BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture 

In This Issue

       Thanksgivukkah Message

1. In the Army Now

2. "Are You Jewish?" A Story

3. Make a Year-End Gift to BINA

                 Side Column

A) News in Brief

B) Upcoming Events

C) Book Corner

D) Program Applications

E) Condolences

            A) News in Brief

• BINA students & teachers help to fill the Kotel Plaza for Women of the Wall's 25th Anniversary! Click for more.


• BINA student leaders attend the JFNA GA in Jerusalem.


• Celebrated Israeli songwriter Yoram Taharlev leads musical-educational class at BINA for Global Day of Jewish Learning. Click for more.


"Jews Forging Own Paths in Margins of Mainstrem." Haaretz. 4 Nov '13. 

"Fringes Documentary Explores Different Ways to Be Jewish." Jpost. 16 Nov '13.


"Secular Israelis are Studying Judaism by the Thousands." LA Jewish Journal. 17 Nov '13. 

• BINA staff & friends attend the basic-training graduation ceremony of Tikkun Olam grads & recent olim Josh (Jomo) Morrison & Josh (Shuki) Goldberg. 


         B) Upcoming Events

• Nov 28 '13: Chanukah Lights across Jerusalem. Click for details


• Dec 22 '13: BINA at Limmud UK. Click for details.


• Mar '14: Dov Elbaum North America Book Tour. Click for details.


             C) Book Corner

Into the Fullness of the Void: A Spiritual Autiobiography by Dov Elbaum


This is BINA teacher Dov Elbaum's 1st book to be translated into English. The original Hebrew edition was a bestseller in Israel, selling over 50,000 copies!

About the Book: Into the Fullness of the Void is the spiritual autobiography of one of Israel’s leading cultural figures that provides insights and guidance for all of us. Growing up in an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem family, Elbaum was a prodigy who seemed destined for greatness in the ultra-Orthodox world of Talmud study. But in his late teens, he dramatically broke with the ultra-Orthodox world and set out into secular Israeli society.
In this book, Elbaum seeks to understand what compelled his decision and to grasp its consequences. With the structure of the Kabbalah as his road map, Elbaum moves into the deep recesses of his self and his soul. The ultimate goal of his journey is the Void, a Kabbalistic space that precedes God’s creation of the world, and a psychological state that precedes our emergence as individuals. It is a space of great vulnerability but also of hope for renewal and rebirth.

Buy the book online now! In paperback or ebook! Click on the special link below (amazon) and 5% of your purchase will go to BINA! Click here for more info.

            Into The Fullness Amazon Button 

     D) Program Applications
 Do YOU know college grads or young professionals? 
Join Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa: Live and Volunteer in Israel’s Most Exciting City! Now with 3 tracks: Co-Existence, Social Action, and a NEW Non-Profit Internship Track
- A MASA Israel Post-College Program - 
Still accepting applications for spring 2014 -- see our website for details.
 Do YOU know high school seniors?

BINA: Social Action and Study in Tel Aviv is a gap-year program for Jewish high-school graduates from around the world. BINA offers you a chance to live, study and volunteer with Israelis your own age in the exciting city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

- A MASA Israel Gap-Year Program-

Applications now available for Fall 2014!
To apply online, visit our website. For more information, visit our Facebook page, or email us at

E) Condolence
 BINA mourns the loss of Dov Lautman z"l, a man of labor and love. Dov Lautman advanced the cause of education in Israel and supported groundbreaking initiatives in Israeli academia and in Israel's periphery. The Lautman Foundation supports the BINA Bashchuna Project in Jaffa. We extend our deepst condolences to the entire Lautman Family. Zecher Tzadik Li'Vracha - May the memory of a righteous person be a blessing. 




