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A Rabbi on a Mission to Inspire Young Jews Visiting Israel


Rabbi Eliyahu Ya’akov of Jerusalem’s Old City shifts the paradigm for Birthright and MASA participants by educating them in Judaism’s wisdom and life teachings.

Rabbi Eliyahu Ya’akov lives in Jerusalem’s Old City, where he pursues his life’s mission to inspire in young Diaspora Jews a deeper connection to Judaism and the State of Israel. He recently spoke about his work in Israel with participants in 10-day Birthright trips and long-term MASA programs.

According to Ya’akov, “What I am trying to bring to the table [for Birthright and MASA participants are] … Israel experiences that are eye-opening and impactful, experiences that create a paradigm shift. I encourage them to take advantage of the Jewish things in Israel, to partake in what is unique about Israel. I try to encourage different ways to open them up to those experiences, in order to inspire them to take something of the Israel experience back with them. I want them to do something practical and concrete, to get involved in the community, light Shabbat candles, or to extend their stay. It’s really all about the follow-up.”

Ya’akov told United With Israel that his own childhood experiences inspired him to engage Birthright and MASA participants. Specifically, he remembers an overemphasis on practical instruction and dry explanations, without any meaningful focus on the reasons for Judaism’s sacred rituals and traditions. Ya’akov moved to Israel not only to explore the rationale behind Jewish customs, but also to share his knowledge with others.
He explained, “The goal is to share a deep, meaningful, inspirational and passionate approach to Judaism


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