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What is Shomer Achi?

Shomer Achi is a yearlong program, fostering sustainable and community based connections between Diaspora and Israeli college students through parallel community service initiatives, dialogue, and leadership training. Six students from Israel and six from America work through the year to learn about social justice, volunteer in the local community, and engage in dialogue about identity and Jewish responsibility. Selection is based on leadership in secular and Jewish communities, dedication to social justice, and academic standing. Each Shomer Achi participantis required to implement a final initiative in their community. The initiatives draw on the educational sessions, volunteering, and both ten-day service trips wherein the Shomrim from America and Israel travel to one another’s communities to volunteer, learn about and discuss the social challenges. Shomer Achi emphasizes responsibility for and accountability to the local and global communities while ensuring that local campuses and the larger Jewish community gain from the social justice activities of Shomer Achi.

Why College Students?

  Our target population for our pilot year was Jewish university students in America and Israel, age 18-26. Jewish young adults have the potential to carry on a new Jewish spirit but are vulnerable to the challenges of apathy and assimilation. American students today forge a strong connection with the land of Israel but less so with the people of Israel. A connection with the "land," however, is not sustainable outside of Eretz Yisroel- it does not provide the opportunity for a two-way relationship. Shomer Achi works on the premise that, the nature of Israeli-Diaspora engagement shifts to a holistic model (see pedagogy of peoplehood) that understands each community contributes to the other. Currently, the Jewish efforts largely flow from North America to Israel. To create one Jewish community Jewish Israelis must be afforded the opportunity to relate to and connect with Jews in the Diaspora. Shomer Achi will strengthen connections between people; maintain a mutual method of engagement that involves Jews in Israel and the Diaspora, and in doing so impact the Jewish communities in cities and campuses where the program operates. Students are prime to carry on this new light and effect long term change in the coming years.

What Makes Shomer Achi unique?

  Shomer Achi is unique in that it focuses on people rather than place; emphasizes dialogue as opposed to instruction; and encourages leadership in addition to activism. Shomer Achi embraces a dynamic approach to Jewish identity that is in tune with the needs of younger Jews and flexible in its framework. Since rigid frameworks that work in one place may not always be appropriate for another, the social justice issues each hub will explore during the year are chosen by the community according to its values and need. This concept is transferable in our exploration of Jewish identity and practice. As Jewish identity and practice vary across a spectrum and around the world, we see a need to embrace an individualized approach to social justice and Jewish identity- both serve as cornerstones of Shomer Achi. Flexible people-based programming with Jewish values as a beacon is one way that Shomer Achi stands out from the rest. Shomer Achi provides a Jewish lens through which to view social justice as well as a medium through which to act on both local and global levels.

The Program Outline

Shomer Achi is a year long program, high lights of which include a trip to America for Israelis and a trip to Israel for Americans. While these two exciting trips are very much culminating points, they are not the entirety of the program. Participants will attend educational sessions, volunteer programs, and engage in dialogue throughout the year. Participants will be in contact with their counterparts across the sea via internet chats and conferences as well as an interactive website which is soon to come!

The pilot year program was designed for Jewish college students who have been to Israel/ America previously. The service trips are not designed to be tourist centered and while they made include sight seeing and local touring, these trips are primarily to volunteer in the communities, learn about Jewish identity, and engage in meaningful dialogue.  For the pilot year, Shomer Achi worked closely with the campus Hillels in both America and Israel.  Each campus chose a social justice topic for the year – the pilot year topic was immigration. Throughout the year, the group explored this social justice issue in a variety ways which included educational sessions, volunteering, and dialogue both on campus and in the community.

Block Alef- Prior to the Trip

Shomrim participants will explore different aspects of immigration and the immigrant experience by learning in educational sessions. These sessions can be framed as workshops, lectures, or interactive discussions with Professors, experts, professionals, and community leaders who have a direct knowledge of or experience with the immigrant community.   The sessions will focus on the challenges that immigrants face broadly in America or Israel, and specifically in Oregon or Haifa. In addition to exploring immigration through a secular lens, unstructured dialogue and Jewish text study will frame the social issue in a Jewish context so Shomrim can explore the issue through a Jewish lens.

Block Bet-  HaKesher 
Shomrim PNW will travel to Haifa, Israel and later the Shomrim from Israel will travel to Oregon; together during these trips, for ten days, the Shomrim from Haifa and PNW will volunteer, engage in dialogues, participate in workshops, and learn about the challenges of immigration in the local community as well as explore issues related to Jewish peoplehood and identity. Also during this time, the entire Shomer Achi group can be together, bond with one another, share insights on personal struggles with Jewish identity and create friendships with other Jews, who, although located in different countries, face the same or similar struggles with identity.

Block Gimmel- After HaKesher 

Upon returning from the trips, students will continue to participate in social service initiatives with local organizations, and educational sessions in their communities.  In addition, a leadership component of Shomer Achi will require participants to implement at least one program or initiative on campus or in their local communities about the immigration.  These initiatives will draw on what the Shomrim learned throughout the year as well as offer the community a chance to learn, get involved, and take part in the larger vision of Shomer Achi. 

As an integral part of Shomer Achi is communication and people-based relationships, we will foster these connections throughout the year with a series of video conference calls before and after each Shomrim group visits their paired community. In this way, the Shomrim bond and build friendships with one another as well as share information about and ideas regarding immigration in their local communities, experiences they have had working with immigrants, and best practices which they have observed.  

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