour of the country’s capital ,  wander through the city center, and visit the Prado Museum.  From Madrid, the group will take a day trip to Toledo and delve into the history of Sephardi Jews while visiting the Synagogue El Transito and Santa Maria La Blanca. Towards the end of their time in Spain, they will board the train to Barcelona and celebrate Shabbat with the local Jewish community and will conclude with a trip to Girona to get a taste of the rich Jewish community that existed prior to the Spanish Expulsion.  
Interested in learning more?  Contact Kira Moscowitz at (312) 267-0677 or

See Moving Photographs from the History of the State of Israel

One of the most effective ways of teaching and learning history and culture is through primary sources.  When I looked at twitter and saw that Shorashim alum Vince Pine tweeted @shorashim  a link to recently released photographs from the state of Israel’s press office, I knew he had probably led me towards an Israel educator’s gold mine. 
Sure enough, the government press office has groups of photographs that help tell some of the most powerful stories of Israel’s history. While for sure, there are photographs that details some of Israel’s military campaigns, just as if not more compelling are the images of Jews arriving directly from Europe who survived the Holocaust, still with yellow stars on their clothes, the faces of refugees from Vietnam and Sudan, a view of how Christmas is celebrated in Israel, Israel’s minority communities, and more.

Shorashim Continues Special-Needs Offerings for Taglit-Birthright Israel

During the last three years, Shorashim has expanded its Israel programming reach to young adults with special needs.

Shorashim started by working with KOACH to run a Taglit-Birthright Israel group for 18 to 26 year olds with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2008.  The trip is now in its third year and is being spearheaded by KOACH’s Associate Director Elyse Winick and Shorashim alum Darin Argentar. For the first year, this group has soared in popularity, and drew a waitlist. 
The 20 young adults (the most we have ever sent!) are currently in Israel having an amazing time. You can follow their journey on their blog at .

The Asperger’s Group has been so successful, that Shorashim was contacted by a group of parents from Los Angeles who wanted their 18 to 26 year olds with special needs to experience a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip.

High School Students: Spend your Summer in Israel with Israelis!

For more than 25 years, Shorashim has brought thousands of high school students to Israel to see the country through the eyes of their Israeli peers. 

We have never wavered from our core belief that the only way for a high school student to really experience Israel is by seeing the country with the teenagers who live there. 

Last summer's trip was a tremendous success and the left Israel forever connected to the land and its people. 

We are excited to bring a new group of teens in 2012 to experience the adventure of Israel with Israeli peers.

If you know anyone who you think we should reach out to so that they too can participate in a trip of a lifetime, contact Kira Moscowitz, Program Coordinator at or 312-267-0677. 

Club Israel Impacts Classrooms Across Chicago-Area

Who do you call if you need to teach your students about Israeli culture? Who do you contact if you want to schedule an Israeli cultural performance? Where can you find the best programs related to Israel? Club Israel! Ask the 57 classes that Shorashim has visited this semester and they will share with you the highlights of our programming. 

Chicago area students have attended excursion days at the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema, experienced hours of Israeli culture, learned about Israeli pop music, debated about democracy and freedom of speech in Israel, watched presentations on Israeli hi tech inventions, and much much more thanks to our staff in Chicago and visitors from Israel. 

Our second semester calendar is filling up fast, but we still have dates available to bring Israel to your classroom. Contact Director of Education Sharna Marcus for more information at or 312-239-8428. 

Shorashim Offers a Wide-Range of Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips

Shorashim is in the middle of its 2011-12 Taglit-Birthright Israel winter season.  What are the trips like? You can find out by reading the participants' blogs and viewing their pictures which are featured on our web site:

Summer registration for Taglit-Birthright Israel trips opens on February 15, 2012 at 10:00 am ET. If you applied in the past, you will have access to early registration on February 14, 2012 at noon ET. 

To sign up on our mailing list to receive a reminder that registration is opening go to

See you in Israel!


Welcome to Our New Israeli Educator: Lior Chacham!

