Israel Programs

Teaching About Israel

Lectures, panels, workshops, documentary films, cultural and holiday events about Israel have long been a central part of BJ’s Israel Programming. Of equal importance are events we sponsor that are intended to challenge our assumptions and to bring differing viewpoints to light, educating ourselves about the stories in Israel that are not presented by the mainstream media.

Register Now For ‘Israel Celebrates 70’ Community Trip

December 25, 2017 – January 3, 2018 | Registration open through May 2017 

Visiting Israel with fellow BJ members, rabbis and staff is always a memorable experience. Our Israel trips combine service, study, and prayer and are designed to give you an in-depth understanding of Israeli society and culture.

As Israel celebrates 70 years of Independence, we are delighted to announce a new community trip scheduled from December 25, 2017 to January 3, 2018.  Read more »

Celebrate Israel: Ella's Trip to Israel, an Interactive Children's Performance


Sunday, April 30 | 11:30AM-12:30PM | 88th Street Sanctuary

Join MusicTalks for a fun filled Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration with the delightful children’s book, Ella’s Trip to Israel, narrated by Israeli actress Shira Averbuch. Come along as Ella discovers all of the most breathtaking Israeli sites such as Jerusalem, the Kotel, The Dead Sea, and the Israeli Shuk. Her magical journey through Israel will be brought to life with a sing along of the best known Israeli tunes, as well as original music written by Israeli composer Or Matias and performed by a musical ensemble. Following the interactive performance, the participants will be invited to meet the musicians up close and learn about the different instruments at our one of a kind “musical instrument petting zoo.”

$5 per person, walk-ins welcome. Please sign up here

Check out our preview video below!

Text and artwork from Ella’s Trip to Israel appears with the permission of Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group. Copyright ©2011 by Vivian Newman

Israeli Folk Dancing for Yom Ha'atzmaut

Sunday, April 30 | 2:00-6:00PM | 89th Street Community House Gym

Celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with the best of Israeli folk dances. Our friendly dancers will help you learn the steps (though a little experience in Israeli folk dancing is helpful!). The program ends with a mix of circle, line, and partner dances, selected mostly by request.

This special event is brought to you by Rikuday Dor Rishon, an Upper West Side community-based group dedicated to preserving the classic folk dances of Israel. Light refreshments will be served.

$5 entrance fee. Please sign up here

Israeli Settlements: A Conversation with Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan

Sunday, April 30 | 3:00-4:30PM | 88th Street Sanctuary 

Fifty years after the Six-Day War, 400,000 Israelis are settled on the West Bank. Many consider settlements an impediment to peace, while others consider it a fulfillment of the Zionist vision. Join Israeli Consul General and former Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, Mr. Dani Dayan, for a special presentation on the impact of the settlements on Israel’s society and future. Register here for this event.  Read more »

HEROES: The Untold Stories Of The Jewish-Ethiopian Aliyah

Sunday, April 30 | 5:00-6:15PM | 89th Street Community House 

Join us for a special screening of excerpts from the work-in-progress documentary, HEROES. This feature film explores the experiences of the real-life heroes involved in the Jewish-Ethiopian aliyah to Israel. After the screening, there will be a Q&A featuring co-director Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen and activists who were directly involved in the aliyah efforts. Visit the film’s webpage and sign up here to attend.

Read more »

Fifty Years Since 1967: An Evening of Ceremony and Reflection

Monday, May 1 | 7:00-9:30PM | 88th Street Sanctuary

Join us for our traditional Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) ceremony, commemorating those who have lost their lives for the State of Israel. This year, the ceremony will focus on the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and the unification of Jerusalem. After the ceremony, we will continue to explore topics central to this historical event, as well as the impact of the war on Israel’s relationship with its neighbors. Breakout sessions include a facilitated conversation with Resetting The Table, a discussion with our partners at Mechon Hadar, Shaare Tzedek, JTS, HUC, Columbia Hillel, and Romemu. We will conclude the evening with a dessert reception and a sing along session in celebration of Yom Haatzmaut. Please sign up here for this event.

