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Two new internship programs boost interaction with young people.
Barbara Lewis I Contributing Writer
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A slightly different philosophy
motivates the Mekor Chaim/Steinsaltz
Ambassadors program. According to the
program's website, the Ambassadors aim
to "model how to love being Jewish in a
deep, natural, joyous and unapologetic
way." The program started in 2005 in
Highland Park, N.J.; this is its first year
Two ambassadors in Detroit (also two
in Washington, D.C.) were recruited
at the Tekoa, Israel, yeshivah run by
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, renowned for his
translation of the Talmud into English.
It's a hesder yeshivah, a five-year pro-
gram where students combine advanced
Judaic studies with service in the Israel
The three Ramah Fellows live together
in a house in Royal Oak they call the
Bayit ("house" in Hebrew), where they
host meetings and events for students
and young adults in the community. The
Steinsaltz Ambassadors share an apart-
ment in Oak Park.
The Ramah Fellows say their work
falls into three "pillars": recruiting new
campers for Camp Ramah, engaging
with the local community and working
with young Ramah alumni, primarily at
"No two days are the same:' said
Darrien Sherman, 22, the only Ramah
Fellow from Detroit. She grew up in
Bloomfield Hills and Congregation
Shaarey Zedek and graduated from
U-M. The other Ramah Fellows are Eli
Jacober, 23, of Oakland, Calif., and Hillel
Buechler, 23, of Dix Hills, N.Y.
Sherman works with Congregation
Beth Shalom and Congregation Shaarey
Zedek, Jacober with Adat Shalom
Synagogue and Congregation B'nai
Moshe, and Buechler with Congregation
Beth Ahm and Congregation B'nai Israel.
They've also worked with the Isaac
Agree Downtown Synagogue.
Starr said the fellows have given a face
to Camp Ramah, where local enrollment
has been declining in recent years. For
2014, enrollment is up.
The enrollment boost may be due in
part to a half-off tuition offer for first-
February 6 • 2014
Ramah Fellows Hillel Buechler, Eli Jacober and Darrien Sherman, with mentor/supervisor Rebecca Starr (second from right)
time campers, part of the Davidson
Foundation grant. But parents are learn-
ing about the discount from the Ramah
Buehler said he and Jacober were
amazed at how vibrant the Detroit Jewish
community is and how much support it
offers to educational programs.
Detroiter Sherman is seeing the com-
munity from a different perspective.
"It's nice to come back to the commu-
nity that was part of raising me and to
be able to give back:' she said.
Amitai Tzuriel, 21, one of the Steinsaltz
Ambassadors, says his program's motto
is "let our people know."
"Rabbi Steinsaltz believes we all have
to take a step forward in learning and
Jewish involvement," he said.
Tzuriel, who comes from Ma'ale
Adumim, and his colleague, Ido
Sinchon, 23, from Tekoa, arrived here in
September and, like the Ramah Fellows,
they will be here through the end of
the school year. They've been working
primarily at Akiva Hebrew Day School,
but they've also done programs with stu-
dents at Adat Shalom and Wayne State
"We teach Judaic studies and do infor-
mal education," Tzuriel said. "We try to
provoke questions and get the students
to think about what we do as Jews. We
want them to feel that whatever practice
or tefillah (prayer) we're talking about is
something that belongs to them person-
Rabbi Tzvi Klugerman, head of school
at Akiva, said, "They bring a higher
level of knowledge and training to the
job. They have brought a passion and
level of engagement with Torah that has
made a noticeable difference in their
interactions with the whole school from
the Early Childhood Center through the
They also bring that passion to
adults who want to learn with them,
Tzuriel teaches Torah and Hebrew
to small women's groups. One meets at
Young Israel of Oak Park and the other
in a private Oak Park home. He's starting
a third class, in kabbalah, at a home in
"We're available for anyone who wants
to learn in an open and free environ-
ment," Tzuriel said.
Anyone interested can contact the
program administrators through its
website, www.letourpeopleknow.org .