Shorashim welcomes Lior Chacham to Chicago where he will begin his special educational role in late January.  Lior is no stranger to the Chicago area and has visited several times. He also has led the high school summer programs in 2009 and 2010 as well as countless Alternative Spring Breaks, Alternative Winter Breaks and Taglit-Birthright Israel trips.

Lior is from Kiryat Gat, Israel and is known for his uncanny knowlege of American culture, the English language and, of course, the history and people of Israel. His purpose in Chicago will be to deliver engaging and authentic Israel programmimg in schools, synangogues, and other youth settings.

If you would like Lior to speak or run a program at your synagogue, youth group, or school, contact the Shorashim office. 

Go Study Hebrew! - לך ללמוד עברית

Shorashim has been working with the Jewish United Fund/Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to support the wonderful Hebrew programs at high schools in Chicago's Northern Suburbs.

The Chicago region is fortunate to have seven public schools that offer Hebrew language programs. 

Hebrew is a great language to study in high school. Don't take it from us. Listen to the testimonials of the students currently studying Hebrew to fulfill their foreign language requirement. 

Shana Tova - Happy New Year

Shana Tova to you and your families - May your New Year be sweet and full of blessings!

It was a great summer at Shorashim (between our High School programs and Taglit-Birthright Israel, we took over 1,500 people to Israel this summer).

We are gearing up for the fall with a great slate of Israel programs and  Taglit-Birthright Israel registration beginning on September 14! Registration is at www.israel

The Israel Lens

Traveling to Israel for our participants is a once in a lifetime experience and can be difficult to explain to friends and family upon returning from Israel.  How can you put into words your first experience at the Kotel or the magic of the Shuk on Friday afternoon? In order to give our participants a better way to tell their Israel story we incorporated a new curriculum called the "Israel Lens" a project of renowned photographer Zion Ozeri, founder of The Jewish Lens.  This project helps teens understand the power of photography and gives them the tools to tell their stories through pictures. 

The following pictures are just a few of the stories and moments from Shorashim 2010. 

Kayla Kroot

The Israel Challenge

Any Shorashim Israel experience facilitates participants to excel educationally and physically. However, this summer Shorashim created an exceptional opportunity for participants who chose to be a part of the Israel Challenge.

Inspired by both the Amazing Race and the Biggest Loser, Shorashim provided a competitive and challenge-based trip throughout Israel. In teams with Israeli peers, participants completed both intellectual and physical challenges that helped them to explore the beauty of Israel, its history and even its political and environmental challenges
The Israel Challenge garnered tremendous attention from participants, Taglit-Birthright Israel, and even the press. Shorashim was featured in the Jerusalem Post.

Third Annual Aspergers Syndrome Trip

Shorashim will once again be partnering with KOACH to offer a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for Jewish 18 to 26 year olds with Aspergers Syndrome winter 2010/11.

This ten-day Israel adventure features a smaller group of participants and a high staff to participant ratio. Our specialized itinerary is created in partnership with experienced, specially trained staff and is carefully structured to be enjoyable and informative for this population. The program includes a multi-day mifgash (encounter) with Israeli peers, a less intense rhythm of the day than most other Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, visits to ancient and modern sites of interest and an incomparable Shabbat. 
To read about the 2008 trip: and


Reflections on a Year in Chicago

It’s been almost a year since I came to Chicago!

The idea was to work in Chicago with High School students applying some of the ideas and programs that I have been practicing for the last four years of in Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel and the Shorashim High School Programs- It sounded simple enough!

Shorashim Enters the Blogoshpere

Shorashim has entered the blogosphere and our published articles and photographs are making a splash internationally. This summer, the CCP and Taglit-Birthright Israel groups frequently posted blogs created by participants to offer their friends and family a glimpse into life on Shorashim program. In addition, Shorashim staff members are contributing writers to blogs in the Jewish blogosphere including OyChicago and Project Incite.

Check out the blogs:


Hebrew in Public Schools

Shalom, and welcome to another update from Shorashim.

