Making It Come Alive, Style!

by Amy Holtz, President of

What does being Jewish have to do with me? Why should I support Israel? These are just a few questions that echo in the minds of Jewish students and are engagingly explored in’s cutting edge courses. Many Jewish students will say they are Jewish or “feel” Jewish, but life is demanding for them. Between the social scene, college applications, homework, studying and internships, many such crucial questions are left unanswered.

Shockingly, recent studies show that over 50% of Jewish students on college campuses in the US and Canada do not see the need for having the State of Israel. An astounding 70% do not consider connecting to Israel and fellow Jews around the world as very important.

There’s hope though! We are finding students who were once part of these disturbing statistics now Jewishly inspired and vowing to help others learn about the beauty of their identity and develop a passion for the State of Israel. Sam Schear had always identified himself as a Jew and had Jewish friends. He had a Bar-Mitzvah, but had little connection to his rabbi and little understanding of what it meant to be Jewish. In high school, Schear participated in a program that exposed him to Jewish ideas and he began to think more about what Judaism and Israel meant to him.

When he got to college, Schear discovered and took its Israel Inside/Out course, which teaches the history of Israel, the peace process, Israel in the media, its shared values with the West and more. Schear thought the class was outstanding. He said “it uses film so it is entertaining and keeps your attention.” He said “I always felt Pro-Israel but I didn’t know how to express myself in a tangible way.” He was very impressed with the high quality of the teachers. The course is taught by leading Middle East experts including Sir Martin Gilbert, Professor Alan Dershowitz, Professor Bernard Lewis and Ambassador Dore Gold. Schear was so impressed with the course that he recruited many student leaders at Penn to take the course. Schear told these students that Israel is always in the news and you need to understand the facts. Schear even qualified for a $100 stipend for taking the course. “My generation is hooked to the internet and offers classes you can take from home at your leisure and get paid to do it.” offers two additional courses: Judaism 101 & Positive Psychology and Judaism. Judaism 101 examines Jewish perspectives on topics such as Love and Relationships, Success, Genesis and the Big Bang and more. Positive Psychology and Judaism teaches the secrets to happiness. It is taught by Ivy League professor Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and combines ground-breaking discoveries in the growing field of Positive Psychology and ancient Jewish wisdom. Students may be eligible for a $100 stipend for any one of the courses. Israel Inside/Out and Positive Psychology and Judaism are available for 3 credits through Touro University, which is transferable to the majority of US colleges.

JOU’s courses are wonderful resources to bring into your curriculum or introduce to your family and friends. For more information visit For questions, contact