By: Hannah Pollak  | 

Yeshiva University to Run Travel Course in Central America this Summer

Yeshiva University is offering a sociology travel-based course this summer marketed as the “Torat Adam Summer Experience (TASE).” The course, called “Social Determinants of Health in Global Context,” will be a travel course to Guatemala and El Salvador from May 30 to June 12, during the beginning of the Summer break. 

Students on the trip will be able to make a positive impact in the communities they visit, one of the primary goals of this trip, and will tour both nations, including climbing a volcano and witnessing a local shechita [ritual slaughter]. As of publishing, over 36 students from across YU’s undergraduate schools have registered for the course.

The project, a three-credit sociology requirement, was made through a partnership between the Shevet Glaubach Career Center (SGCC) and the Department of Sociology at Yeshiva University and was organized by Rabbi Daniel Coleman, assistant director of career advising at the SGCC. 

Students on the trip will be accompanied by Jill Katz, an assistant clinical professor of archaeology, Ronnie Perellis, director of the Rabbi Arthur C. Shneier Program for International Affairs and Jon Greenfield, director of government relations.

Coleman told The Commentator that while there were other potential destinations for this trip, Guatemala and El Salvador were chosen because of their beautiful landscape, the opportunity for adventure, the needs of the local Jewish community and the broader society there and Coleman’s connection to those places. 

Other YU departments other than the Department of Sociology and the SGCC have partnered on the trip, including the Katz School, the Department of Finance and the Department of Institutional Advancement. Rabbi Coleman also had assistance in developing TASE from David Mitzner Community Dean for Values and Leadership Rabbi Ari Rokcoff and Dean of Students Dr. Sara Asher. 

He explained to The Commentator that “TASE, at its core, is about allowing students to explore ‘Adam’ — the humanity — in others whose cultural background and lot in life is so very different to their own.” That is also why he chose Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s “To Heal A Fractured World” as the course textbook.

Similarly, Rabbi Coleman explained that Rabbi Sacks’ book, on the values of tikun olam, will allow the students to see how these values play out in one of the poorest countries and Jewish communities on the planet. He also added that as an immigrant from the United Kingdom, he feels a personal connection to the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. 

Applicants to TASE were expected to have a certain level of openness to engage with those who think and behave differently than themselves, an interest in career development, a sense of adventure and curiosity and a willingness to share what they would have learned and experienced, Coleman said. However, Coleman added, students who would complain about the less than luxurious conditions of the trip or those students who would not be able to travel lightly were not the type of candidates the team was looking for. 

Coleman also told The Commentator that several students were not accepted because they were unresponsive to the emails sent during their applications. Even though the application and acceptance process has already occurred, the official TASE website seems to suggest that students can still join the waitlist by sending an email to Rabbi Coleman. 

Coleman invited students and the general public not joining to donate funds to allow students to fill seventy suitcases with needed supplies for the Jewish communities of Guatemala and El Salvador. Coleman also told The Commentator that they were looking for Judaica items such as tefillin or mezuzahs, as well as medical supplies, educational materials and technological devices, and that those interested in donating could reach out to him.

Students who will be attending TASE told The Commentator that they were excited about the trip. 

“I look forward to encountering Jewish life in circumstances so different from mine,” shared Bracha Poyurs (SCW 25’). “I can’t wait to create connections with the communities we will be visiting and to experience life in Central America,” 

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Photo Caption: YU is offering a travel course to Central America this summer.

Photo Credit: The Commentator