These past few months, Shorashim - along with a number of partners in Chicago, including parents and students - have been dedicated to expanding and preserving Hebrew learning in the public schools in the Chicago-area. We are proud to say that last Monday, the Glenbrook High School District voted to add Hebrew to their course offerings and the Niles High School District elected to preserve the program that was considered for reduction. At the Niles High School District Board meeting, we were proud to see over a hundred community members - parents and students - come out to support the program (see video on our facebook page and the article in the Pioneer Press).

The new addition gives Chicago its seventh public-high school Hebrew program, and along with the offerings at jewish day schools and camp programs such as Chalutzim at OSRUI, makes Chicago the largest community of teen Hebrew learners in the world outside of Israel. For Shorashim's Club Israel, public high school Hebrew classes are where we are able to do some of our most creative work and we we continue to engage hundreds of students a month in Israeli culture and Hebrew language.

Summer Program Adds Berlin

For many years, the Shorashim/CCP program has been a leader in high school programs in Poland and Israel. This year - for the first time - CCP Summer program participants will journey to Berlin as well.

Spearheaded by Shorashim Scholar-in-Residence, Fred Margulies, who has traveled extensively as a researcher of Jewish roots and life in Europe. The trip will visit sites that convey the history of Jewish life in Europe, the horror of the Shoah, and the rebirth of Jewish life in Berlin. "It’s the place where the war against the Jews was formulated," says Rabbi Margulies, "But the Germans have tried to come to terms with their history. There are many fascinating sights of Jewish historical interest, plus a newly vibrant Jewish community with whom we will make contact.

The early bird registration discount ($400) has been extended until the end of Janauary. Anyone interested in the program can visit the program website or call us at 312-267-0677.

Shorashim Offers Special Interest Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips

Taglit-Birthright Israel offers trip providers the opportunity to compete for additional allocations by submitting proposals for special-interest trips. Shorashim applied for and was awarded two such programs. As a result, this summer Shorashim will be offering the “You Can Dance!” and “Get Fit Frenzy.” Taglit-Birthright Israel trips.

“You can Dance!” is the brainchild of Shorashim Co-Founder and Educational Manager Yossi Nameri. Yossi is an Israeli folk dance enthusiast and teaches Rikudei Am (folk dancing), sometimes for hours on Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. On this unique experience, participants will learn not only Israeli folk dance, but also genres based on the diverse population of Israel including Russian and Latin Ballroom and Traditional Ethiopian Dance. Participants on the trip will attend and participate in the internationally renowned Karmiel Israeli Folk Dance Festival. You don't have to be a professional dancer to participate in this trip - you just have to be enthusiastic and energetic. Please let anyone you know who might be interested in this trip to apply when registration opens on Feb. 17 at

Second Annual Asperger's Syndrome Trip in Israel

Shorashim completed its second Taglit-Birthright Israel trip for 18 to 26 year olds with Asperger’s Syndrome last month. The trip was an incredible success thanks to the participants, the Israelis who joined the group, and of course, the staff.

Such a trip requires a tremendous amount of screening, and for the third year, Rose Sharon, a special education teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and Director of Camp Tikva’s Vocation Program, spoke to every participant, their parents, and at least one medical professional to ensure that they were fit for a 10 day program. She also hired a stellar staff which included Tikva camp counselors Syd Berkman and Kashmir Kustanowitz. Although participants on the Aspergers trip experience everything that a typical Taglit-Birthright Israel trip has to offer, there are also special considerations to make the trip accommodating. The planning of the trip took place in Israel by the tour educator Dror Kidron.

In addition, every Shorashim trip has Israelis. Lior Baruch interviewed every Israeli to ensure that they were happy to spend 10 days with an alternative trip. The participants had such a great time that Mark Fleischer created a Facebook group so that they could all keep in touch. Many of the participants joined Facebook for the first time to keep contact with friends that they had made on the trip.

“The trip was great,” participant Will Safran wrote on the group’s wall.

Shorashim Welcomes New Shaliach to Chicago

Shorashim, in partnership with Habonim Dror - Camp Tavor and the Jewish Agency for Israel, welcomes its first Shaliach (emissary) to Chicago: long time Shorashim staffer Shahar Gal. Shahar’s passion for youth education started as a branch leader in the Hanoar Haoved movement in Israel. In the army, he served as an infantry solider and also worked with disadvantaged youth. Shahar is a licensed and accomplished tour educator in Israel.

