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June 16, 1989 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-16

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involves a technique called
throwing cement. Perfecting
the skill is a kind of rite of
passage at Livnot.
"It's all in the wrist,"
Lehmann, one of a group of
27, explains. "I wonder if I
can put it on my resume?"
Other Livnot projects in-
clude building a garden at a
regional hospital and paint-
ing apartments of the elderly.
But work is second to lear-
ning, Botzer says. The pro-
gram offers classes on Jewish
history, Zionism and various
aspects of Judaism, as well as
evening sessions on current
events and topics like the
Holocaust and Ethiopian
Participants pay $500 for
the pleasure of hauling rocks
and throwing cement. The
cost of the program is more
like $2,000 per head, Botzer
says. The Jewish Agency
makes up part of the dif-
ference; Botzer raises the
Livnot accepts Jews ages 20
to 30; most participants are
23 or 24 years old. Botzer's
target group are those who
know little or nothing about
Judaism and have fallen
through the cracks of Jewish
affiliation. "People who come
here should have a lot of
serious questions," he says.
"We want people to know that
they don't know very much."
"The program makes me

"People who come
here should have a
lot of serious
questions. We
want peple to
know that they
don't know very

feel Jewish and confused,"
says Shawn Nisse, 20, from
England. "But I guess that's
healthy. I came here to be con-
fused and to question a few
Nisse already had a connec-
tion to Israel: his mother was
born here. But Jduaism was
not an important part of his
upbringing. "I had never
worn a kippah before I came
here. The first time I was in
a shul was here," he says.
Safed is a small city, far
from the center of Israel. In
the Middle Ages, it became a
center for Jewish mystics. The
aura of spiritual contempla-
tion and exploration still sur-
rounds the town and drifts
through its narrow alleys. By
day, students can sit on the
roofs of Livnot's buildings
surrounded by the un-
dulating green mountains of
the.Galilee. At night the stars
light up a deep black sky. Liv-

'not participants take advan-
tage of the atmosphere.
"Everyone here is very in-
tellectual, very introspective,"
24-year-old Marissa Levy says
of her companions. "Yester-
day we bought a bottle of
wine. Before you knew it, we
were discussing the laws of
family purity. Debating. It
was totally spontaneous. It
lasted two hours."
"We're given certain
guidelines," Jeff Lasarow, a
native of South Africa, says of
the Livnot approach.
"Nothing is enforced. The
depth behind it is that slow-
ly your Jewish identity comes
out. You start to find your in-
ner self."
"It's a learning atmosphere
where there isn't any
pressure, just a desire to
learn," Levy says. "It's the
first time I've studied for the
sake of studying."

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he wake-up call comes
at 6:30 a.m. By 7 a.m.,
the group has
gathered in Livnot's dome-
ceilinged common area that
serves as dining room,
classroom and meeting room.
The day's three toranim
(those on kitchen duty) had
risen at 5:45 a.m. to prepare
the breakfast of french toast
and fruit salad. Every Livnot
participant serves on toranut
about once every two weeks.
Work begins at 7:15 a.m.
and lasts until about 11:15
a.m. Then it's lunch and a
rest break until 3 p.m. Two
two-hour classes lead up to
supper. Once a week, each
group member is excused
from work duty to pursue an
independent course of study.
For some, it is a chance to
work on Hebrew; others ex-
plore Jewish history or
Israel's security situation.
"The schedule is struc-
tured, but flexible," Botzer
says. So is the approach to
religion. Kashrut and Shab-
bat are observed on the
premises, but the program
makes few other religious
demands, he says.
Botzer says he came up
with the idea for Livnot
U'lehibanot while restoring
the house he bought 14 years
ago in Safed's rundown old
"I was working as a high
school teacher and tour guide.
Every year I would fix up
another part of the house," he
Over the years, he met
young Jews drifting through
Safed, looking for something
constructive to do. He would
hire some of them to help him
on his house. "That's where
the idea of the program came
from," he says. ❑

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