About Us

Why choose a NFTY in Israel trip?

We’ve been running teen Israel trips for over 60 years. 

Since 1958, NFTY in Israel has transformed the lives of over 30,000 teens by creating a summer of exciting challenges, wonderful new friends, and lasting impact.   

Chaperoned flights are included in the cost of the program. 

When your teen arrives for their international flight our team will be there to support them through the check-in process.  Our chaperones fly with the teens and are available to help with any concerns during the flight and upon arriving at Ben Gurion airport in Israel.  

 

We are more than just a trip; we are a cultural exchange. 

Your bus will be joined by a group of Israeli teens for five days. Through structured evening programs and casual conversations on the trail, you’ll have a chance to get to know your Israeli peers and learn about their lives.  Throughout the trip you will also meet with Israelis from different walks of life who will share their experiences and reflections with you.   

You can customize your experience to what interests you. 

Before leaving for Israel on one of our Adventure trips, you will select your own four-day in-depth experience.  This module offers you the opportunity to pursue your own interests while in Israel and make new friends from other NFTY in Israel buses at the same time.  Experiences include our sea-to-sea hike, an archeological dig, social justice work, and the Israeli army experience.  

Want to customize your experience even more? Choose one of our specialty trips – Sci-Tech in Israel, Mitzvah Corps Social Justice, or Hebrew Language Immersion – and have your entire experience focus on your area of interest! 

Our trips are part of the suite of programs offered by the Union for Reform Judaism. 

We approach our Israel education through a Reform lens, bringing our values of repairing the world and holding in tension multiple truths.  We embrace the “audacious hospitality” of the Reform Movement and deeply value Racial Equity, Diversity, &inclusion (REDI) in all that we do.  We affirm and value participants and staff members from families of a wide range of backgrounds and lived experience – including interfaith, People of Color, people with disabilities, same-sex or single parents/guardians,  those who identify as LGBTQ+ and many other underrepresented identities.   We celebrate our sacred moments from Shabbat services to blessings of amazement at the Dead Sea with guitars, song, and full egalitarian inclusion.  

In the words of Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, “our Judaism is egalitarian, intellectually rigorous, joyful, pluralistic, and constantly evolving.  It is soul-elevating spiritual practice, life-altering Torah study, courageous practice of tikkun olam/repairing the world, and loving care for our community, especially the most vulnerable.”  

All of our staff are trained by us – from counselors to education leaders. 

We know that the adults in charge can make or break a trip. Our education team begins learning with us months before our summer trips to ensure that they not only know the base material but can answer tough questions and encourage real dialogue. Our counselor training focuses on high-level participant care including both physical safety and emotional well-being.    For months our team prepares to welcome you to Israel and to make sure that your experience is meaningful, safe, and fun! 

We know health and safety. 

The safety and security of participants is always our primary concern. Our itineraries are built with caution in mind and we are in touch with Israeli authorities throughout the summer in case last-minute travel changes must be made. In addition, each group is accompanied by a licensed guard, and our staff go through a vigorous training to prepare them for any health or safety issue.  Learn more about our approach to safety and security.   

We know how to do fun! 

From camel rides and playing in the Dead Sea, to hanging out over lunch and joyful Shabbat celebrations, NFTY in Israel knows how to do fun!  Join us to learn new skills, have conversations that inspire you, see all the sites of Israel, and hang out with the new friends you’ll make! 

NFTY in israel TEAM

Rabbi Loren Sykes

Director of Israel Immersives
LSykes@urj.org

 Rabbi Loren Sykes grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago where he was a lifelong Jewish camper and active member in synagogue and youth group life. He holds BA degrees in both European History and Talmud, as well as an MA in Jewish studies and rabbinic ordination. Loren brings seventeen years of senior leadership in Jewish camping to his position as Director of Israel Immersives and Principal of URJ Heller High. He has wide-ranging experience in not-for-profit leadership and management as both a professional and a lay leader. In recognition of his work in the field of Jewish camp, Rabbi Sykes received The Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2006. He made Aliyah in August, 2013, along with two of his three children and lives in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem.

 

Ilana SChear

Assistant Director
ISchear@urj.org

Ilana first joined the NFTY in Israel team as Registrar in 2016 before moving into her current role as an Assistant Director. She graduated from Goucher College with a degree in Communications and Media Studies and a minor in Political Science. Throughout High School Ilana was actively involved in NFTY-GER, and was a participant on NFTY in Israel and Urban Mitzvah Corps. Ilana is an enthusiastic traveler discovering different cultures, sites, and sounds of our global world and is so grateful to be able to use that passion to send thousands of teens on NFTY in Israel.

 

Ruby Sommer

Associate Director
RSommer@urj.org

Ruby was born and raised in Israel. He served in the IDF for 4 years in a Commanders position for a special unit. Following his service, Ruby became a certified tour guide. Ruby has worked for NFTY in Israel every summer since 1984. In 2000, Ruby became the Director of Operations & Budgets, before becoming the Associate Director. He is married with two kids.

 

Judy Goldstein

Director of Participant Care
JRGoldstein@urj.org

 

Judy graduated from Hebrew University with a Masters in Social Work. She joined the URJ in 2005 working for NFTY in Israel in the summer and then joined the Heller High team full time in 2007. Judy is part of the Israel Immersives team and oversees Participant Care for both Heller High and NFTY in Israel. Judy is originally from Philadelphia and moved to Israel in 1988. She was a Commander and Hebrew teacher in Basic training for new immigrants from 1998 to 2001, and was also the commander of a course that trains teachers and prepares them to be commanders and Hebrew teachers. Later, she spent six years of hadracha as a youth counselor in the Noam youth movement, and a number of years as a counselor and educator for NFTY summer programs. She lives in Israel with her husband and daughter.

 

Alex Sikora

Program Operations & Administrative Associate
RSommer@urj.org

Alex Sikora is originally from Oceanside, NY and currently resides in Delray Beach, FL. Alex graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in business administration with a focus in Hospitality Management. Her passion for helping the Jewish community was solidified in her experiences with Hillel and Birthright at FAU. Prior to starting at the URJ, Alex was Associate Regional Director for BBYO in three regions. In Alex’s current role she handles backend logistics in order to help URJ teens get to Israel. She is excited to continue to work in the Jewish world and help teens explore their Jewish identity. 

 

Paige KOhn

Bursar
teentravelbursar@urj.org

Paige been working in camping and youth programming for over 24 years now. More than half of those years were spent with the URJ between URJ Eisner Camp and helping open three new specialty camps. She holds a degree in Mathematics and minored in Recreation and Leisure Studies. Paige has been a member of the youth finance team supporting all the non-camp URJ Youth offerings since the fall of 2017.
Yudit BErkowitz
Israel Office Manager
YBerkowitz@urj.org
Yudit has served URJ Teen Travel Programs since 2012. After graduation from Barnard College, she made aliya to Israel. She has held varied administrative positions over the years and finds great satisfaction in sharing her love of Israel  with cohorts of our future leaders and members of the American Jewish community.

Resources for congregations

Thanks for helping to spread the word about NFTY in Israel, as well as the other 60+ youth programs that the URJ has to offer! These ready-to-use tools make it easy to help each of your families find the right experience for them. From regional & specialty camps, to leadership & social justice opportunities, to Israel and beyond, there is something for everyone in your congregation. If you have any questions, or are looking for something you don’t see here, contact us!

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