1.      What is the significance of the name Shomer Achi?

Shomer Achi is Hebrew for "My Brother's Keeper".  In the Biblical story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26), after Cain murdered his brother Abel, G-d asked Cain where his brother was.  Cain responded, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  This question is not meant to refer to his location, G-d need not inquire as to Abel's whereabouts – he already knows.  Rather, this question is meant to make the person reflect on where he is both mentally and spiritually. Now we need to ask ourselves: where are the Jewish people today?  Geographically it is obvious, the Jewish people are spread all over the world, but spiritually and mentally, where is the Jewish nation?  The Jews are supposed to be a "light unto the nations," and as a dispersed people we are in a prime position to serve this purpose.  Maimonides emphasized that one must take care of ones own community before taking care of another.  With the global nature of the world today people are often inclined to help other communities before helping their own.  Shomer Achi applies Miamonides' ideology to the realities of the 21st century, promoting local as well as global action.  

2.      Is Shomer Achi only for Israeli and American college students?
For the pilot program, 2008-2009, Shomer Achi is open to Israeli students in the Haifa region and American students studying in the University system in Oregon.  In the coming years, Shomer Achi will scale across Israel, the United States, as well as to Jewish communities around the world – in the former Soviet Union, South and Central America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.

3.   Can I participate in Shomer Achi if I have not been to Israel before?
Shomer Achi is not a tourist trip. We do not intend to tour the country like other trips and we will not spend much time outside of Haifa during the trip to Israel. Participants are only eligible if they have been to Israel before; it does not matter if you have been on an organized trip or with family. If you have been to Israel prior to the trip in March, then you are eligible! Shomer Achi is an intense program that focuses on Jewish identity, dialogue, and social justice. As such, we will spend most of our time engaged in group dialogue, volunteering, hearing guest speakers, and participating in workshops. We do not want students to feel as if they are not given the chance to see the entire country on their first trip so we have made a prior visit a requirement for that reason. We will however factor in free time on some evenings and some mornings. During this time, students can explore Haifa, a city that many other organized trips do not go to. Additionally, during this free time, Israeli and American students will have the opportunity to mingle and get to know one another in a less structured setting.

4.      What will the educational sessions consist of?
The educational sessions are a key component in the Shomer Achi program. They will take place on every other Thursday (starting Nov 6) and will go from 7:30pm-9:30pm. They will take place at Hillel and have two parts. The first part is usually going to be open to the public. The second is closed and available only to the participants.  These sessions will inform the participants about the social justice topic, what is being done in the community already to address the issue, what resources are available in the community to get involved outside the program, and ultimately these sessions will shed light on a topic that most of us are not aware of or fully educated about. The educational sessions will be followed by an informal discussion and dialogue among the participants that dives further into the issue within a Jewish context. The dialogue will be guided by Jewish text sources, both biblical and contemporary, and will discuss our interpretations as Jews today. The dialogue sessions will focus on Jewish identity and what that means in relation to the social justice topic.

5. What will the volunteer sessions consist of?
The volunteer sessions are equally as important as the educational sessions. The volunteering gives our participants the opportunity to get hands on experience and gain valuable, first hand knowledge in the field. We don't want Shomer Achi to be considered another class or lecture. We have designed a complete program that incorporates structured and unstructured experiential learning that is both educational and rewarding. The volunteering will take place about twice a month; the time and locations will be announced during the educational sessions on Thursdays. The volunteering may include but is not limited to on site visits, mentoring, tutoring, building, workshops, and demonstrating. These sessions will primarily take place in Eugene but may include field trips to Portland and other surrounding communities.

* Shomer Achi is a program designed for students. As such, we understand that students have academic obligations after school and on the weekends. To the fullest extent that we can, our educational and volunteering sessions will be worked around student scheduling.

6. Shomer Achi sounds great! How much will all this cost?
Shomer Achi is a year long program that includes educational sessions, volunteering, leadership training, and an overseas trip component. A program of this caliber may normally cost thousands of dollars however we do not feel that charging students absorbant amounts of money to learn and volunteer is an efficient or reasonable use of money. The Shomer Achi participants are charged a nominal program fee of $300.00 for the entire year including the trip. This fee is heavily subsidized and is by no means an effort to defray costs. More so, this fee is to assure participants that we are guarenteeing a quality program, and also to make clear to the participant that they have committed themselves to a year long program with requirements and expectations. The program fee is an investment that the participant makes in the program and in themselves.

Shomer Achi is a program designed for students. As such, we understand that students have financial constraints. Please see the contact us section and email us about about your concerns. Scholarships and payment plans available.

7. How Exciting!  What will the trips be like?

A very exciting component of the Shomer Achi program are the two trips: one for Israelis and one for Americans. The American participants will travel to Israel during thier Spring break (dates/ flights tba). Once in Israel, the participants will spend the majority of their time in Haifa. Here, the participants will have the opportunity to meet their counterparts in Haifa and exchange thoughts, ideas, and experiences. In Haifa, with the whole group together, participants will volunteer at local organizations, engage in intense dialogue and leadership training sessions, and at night the group can explore the city. The Israelis will have very much the same itenerary when they come to American for their trip. The Israelis will travel to America during the summer break (dates/flights tba). Once in America, the Israeli participants will spend the majority of their time in Oregon. Again, the whole group will volunteer at local organizations, engage in intense dialogue and leadership training sessions, and at night the group can explore the great city and surroundings of Eugene.