Since arriving to Chicago, Shahar has been running Israel programs in local high schools and Israel clubs. He has also been reconnecting with Chicago Community Taglit-Birthright Israel groups that he has staffed in the past. During his time in Chicago, Shahar is also a fellow in Project Incite, a cohort of youth professionals who are to become part of the next generation of innovative Jewish educators. As part of the program, he participated in the ten-day seminar in Israel, after which he staffed a Chicago Community Taglit-Birthright Israel trip with students mostly from the University of Illinois.

Shahar is married to Lee Perry Gal - also a Shorashim educator - who is pursuing an advanced degree in ancient history and archaeology. They live in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

Chag Sameach - Happy Passover

We wish you a very happy Passover holiday and hope that you have an enjoyable and relaxing Seder tonight. May the meaning of freedom bring you joy and give you strength in all that you do! Drawing by a kindergarten student at Temple Chai in Long Grove as part of an activity with Gilad Shalit's "When the Shark and the Fish First Met."

These past couple of months have been busy ones here at Shorashim, as we finished up our Taglit-Birthright Israel season by bringing over 700 participants on their first trip to Israel. Although allocations are somewhat down for the summer, we enjoyed record registration for our summer groups, and look forward to bringing many more people on this amazing experience.

We were proud to partner again with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on their fourth annual Alternative Spring Break to Israel. College students and young adults engaged in awesome and meaningful projects like "Earth's Promise" in which they helped Ethiopian immigrants in Beer Sheva build sustainable urban gardens on neglected city land. Many of the participants attended the opening of the new indoor playground in Sderot - a reinforced structure that gives children in the area a safe place to play.

A Story of Two Noahs

Noah Bronfeld participated in one of Shorashim's Chicago Community Taglit-Birthright Israel trip this past winter. Below is a letter from his parents which is excerpted from the latest print issue of JUF News and is also available Noah & Noah on their way up Masada.

We are the proud parents of two wonderful sons, Jordan, who is almost 25, and Noah, who is almost 23.
Several years ago, our son Jordan went on Taglit-Birthright Israel with Shorashim. He had a memorable trip, and it was then that I began to seriously think about how we could provide such an experience for our son Noah.
Our son Noah has autism. He has had a wonderful Jewish education through Keshet. He has attended the Sunday school and the summer programs since he was 5. Keshet has very much been instrumental in helping Noah to develop a sense of his Jewish identity.
In spite of the fact that Noah's friends participate in many Friday evening social activities, Noah is quite insistent about going to Friday night minyan and celebrating Shabbat at home, as a family. As we began to have discussions with Noah about whether he would like to go to Israel on Birthright, it became clear that not only was he interested in going, he was excited about it. Making a trip to Israel happen for Noah became a mission for us.

Continued at JUF News...

Club Israel's March Madness

On Sunday, March 29th, Shorashim's Club Israel gathered eight teams of American and Israeli teens and their many fans in the Chicagoland Jewish High School gym to play for a cause - Israel.

The day began with the teams shooting hoops and listening to Israeli dance music to warm up. Gabe Axler, Shorashim’s Director of High School Programs, then gathered the group on the bleachers and introduced the afternoon. “Kiryat Gat has had a tough year,” Gabe recalled. “It sits within firing range of the missiles from Gaza. And that’s what makes today so much more meaningful- we have a group of Israeli teens here from that city, we’ll play some basketball, and help make some positive change in Israel.” Four teens from Kiryat Gat - Lachish - Shafir, Chicago's Partnership 2000 Region, then stepped up and introduced themselves.

They were visiting the States as part of a JUF-sponsored program called Kolot, which also focuses on philanthropy and teens making a difference in Israel. They talked about what the program meant to them, and how amazing it was to be a part of the games that day.

Hard Rock Café - Auschwitz

Nearly twenty-two years ago, I made a decision that would change my life. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that participating in Shorashim/CCP’s inaugural high school venture to Poland would have such an impact. How could I have known? After all, I was just sixteen years old.

