Rabbi David Bar-Cohn
In the summer of 1993, a year after I finished university studies, I came to Livnot with the hope of learning about Judaism and Israel, both of which I realized were important to me me but to which I had only a tangential relationship until that point.
I don’t think I can overemphasize the level of impact that my experience at Livnot had on my life. It ignited several flames within me: 1) A sense of belonging and responsibility to the Jewish people. 2) A realization that Jewish destiny is intimately tied to the land of Israel. 3) A great desire to learn more about Judaism and to use this knowledge to contribute meaningfully to the Jewish world.
All this I owe to the staff at Livnot for the warmth and respect they showed to each of my fellow participants (my “chevre”), to being role models in their love for Judaism and their communal dedication, and of course to the program itself. Livnot takes great care to create an “active learning” experience, only part of which is actual classroom time. Through hiking, community service projects, as well as living together as a group, the knowledge and experience the participants gain is acquired through doing, giving, expending one’s own energy. In this way, every step up the mountain, every shovelful of dirt, every onion chopped, every floor swept, all imbued within us what it means to be Jewish. In Judaism, to love something is to give to it. This principle was brought to life each and every day on the Livnot program.
What was cultivated in Livnot was a spirit of giving and growing in Judaism, and bringing those fruits of wisdom and experience back to our communities, in whatever Jewish denomination we happened to be a part of.
After Livnot, I went on to more advanced Jewish studies and eventually received a rabbinical ordination, which I now use in conjunction with a private psychotherapy practice here in Israel. I made Alliyah with my wife and children three years ago, and as we continue to offer our individual strengths to contribute to a more vibrant, dynamic Jewish community, I often call upon my experience at Livnot for strength and inspiration. When the complexity of contemporary Jewish life seems overwhelming, I can hear that “still small voice” of Livnot–that basic foundation of responsibility and respect, to give and to love, which life as a Jew is all about.
Originally published in the booklet Livnot Chevre-Rabbis, 2009