Where We Go From Here: Improving Israeli Security and Preserving the Two-state Option 

Saturday, May 6 | After Shabbat Services | 86th Street SPSA  

After leading Israel in the battlefield during his impressive military career, General Amnon Reshef now spearheads the Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), an unprecedented movement of 270 retired Israeli commanders and generals who advocate for taking intermediate steps towards enhancing Israel’s security while preserving conditions on the ground for a future two-state agreement. Together with the New York-based Israel Policy Forum (IPF), CIS is bringing their message to the American Jewish community and U.S. lawmakers. Join General Reshef in learning about his movement and their policy plans, which are currently gaining significant momentum within Israel’s policy-making and national security circles. No registration required. 

The Cultural Impact Of The Six-Day War

Sunday, May 14 | 5:00-6:30PM | 89th Street Community House 

The miraculous victory of the Six-Day War left a huge impact on local culture in the late 60s and early 70s. This musical presentation will feature classic songs from the post-war era, performed by our very own BJ musical ensemble. Moti Zeira, head of our partner organization HaMidrasha and official biographer of Israeli song-writer Naomi Shemer (Yerushalayim Shel Zahav), will examine the impact of the war on Israeli music, the rise of military super-groups, and the subversive messages hidden within some of the all-time classics of the age.

This event is free for BJ members, but registration is required. Register here. Read more »

The Generational Divide: How Do Millennials View Israel in Light of 50 Years of Occupation?

Thursday, May 25 | 7:00-8:30PM | 89th Street Community House 

In the American Jewish community, young Jews are starting to pull away from Israel as their values and the actions of the state of Israel come into conflict. Jewish youth in America are more liberal and less religious than previous generations. In Israel, the situation is reversed: the youth are becoming more right wing and religious than their elders. Why is this the case and what does this mean for both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the relationship between American and Israeli Jews? Join Joel Braunold of ALLMEP and Yona Shem-Tov of Encounter in exploring these questions of generational divide. Register here  Read more »

Jerusalem: Fifty Years of Complex Unification  

Sunday, June 11 | 7:00-8:30PM | 89th Street Community House

Within days in June 1967, Jerusalem was transformed. It turned from a small, divided, and threatened town with an international border running through it into a large, booming metropolis. The unification of Jerusalem radically changed the city’s character. The residents, regardless of their religious or ethnic composition, were now sharing a new city that was fully under Israeli control; this was one of the city’s most euphoric and triumphant moments. How have Jerusalemites in both East and West Jerusalem adapted to this new reality? What are the underlying social, political, and religious rifts that still shape this fascinating city? Dr. Elan Ezrachi, a native of Jerusalem and the author of a new book (in Hebrew) covering the history Jerusalem since 1967, will address these questions and more during this in-depth discussion.  Read more »

Programs From Previous Years

Ruth Gavison2015, UWS Yom Ha’atzmaut –  Envisioning The Future, What does the future hold?, Professor Ruth Gavison
Celebrating Israel’s founding and it’s vision. Join Renowned law Professor, Ruth Gavison who will discuss with Dr. Jonathan Cummings her vision for the future of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, as well as looking into the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed laws that deal with nationality.

Click here to listen to a recording or the talk.


The Israeli Book Group, book covers.Israeli Literature Book Group (2012-2013 Carol Balin & Jennifer Sylvor & 2014-2015 Orli Moss & Ellen Bender)
Always wanted to read novels by Israel’s greatest authors? What can the books teach us about Israeli society that we don’t learn from the newspaper headlines? We read and discuss books that provide insight and provoke conversation.

World Cup Wishes / Eshkol Nevo
Suddenly a knock on the door / Etgar Keret
Dancing Arabs / Sayed Kashua
The Hilltop / Assaf Gavron
The Falafel King is Dead / Sara Shilo
A pigeon and a boy / Meir Shalev
Homesick / Eshkol Nevo
Second person singular / Sayed Kashua
And the Rat laughed/ Nava Semel
The people of forever are not afraid / Shani Boianjiu
To the End of the Land / David Grossman

The Hilltop, Assaf GavronAuthor Assaf Gavron Speaks About His New Book – The Hilltop (March 14, 2015)
Join Dr. Jonathan Cummings, our Behind the Headlines analyst and Ellen Bender, our Israeli Literature group facilitator as they interview Gavron about his best selling new Novel, The Hilltop, and discuss his thoughts on the upcoming elections in Israel. This event is part of Hagiga Ivrit, a week long celebration of Hebrew language and culture in NYC.