Dan, his wife Brandi (also former staff), and son Ami (future alum) in Israel. At the time, Hard Rock Café t-shirts from around the globe were the rage. While my high school peers set off for their 1987 summer adventures vowing to grab trendy Hard Rock t-shirts in Los Angeles, London, Chicago, etc., my CCP traveling companions and I joked about Hard Rock Café Warsaw and Hard Rock Café Auschwitz. Yes, we joked. We had to – out of nervousness of course.

While others sought summer fun at camps, on family trips, and on teen entertainment adventures, we were choosing to go to Auschwitz. The payoff was five promising weeks in Israel; but Auschwitz? No doubt, we thought each other to be nuts. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about Auschwitz. Not because I have a morbid fascination with the Shoah, but more because twenty-two years after stepping foot in Auschwitz, after seven additional trips to Poland as a counselor for Shorashim, after countless summers teaching and preparing Shorashim groups for their upcoming trips, and after teaching about genocide in my own high school English courses, the current world climate dictates that the Shorashim experience, and remembering and traveling to Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Warsaw is more important than ever.

A Shorashim Family Affair

The JohnstonsTaglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim trips are frequently family affairs. During our nineteenth Taglit-Birthright Israel season many siblings and cousins decided to experience Israel with Israelis and with their family members. The trip allows them not only to see Israel for the first time, but to spend 10 days with siblings and cousins who live in other cities or attend different universities.

On one Shorashim trip there were three sibling groups including a set of triplets! One sibling group were Mifgash siblings: Earl Rich is an Israeli soldier and Mandy Rich, a Taglit-Birthright Israel participant.

How does having so many sibling participants affect group dynamics? According to madricha and JNF Administrative Assistant Becky Palley, the experience is enhanced. “As a trip leader, I thought the siblings in my group were a great asset,” Palley said. “The siblings in my group looked out for each other, and found a nice balance of comfort and excitement in their Israel experiences.  On one hand, they had people who they felt comfortable talking to and who they knew, but on the other hand they were able to go out and make new friends and broaden their social horizons. The siblings in my group enjoyed seeing Israel for the first time together, and broadening their Jewish identities as a family. Coming to Israel with a family member, or in some cases two, is something special and I think it's great that Shorashim was able to provide that for these young Jewish adults.”

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

  • Join Shorashim, Young Judaea, Habonim Dror, and the Israel Scouts in an Israeli-style, community-wide Teen Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha'atzmeut Ceremony on Sunday, April 26th, 5:00-7:00pm at Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah, 3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette, IL. More at
  • Rediscover Israel - a moderately-priced program for young adults to reconnect with Israel this summer, July 29 - August 6, 2009. More information at
  • JNF Alternative Spring Break for Adults - an adult version of our partnership program with Jewish National Fund. More information at

Israel's Current Challenge

While we don't intend to overload you with news every month, there is a lot going on at the moment (some good, some not) that we thought you would like to know. Americans and Israelis to gether at Gadna - Summer 2008 Israel is at war on its southern border as Shorashim safely continues to operate its Taglit-Birthright Israel programs. We successfully brought to a safe conclusion our partner programs with JNF (Alternative Winter Break) and JUF (KOLOT: The Israel-Centered Teen Giving Circle). The conflict, however, has a deep impact on the lives of our Israeli alumni and staff. In particular, Yakki and Yossi Samet - brothers who have been participants and staff on countless Shorashim trips - are currently serving in and around Gaza. Yakki who is a surgeon and who also served in Lebanon in the Summer of 2006, is now one of Shorashim's medical consultants. Just recently, he was seeing sick participants in his living room in Jerusalem. Yossi was the lead staff person for one of our JNF Alternative Winter Break trips when he was called to reserve duty. These are just two of the many alumni, their fathers, brothers, husbands, and friends, who have been called to duty. We all pray for their safe return.

