Courage and initiative are fostered when one is challenged to try new things—encountering new ideas, pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort-zone, deepening one’s convictions. Our citizenship and leadership program aims to provide some of the challenging and illuminating experiences that help shape true leaders. We are looking for students with a real desire to get involved in the great issues of our age, in American civic life, and in the Jewish community.
At the Maimonides Scholars Program we believe that some of the skills and sensibilities necessary for the most meaningful forms of leadership can be cultivated through experience. Below are some examples of ways we hope to educate towards leadership outside of the typical seminar setting, and how we build on the Yale experience in the years that follow.
The Jewish Citizen: A policy lab and debate workshop
Public speaking and learning to follow another person’s arguments or emotions carefully can help develop the judgement that is critical in forming young leaders. On July 4th, students from the Maimonides Scholars Program will join with their peers in the Tikvah Institute for High School Students for a day-long policy lab and debate workshop on three key questions in contemporary American and Israeli politics. The debate topics will draw on the themes and dilemmas from the previous weeks’ seminars, unpacking what students have learned from the world of theory and applying their learning to the world of concrete, practical policy choices.
Jewish Life in America: A visit and text-study at the Touro Synagogue
In addition to our work around the seminar table, Maimonides Scholars will explore their identity as Jewish American citizens in its proper historic and generational context.
As we reach the midpoint of the program, students will travel to Newport, Rhode Island, and visit the Touro Synagogue, the oldest currently operating synagogue in the United States, and one of the first synagogues built in America.
The Touro Synagogue is the recipient of a famous letter written by George Washington on religious toleration, in which he writes that the Government of the United States will give, “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” This letter has become a founding document for the American doctrine of religious liberty and religious toleration, and has profoundly shaped modern interpretations of the First Amendment.
Students will get a tour of the synagogue, participate in dramatic readings of Touro congregation’s letter to Washington and Washington’s famous response, and explore the Hebraic underpinnings of the American Founding.
Our visit to Newport and study of the texts that made Touro such a vital part of the American story of religious toleration and religious freedom will create an integrated experience of tradition and living learning, driving home the lessons of the American past, present, and future.
The Next Steps: Joining the Tikvah Alumni Network
Once students graduate, they will be members of the Tikvah Alumni Network, where they will have the opportunity to connect with fellow students and faculty from our many years of high school, college, and post-college programming. Our faculty are leaders in the fields of public policy, journalism, law, theology, national security, and academia. Many of the students who have passed through these programs are now leaders in these fields as well.
As they head into college, the Tikvah Alumni Network will be there to support the Maimonides Scholars as they start their professional careers and pursue a lifetime of learning.
Through the network, students will have access to excellent mentoring and professional opportunities, including internships, fellowships, and advanced notice of job openings. Alumni will also be eligible to attend exclusive Tikvah events throughout the year, so that they may continue to learn and to engage with their teachers, peers, and fellow alumni for many years to come. They will also have the chance to participate in future Tikvah programs, including our programs for students spending a gap year in Israel, our eight week fellowship for college students, and our one-week institutes.