Nesiya inspires young people from diverse backgrounds to enrich Jewish life for themselves and others. Nesiya programs bring North American and Israeli youth face to face with the richness and complexity of Jewish life – and with each other – through a unique model of experiential learning that combines community building, creative study, the arts, outdoor adventure, and community service. Every Nesiya program builds relationships and explores differences among diverse Jews in order to develop Jewish leaders and invigorate Jewish life.
Nesiya was initially developed under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education in Chicago and was later affiliated with the Jewish Community Center of Cleveland. In 1987, Nesiya first operated as an independent, not-for-profit organization for the purpose of “involving Jews with differing religious, social and ideological backgrounds in the development of Jewish culture.” It was first recognized and supported as a model program in 1988 by the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Foundation. Nesiya’s follow-up programs in the U.S. have also received major support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and Steven Spielberg Righteous Person’s Foundation. Nesiya’s continued growth and development as a well-managed and debt-free non-profit over several years was primarily supported by the leadership and generous support of Susie and Michael Gelman, Jeffrey Schwarz, Ilana and Chuck Ratner, Robert Arnow, Stephen Malkin, and Jonathan Lopatin.
Since its inception, over 3,000 North American and Israeli young people have participated in Nesiya programs. The core programs of The Nesiya Institute have included: a six-week summer Israel program for North American and Israeli high school students; academic-year community service, learning, and leadership programs for religious and secular Israeli and North American high school students; and a week-long arts- and text-based Winter Retreat program in North America, with enrichment and educational leadership training for high school, college, and post-college age young adults.
Since the year 2000, Nesiya successfully launched: new leadership programs for college students from Harvard and Yale with Israeli peers; new programs for North American Jewish community high schools and youth programs; and programs for educators, lay leaders, and families.
After a one-year hiatus from 2012-13, Nesiya completed an agreement with Keshet: The Center for Educational Travel in Israel, a high quality educational tourism provider, whose professional leadership was eager to form an association with Nesiya. The agreement with Keshet has presented an exceptional opportunity for Nesiya to reemerge in summer 2014 as a vital and high-quality program on a more sustainable basis.
Nesiya programs encourage young people to deepen their relationship with Judaism, the Jewish people, and the nation and land of Israel, and to develop their own Jewish journey: as unique individuals, as part of an international peer group, and as contributing members of the larger Jewish community. Today Nesiya is a unique model of Jewish experiential learning, creative leadership education, and a growing renaissance community of young people, artists, educators and activists in North America and Israel.