Q: As the DFI is committed to social change, are you only looking for full-time activists to be part of the cohort of Fellows?
A: The DFI community has proudly welcomed doctors, artists, journalists, lawyers, academics, activists, and many others. A person's professional path is not a deciding factor in their acceptance to the Fellowship. What is important to us is a recognizable track record, commitment and ability to lead in matters regarding reform, innovation and social change.
Q: I have noticed that the work of the Dorot Foundation in Israel is channeled through the New Israel Fund. Does that mean you are only interested in Fellows with a left-wing leaning regarding Israel and the region?
A: Absolutely not. The DFI is a community with a wide range of political, religious and social beliefs. This diversity is a value we hold when constructing each cohort of Fellows. We believe that functioning in a diverse political and religious learning community undoubtedly brings challenges, but also brings increased opportunities for growth and learning.
Q: If I keep Kashrut, will the DFI cater for my needs?
A: The DFI maintains a policy that at all official events we will provide food which is under the Kashrut supervision of the local municipal rabbinical authority or the State Rabbinical authority. On the very rare occasions that this is impossible (something which has occurred, for example, when visiting a Muslim community or when the community visits Budapest), we will always inform Fellows well in advance so that they can make suitable arrangements to cater for their needs. We have a similar approach to all personal dietary needs (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc).
Q: Will I be given permission to study in some of the famous Yeshivot in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak?
A: Assuming that you have determined with the DFI Educators that this piece of Jewish learning is important and relevant to your Personal Learning Program, in order for it to be approved it has to fit the following criteria: it has to take place in an institution that provides equal access for women to all texts (or would provide that access theoretically, even if it happens to be a single sex institution); it is determined by the DFI to be a non-coercive Yeshiva; and, it is situated geographically within the Sovereign State of Israel. If the Yeshiva in question does not fit these criteria, you may choose to study there in your free time and at your own expense.
Q: When it comes to the Shabbat weekend we spend together, what happens regarding prayers? Is Shabbat kept fully?
A: The planning of this weekend is in the hands of the Fellows and, again, the diversity of the community is both a challenge and a gift. Institutionally, we will expect there will be the opportunity for everyone, in public spaces, to be able to fully observe a traditional Shabbat, should they so choose. There may well be a variety of group activities, but these won't include travel or the use of electricity. There are likely to be prayers, for those who choose to participate in them; however, the nature of how they are conducted will be part of the planning process for the group. In private spaces such as bedrooms or in areas not occupied by the group, there is no expectation of how people will choose to enjoy their Shabbat.
Q: So is this a Fellowship or is it a Year Program?
A: One of the unique features of the DFI is that it is a carefully balanced combination of both of these things. On the one hand, Fellows are provided with a stipend which enables them to go off and develop themselves, their leadership abilities, and their knowledge of Israel and Judaism in an individualistic way which fits the Fellowship model. At the same time, however, the DFI places a very high value on the DFI Learning Community in which Fellows share, learn and grow with each other. All aspects of the DFI Fellowship Program are equally valued.
Q: Why does the DFI fly off to Budapest in the middle of the year?
A: Being in Israel stretches us in important ways, but placing ourselves in Budapest, as Jews, and specifically as North American Jews, provides us with encounters unlike those which are ubiquitous in the US and in Israel. In Budapest, we confront the broad historical narrative which both precedes and coincides with the stories of North American Jewry and the Modern State of Israel. We confront a contemporary Jewish community which is simultaneously thriving and threatened. But more than that, in Budapest we are invited to confront ourselves as well: our specifically North American Jewish selves, and the many assumptions and variables that define our unique experience and our unique privilege. And, we place ourselves in contemporary Jewish Europe and celebrate and struggle with all that conveys. Our time in Budapest, on its most profound level, provides us with a mirror with which we can more deeply explore who we are, in addition to learning about others.
Q: With Israel-Palestine so central to understanding the region, why does the DFI penalize people for traveling to the Palestinian Territories by subtracting those trips from their 21-day quota out of the country?
A: The DFI believes that understanding the Palestinian narrative independently and in relation to Israel, is crucial to an understanding of the region. That said, the DFI will always take as its first consideration the personal safety and security of the Fellows. With clear U.S. State Department and Israeli Security Services directives as our guide, we maintain a policy which is not based on our political views regarding The Palestinian Territories, but rather one which is designed to ensure the well-being of the members of our community. A Fellow who is "stranded" for whatever reason in a Palestinian town in the West Bank cannot be physically accessed by our Israeli staff members or, should it become necessary, by the Israeli security services. We will always encourage every possible means of studying and understanding the place of the Palestinians in the regional equation, but our first concern will be security and safety.
Q: I have a work commitment through to the end of the August. Is it OK to arrive in Israel a little bit late?
A: No. We plan the Fellowship so that all elements of the program are vital and we expect full participation at all times.