A BINA Thanksgivukkah Message  Chanukah 5774 / 2013   

Image Credit: Student ExpertsDear Friends,

Happy Thanksgivukkah! The lights on my windowsill this Chanukah will be a bright reminder of how much I have to be thankful for and that if we work hard together we can make miracles happen. Miracles come with Maccabees. Lights with hard labor. BINA has been working hard and has seen many such miracles (read: accomplishments) happen this year in the sphere of Jewish Pluralism & Social Action in Israel, of which we are proud and grateful. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all our partners, staff, students, donors and friends who make it all possible.   

As you plan your year-end giving, please consider making a gift to BINA, to support our important work for Jewish Pluralism & Social Action in Israel in the year to come. 

Meanwhile, read on below to learn about our groundbreaking new contract for pluralistic Jewish identity training in the IDF, and a personal story about BINA's impact.

Happy Chanukah, Happy American Thanksgiving and and Happy Holidays to all of our friends. Chag Sameach!

Noga Brenner Samia, Deputy Director
BINA Center for Jewish Identity & Hebrew Culture | +972.52.2751577


In This Issue:

1. In the Army NOW: BINA to Lead IDF Jewish-Identity Officer's Course

2. "Are You Jewish?": A Thanksgivukkah Story

3. Make a Year-End Gift to BINA

Thanksgivukkah Image Credit: Student Experts

1. IN THE ARMY NOW: BINA to Lead IDF Jewish-Identity Course



BINA has recently acheived a new contract with the IDF Education Corps to run the IDF's prestigious "Identity & Purpose" [Ye'ud v'Yichud] course for officers. The "Identity & Purpose" course was established by the IDF Education Corps nearly 10 years ago; the course was conceived out of a realization that Israeli soldiers were becoming more and more distanced from the Jewish, Zionist and social values upon which the state and the IDF were built, and a decision to invest in training officers not only as educators in military matters but in identity matters as well. 

"Identity & Purpose" is a 10-day course required of all officers before acheiving the rank of Major in the IDF, and consists of training as "officer-educators" in the area of Jewish-Israeli identity. For the past 9 years the course was planned and implemented by Orthodox institutions; the decision to grant the course contract to BINA was a groundbreaking and courageous one on the part of the IDF, and was based upon BINA’s proven ability to provide high-quality educational programs for high-ranking officers in the IDF, and a growing desire to move toward more pluralistic Jewish education in the IDF - a desire strengthened by success and positive feedback from BINA and our partners' programs in the IDF.

The 10-day course, currently being redesigned by BINA in cooperation with the Education Corps will include such topics as: Jewish pluralism and denominationalismJewish culture and civilizationZionism as a social justice movementJudaism and democracy, unity and diversitysocial and economic disparities in Israelbridging the religious-secular dividenon-Jewish minorities in Israel, and more, and will be led by trained BINA facilitators, men and women, from diverse backgrounds. This course will bring new challenges to BINA as we must stretch our human, financial, and educational capacities to reach greater numbers and a very diverse audience, yet we look forward to the challenge. 

"This contract is a major success for BINA," says Sarit Itstik, director of BINA's IDF Department. "The course will allow us to have an unprecedented impact on the leaders and future leaders of the IDF and Israeli society. We will be able to bring BINA's unique Jewish-pluralistic voice to hundreds, who in turn will affect thousands." "Because BINA will be leading the course, this is the first time the course will have female facilitators, and not only male facilitators, which in and of itself is an accomplishment we should all be proud of," adds Sarit.
Over the course of the year, BINA will run the 10-day seminar for approximately 9 cohorts of 75 officers, totaling over 600.

BINA has been operating pluralistic Jewish educational programs in the IDF officially, in partnership with the Posen Foundation, for over 4 years. BINA was one of the first non-orthodox organizations to enter the field, and has opened the door for pluralistic approaches to Jewish education in the IDF. In 2012-2013 BINA saw a 40% increase in its pluralistic Jewish programming in the IDF, reaching over 7000 soldiers, mostly officers and high-ranking officials. BINA's programs include seminars, lectures, tours, Shabbat programs, and more.


