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New Year Course Program Out of This World

Olami II: Lost Jewish Communities
Genever McBain

Olami II: Lost Jewish Communities

(New York, NY -- May 01, 2007) -- Discovering the lost Jewish communities of the world is the goal of the latest addition to the growing constellation of Year Course programs. Now, as Young Judaea’s award-winning Year Course in Israel celebrates its fiftieth year, Year Course participants will be able to travel to the furthest reaches of the globe to learn about four extraordinary communities with deep-rooted connections to the Jewish people.

Olami II will start in Portugal where participants will meet the most clandestine of these groups, Marranos or anusim, who – forcibly converted to Judaism during the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian peninsula – took their practice of Judaism into secrecy. During the course of the year, participants will also visit the Lemba of Southern Africa, who were originally Jews but left Israel and normative Judaism so long ago that they forgot much of the tradition. In India, participants will meet two Jewish communities: the Bene Israel and the Bnei Menashe, who stem from one of the wandering, “lost” tribes of Israel. Finally, the Olami II group will spend time with the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda who, early in the twentieth century, chose Judaism as a moral-ethical paradigm by which to lead their lives.

Though the main focus of all Year Course programs remains Israel, Olami II aims to raise provocative questions about those Jews who do not live in Israel and do not fit into many of the mainstream practices of Judaism. Participants will be confronted with a range of questions, including how they, as Zionists, should approach these “outsider” Jews, and what relationship and responsibilities Israel and the world Jewish community has to these distant relatives.

According to Judy Shereck, Coordinator of Young Judaea, “This course grew out of a year course favorite class, ‘Lost Jewish Communities.’ Now our students will be able to learn about these groups first-hand and not through lectures and texts alone. Our job is to provide participants with opportunities for growth as individuals and as members of the Jewish community. This course, more than any other, raises the issues of Jewish identity and challenges the participants to come up with new working definitions. With this experience, we will be sending them out into the world as better informed Zionists.”

Earlier in the year Young Judaea announced that it would be launching Olami I, a program designed to retrace the steps of Zionists from their lands of birth to their homeland. Over the course of the year Olami I students will visit England, France, Budapest/Prague/Krakow, Morocco, and Ethiopia.

Year Course and the new Olami programs are Shomer Shabbat and observe the laws of kashrut. Students receive college credit for Year Course from the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) and, pending approval, will receive additional credit for the Olami programs. The cost of the Olami programs is $25,000. For more information, please call (212) 303-4584, (800) 725-0612, or e-mail yearcourse@youngjudaea.org.


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