Fellowship Program

Uri Ayalon

Uri is currently in his third year of Rabbinical training at the Shechter Institute. Over the past summer he successfully established a summer camp in conjunction with the Ma'ayan Hahinuch Hademokrati (a country-wide non-profit devoted to grassroots community education in disadvantaged neighborhoods) for 160 children, both Arab and Jewish, in Givat Ram, part of the Hebrew University Campus. The camp slowly integrated the two groups over the three-week period, talking to the children about cultural differences and preparing presentations about culture and heritage through computer work, arts and crafts and drama. The summer camp was the culmination of two years of field work for Uri with the Ma'ayan, during which he worked steadily on social awareness projects with members in the Katamonim. Examples of these projects include setting up a protest committee to protect Emek Pri Har the only green area left in the Katamonim, and working together with the battered women's shelter in Jerusalem, providing programs and increasing awareness on this desperately important issue.

Uri performed his army service in the Nahal unit with others from the NOAM (Masorti) youth movement. Following his army service, Uri took a year to work in NOAM as the councellor for the new Nahal groups and in charge of the high school members activities and then went on to complete his B.A. in communications and Jewish History at the Hebrew University. During his studies and in the two years that followed Uri filled a number of education and social action roles within the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel, amongst them working as the Social Justice Coordinator in the Israel Religious Action Center.

Uri is currently developing his project Yotzer Or, a liberal, creative and spiritual community in the Katamonim area. The project will bring together a core group of artists from Jerusalem who will become fully fledged members of the community. During the day these artists will work together in the community center developing their art and in the evenings they will provide classes and workshops in their specialized fields. These programs will be offered to the Katamonim community members at a subsidized rate thus enabling members to take courses in art, drama, creative writing and music. The artists themselves will receive a stipend for the days that they devote to the community.

All the artists' projects and workshops will be focused around Jewish and Israeli themes in their broadest sense: from Jewish values, ritual life and the current Israeli reality through to local, global, social and economic issues. On Shabbat there will be prayers on both Friday night and Saturday morning, and these will include both the artists and the Katamonim residents in a contemporary, liberal, spiritual experience that flows from the needs of the community. Uri's project has grown out of a firm belief that pluralism, creativity and innovation in Jewish life should not be the privilege of the middle-class, Ahskenazi community in Israel, but should incorporate those who have traditionally been marginalized in Israeli society.

Uri, his wife Rivka and their one year old daughter Ophir, live in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.