While many Orthodox programs in the IDF are heavily funded by the State or run by the IDF Rabbinate, BINA's IDF programs are funded largely by generous support from the Posen Foundation and donors like you. If you would like to support our programs in the IDF please click here to donate now, or contact Noga Brenner Samia at Thank you for your support! For more information on our IDF programs visit

2. "Are You Jewish?": A Personal Story


 What to Answer When an Israeli Asks, “Are you Jewish?” - A Guide (to the Perplexed)

By Jasmine Granas, Tikkun Olam 2013-2014 Participant

"Are you Jewish?" As soon as as someone asks me, the exasperation starts to build in my stomach. Sometimes I just want to scream, ‘I don’t know! Stop asking me!’ Am I the only person in the world who doesn't have an immediate answer? To most people it may seem like a simple, black and white question with a simple, black and white answer. Okay, there is the issue of whether one’s mother is Jewish, and other considerations that can make the answer complicated for some people. But ever since I landed in Israel to participate in Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, a volunteer & study program run by BINA & the Daniel Centers, everyone around me seems so sure that they are Jewish -- which I admire and wonder about, yet at the same time makes me uncomfortable, because in my mind I don’t fit in.

If someone were to ask me this question a year ago in the US, my answer would be some long-winded explanation of how my father is Israeli, so technically I am half Jewish, but I grew up in a religionless household and I most closely identify with atheism -- Does that make me Jewish?? This answer is characterized by a lot of information-giving without actually committing to a conclusion… and answering a question with another question (clue #1 that I might be Jewish). Vagueness and indecision about self identity is the standard in San Francisco, so this answer was perfectly acceptable there and did not require the discomfort of digging deep within my soul.

Since I arrived in Israel, I began to realize that my answers to such heavy questions depend almost equally on two things: my own perceptions of myself and also the societal norms of the place in which I am being asked. Ideas about our personal identity often include information pertaining to the social constructs of the societies we live in. Because of the multitude of cultures, religions, sexual orientations etc. in San Francisco, questioning one’s identity has become somewhat of a norm and is even celebrated. In Israel, though, people seem to know where they stand, at least on the subject of religion. Whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or ‘Other,’ knowing one’s religious identity seems more important here. It’s a Jewish state, after all.

My vague, non committal answer doesn’t make as much sense in Israel as it did in San Fran. It looks like I’m going to have to do some soul digging. In a way, I guess that is part of the reason I came to Israel, this place that makes up one half of my origins but which I know very little about. I’m happy that the Tikkun Olam program includes an element of Jewish studies because another thing I’d like to develop during my time here is my relationship (or lack of) with spirituality. My aforementioned claim to relate most closely to atheism is the stock answer I’ve been giving people since high school, but recently I have been learning how to meditate and feel a deeper connection to the world around me -- it’s too early to tell where this notion will take me, but I am open to finding out. The BINA folks tell us wisely, “Don’t expect to find too many answers, just more questions!” Maybe instead of seeking the answer, I will just learn to be more comfortable with not knowing it. I can always adopt the Israeli answer to everything: ‘It’s complicated!’

Jasmine Granas grew up in Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, raised by an Israeli father and a non Jewish mother. She studied Marketing at the University of Texas in Austin, then worked in the non profit sector in Melbourne, Australia for two years. Most recently she worked at a technology startup in San Francisco, before leaving the US again to backpack through Europe on her way to starting Tikkun Olam in Jaffa, in hopes of learning about her Jewish heritage and building a connection with Israel.  

To read more about Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa and for more stories visit


  3. Make a Year-End Gift to BINA

Help us strengthen Israel as a just and pluralistic society!  

Contributions are tax-deductible!

DONATE NOW by credit card online at Israel Gives.

Or donate by check - In the USA, make your donation payable to:

PEF Israel Endowment Funds
Donor-advised: Merchavim Hevra Lechinuch Vetarbut/BINA
And send to:
P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds
317 Madison Avenue, Suite 607 New York, NY 10017

For other countries or more info please contact Noga at
Thank you! Toda Raba!

 BINA's Mechina & GAP Year 5774 (2013-2014)


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