Udi Krauss to Perform in Chicago

Udi Krauss performing for a Taglit-Birthright Israel group. Udi Krauss is a rock star in every sense of the word! To hundreds of participants on the CCP/Shorashim High School and Taglit-Birthright Israel programs, he is the person who made their trip to Israel amazing and their connection to Israel deep. To thousands of screaming fans in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, he is the songwriter, producer, and percussionist for Israel's top singer/songwriter, Eric Berman. And now he is coming to Chicago not just to visit, but to perform his chart-topping songs and explain how life in Israel influences his craft. Udi, who has performed for numerous Taglit-Birthright Israel groups, will perform at:

Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave, Chicago) in Bucktown on Saturday, January 17 at 7pm.

See below to reserve space (tickets are free!)


Shorashim Partners with KOACH on a Special-Needs Program

As Shorashim finishes its nineteenth season as a Taglit-Birthright Israel provider, a unique and special-needs group of participants with Aspergers Syndrome will not soon forget their first experience in Israel. Participants on the program - which was in partnership with KOACH - traveled with a group of soldiers for whom assisting with special needs is a passion. They also met Israelis with Aspergers Syndrome who study at the Jerusalem branch of Beit Eckstein, a vocational training center for students with the syndrome. The group saw a play at the center headlined with an actor with Aspergers Syndrome. "I was very moved by the participant who said that his visit here was the highlight of his trip to Israel," said Nomi Venkert of Beit Eckstein. The mifgash included mixers and singing, led by Eli Aizner, one of four IDF soldiers who accompanied the group on its journey throughout Israel. "They were having so much fun, that we had a hard time getting them out of there," said Rose Sharon, special education teacher and KOACH's coordinator of the trip. This special trip required significant planning by Taglit-Birthright Israel, Shorashim, KOACH, and Israeli Guide Dror Kidron (who worked tirelessly before and during the trip to ensure a meaningful experience). The time and effort to make this trip and ensure Shorashim's mission of mifgash was well worth the extra effort, said Adam Stewart, Director of Shorashim.

Parent Reception to Highlight Shorashim

Shorashim will be holding its first parent reception to introduce new families to Shorashim and this life-changing experience. CCP/Shorashim 2008 Participants in Poland with Holocaust Survivor Ruth Usrad Alumni parents are encouraged to invite friends and relatives to share in this evening featuring a live acoustic performance of Israeli songs by musicians and Shorashim staff Udi Krauss and Miriam Brosseau. Other Israeli staff, including Shahar Gal, will also be in attendance!

At the home of Jerrold & Naomi Senser:

55 S. Deere Park Drive, Highland Park (map)

Tuesday, January 20th 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP to as soon as possible.

Please include expected number of guests. You may also use the link below to "Invite a friend" to the reception (be sure to include a personal note). Thank you for your continued support and dedication!

Thanks for Giving back

Thanks to all of our alumni who responded to Josh Cohen's ('88) call for support of Shorashim's program. As we continue through turbulent economic times, Alumni support will enable us to: provide more scholarships to Israeli and American families so that they can participate on a Shorashim program, continue Israeli cultural programming for high school students in Chicago, and a variety of special projects and programs aimed at making the lives of Israelis and Americans that much closer.

If you didn't have time to make a donation last month, we hope that you will consider one now so that we can meet our commitment to ensure that a Shorashim program is available to anyone who wants it. Thank you for all of your continued support.



Shalom from Shorashim

It's been a long time since many of you have heard from us.

We hope to change that with the launch of our newsletter, and also hope that you will be interested to hear all of the new and exciting ways that Shorashim continues to make Israel and Israelis a part of the lives of high school students and young adults.

Of course, the Shorashim/CCP High School Program (you may have known it as CCP, Shoresh, or Shorashim - it's all the same great program where Americans and Israelis travel together) is still the heart and soul of what we do. Last summer, two groups - over 50 high school students - traveled together to Poland, and then met 30 Israelis for the summer of their lives! This summer was marked by the inclusion of Israeli participants from the area of Sderot, who over the past year have had to endure relentless rocket attacks.

