Flipping Out?
Myth or Fact: The Impact of the “Year in Israel”

ISBN 978-1-933143-23-1, 235 pages, hardcover, $24.95
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By Shalom Z. Berger, Daniel Jacobson and Chaim I. Waxman

Flipping Out?: Myth or Fact? The Impact of the “Year in Israel” by Shalom Z. Berger, Daniel Jacobson and Chaim I. Waxman takes a hard look at a phenomenon that has become a major source of both inspiration and consternation in the Jewish community.

The Jewish community has changed over the past four decades for many reasons, prominent among them the phenomenon of large numbers of students spending a year after high school studying Torah full time in Israel. The results of this “Year in Israel” can be felt in many synagogues and homes, with a good deal of increased ritual observance and dedication to Torah study - the much discussed “Shift to the Right.”

Many questions arise from these changes. Have these students been brainwashed? Has their primary education so failed them that a single year in Israel is more influential than over a decade of American schooling? Have they found an easy way to alleviate some hidden insecurity? Or are they merely inspired by a profoundly rich and spiritual lifestyle? And how long does this newfound religious devotion last? Is it really the start of a radically different life path or is it merely a short-term religious high that becomes more moderate over time? These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked.

This book gathers together insights from three talmidei chachamim who are top experts on the subject, each from a different perspective. Rabbi Shalom Berger, Ed.D., and Rabbi Daniel Jacobson, Psy.D., both performed statistical studies and wrote doctoral dissertations on the phenomenon of studying in Israel for a year. Rabbi Berger, drawing on his years of experience as a leading mechanech (Torah instructor) in the U.S. and Israel, approaches the subject from the perspective of an educator and addresses the “what” of the changes in students-what religious changes do we see in students from the time they leave to Israel to a year after they return. Rabbi Jacobson looks at the “Year in Israel” from the perspective of his psychological training and explores the “why” of the equation-what internal and external influences on these students cause the changes that happen.

Dr. Chaim Waxman, a distinguished sociologist, looks at the impact of this phenomenon on the broader community from the perspective of a sociologist. How does the “Year in Israel” fit in with the historical relationship between American and Israeli Jewry, and how has it changed the American Jewish community? His decades of profound study of the Jewish community have earned him a place as one of our leading social commentators. Finally and significantly, Richard M. Joel adds to this impressive mix with an introduction based on his experience as the president of the Hillel college campus organization and currently the president of Yeshiva University.

Praise for the Book
Providing fine historical and religious perspective, as well as religiously and spiritually sensitive, “Flipping Out” is psychologically insightful and sociologically astute, while providing concrete guidance and counsel to students, parents, rabbis, educators, and concerned members of our communities. This volume, based on copious research, and careful analysis, is inordinately well done, and will, I am sure, prove to be an invaluable resource for all of these audiences and more. Bravo!

—Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America
The “Year in Israel” has become an important rite of passage for American Orthodox teenagers, and is growing in popularity among their non-Orthodox peers. This pioneering volume helps us to understand this phenomenon and its larger implications. Anyone interested in contemporary American Judaism, and anyone who has studied for a year in Israel or who contemplates doing so, will find this book well worth pondering.

—Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History

Inside the Book

Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Reflections on Israel
    by Richard M. Joel

  • Section 1: Engaging the Ultimate: The Impact of Post-High School Study in Israel
    by Shalom Z. Berger
    1. Introduction
    2. Who Goes to Israel to Study?
    3. Studying in Israel
    4. The Impact of Studying Abroad
    5. The Different Types of Programs
    6. Quantifying the Impact
    7. Religious Ritual Behaviors and Attitudes
    8. Moral/Ethical Development
    9. Attitudes Toward Israel
    10. Does the Change Last?
    11. Conclusion

  • Section 2: In Search of Self: Psychological Perspectives on Change During the “Year in Israel”
    by Daniel Jacobson
    1. Introduction
    2. Types of Change
    3. Turning Points
    4. Impediments to Change
    5. Influential Individuals
    6. Parents and Visiting Home
    7. Finding Your Place Back Home
    8. Developmental Stages and Influences
    9. Conclusion

  • Section 3: American Orthodoxy, Zionism and Israel
    by Chaim I. Waxman
    1. American Religious Zionism
    2. Between the Two World Wars
    3. World War II and the Immigration of Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva
    4. A Brief History of Year in Israel Programs
    5. On College and University Campuses
    6. Year in Israel and the Orthodox Community
    7. Year in Israel and Aliyah
    8. Orthodox Institutional Structures Promoting Aliyah
    9. Recent Questions About Aliyah
    10. The Politics of the American Orthodox

  • Glossary
  • Appendix: Tables for Section 1
  • Index


Chapter 11: Conclusion to Section 1: Engaging the Ultimate: The Impact of Post-High School Study in Israel (PDF)

About the Authors

Rabbi Shalom Z. Berger, Ed.D. (Google him), prior to his aliyah to Israel with his family in 1991, taught in New York area yeshiva high schools, inaugurating the Israel guidance center at HAFTR high school in Cedarhurst, NY. Since that time he has taught in both men’s and women’s one-year Israel programs and conceived and developed the on-line Israel programs website for the Orthodox Caucus. Today, when he is not busy parenting his seven children, he is on the staff of Bar-Ilan University’s Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, where he is founding editor of the professional journal Jewish Educational Leadership and he directs thousands of educators around the world in a conversation about current issues in Jewish education via the Lookjed listserv, a project that he initiated. In his spare time, Shalom leads Jewish heritage tours in Poland and teaches graduate courses on Israel and Zionism.

Rabbi Daniel Jacobson, Psy.D. (Google him), ordained at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, is currently the Director of Student Services at Yeshivat Shvilei HaTorah in Jerusalem, and works as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. He received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University, writing his dissertation on “Psychological and Religious Change of Orthodox Jewish Boys During a Post-High School Year of Study in an Israeli Yeshiva.” Rabbi Jacobson has a B.A. from Princeton University and studied in Israel at both Yeshivat HaKotel and Yeshivat Shaalvim. He lives with his wife Dassi and 5 children in Gush Etzion.

Dr. Chaim I. Waxman (Google him) is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Jewish Studies, Rutgers University and a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, in Jerusalem. He has a BA and MHL from Yeshiva University, and an MA and PhD from the New School for Social Research. He studied in Yeshivat Kerem BeYavneh in 1958-59. In addition to numerous articles and review-essays, his books include The Stigma of Poverty: A Critique of Poverty Theories and Policies (Pergamon Press, 1977; Second Edition, 1983); America’s Jews in Transition (Temple University Press, 1983), American Aliya (Wayne State University Press, 1989), and Jewish Baby Boomers: A Communal Perspective (State University of New York Press, 2001). He also coauthored (with Rafael Medoff) the Historical Dictionary of Zionism (Scarecrow Press, 2000), and has edited and co-edited more than a halfdozen works in such diverse areas as political sociology, ethnicity, and social thought, among others. Most recently, he co-edited (with Uzi Rebhun) Jews in Israel: Contemporary Social and Cultural Patterns (University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 2004).

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