Many alumni do not know that Shorashim is also one of the largest providers for the Taglit-Birthright Israel experience - a free trip for Jewish 18 - 26 year olds who have never been to Israel on a peer program. This past year alone, Shorashim has brought over 1500 young adults on their first trip to Israel.

Americans Travel with Israelis from Sderot

Fifty Americans from Chicago and beyond joined the Shorashim/CCP High School program in it's 24th year! They were joined in Israel by thirty Israelis for the trip of a lifetime. 

Shorashim/CCP Summer 2008As usual, the American participants - still with visions of the Majdanek - exited customs at Ben Gurion Airport into a sea of Israelis, dancing and singing and making them feel at home. The scene was simply amazing. This year - as in every year - the groups were joined by Israeli participants from Chicago's Partnership 2000 Region: Kiryat Gat - Lachish - Shafir and from the neighborhoods and high schools in Jerusalem that have traditionally been feeders to the program.

But unlike past years, this summer's group was joined by  participants from the towns and villages around Sderot. With generous support from our board, alumni, and friends, we were able to offer scholarships to eight high schools students who would have otherwise had to endure another summer of relentless rocket attacks from Gaza. While - for obvious reasons - they were not able to host American participants for a Shabbat, they were able to share their stories and themselves, while they participated in a summer of fun.  It is an experience that the participants - American and Israeli - will never forget.

Club Israel Envisions Israel in 60 More Years

Shorashim launched Club Israel in 2004 in order to help bring high school students all over Chicago the very best in Israel educational and cultural programming; since then, thousands of students have benefited from this enterprise. Today, Club Israel is taking on new and innovative projects including high school excursion days, two year-long fellowships, a new website, and programs for public school Hebrew classes such as "Israel 2068,” which looked at the future of the Jewish state through the eyes of four writers and statesmen.

Etgar Keret, Israeli Author In September, Shorashim’s Club Israel visited several schools in Chicago (Niles North High School, Deerfield High School, New Trier High School, Evanston High School) offering a glimpse into the future of the Jewish state in honor of Israel’s sixtieth birthday.

Israel 2068 is a program based on TIME Magazine’s feature, Israel in 2068.  The premise of the feature was to ask twelve prominent writers, statesmen, and thinkers the following: Israel has existed for sixty years so far…how do you feel it will respond to the challenges and opportunities of the next sixty? Club Israel selected four of the twelve responses -  Israeli writer Etgar Keret, Talmudic scholar Adin Steinsaltz, former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Holocaust survivor/writer/humanitarian Elie Wiesel. 

'Gearing Up' for the 10th Year of Taglit-Birthright Israel

Taking 1,500 Taglit-Birthright Israel participants to Israel every year requires great staff, both Israeli and American. Every Israeli guide holds a coveted “Moreh Derech” license, the highest touring certification offered in Israel. Shorashim has also invested considerable resources to hire and train staff from the United States to ensure the highest quality individuals staffing trips and educating the 40 Americans per bus who are experiencing Israel for the first time with six to ten of their Israeli peers.

To staff a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, Shorashim requires madrichim to have had significant experience in Israel. Our U.S. staff includes many Shorashim alumni, and alumni from study abroad programs at the University of Tel Aviv and Hebrew University, former Otzma participants, and some who have staffed other high school, college and mission programs.

Why I Give Back to Shorashim

Josh Cohen 88 and Anne Lanski at the Alumni Reunion It wasn’t long ago that I re-connected with Shorashim, almost 20 years after my “Shoresh” trip to Israel and Poland. I was amazed to learn of all the things that they were doing - from Taglit-Birthright Israel to Club Israel, and of course, the summer program. I couldn’t believe it: Anne and Yossi were still there and the program had sent thousands of kids to Israel. They had a high school program reaching out to thousands more, ran an Israeli-American summer camp, and had launched many other successful projects and programs.

I felt pretty guilty. After all this non-profit organization had given me, and was now doing for thousands of others, it had not once called upon me for help. I started wondering if other alumni felt the same way and were interested in getting involved and reconnected, so I helped put together the reunion last Spring. Many of us were so fortunate to experience Shorashim or CCP because we had parents who understood the impact this program would have, and also could afford to send us.

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