The Chief Rabbi’s Ben Azzai Programme
The question is asked in the Jerusalem Talmud: “What is the most important verse of the entire Torah?”
Ben Azzai answers:
“Genesis 5:1, which reads: ‘This is the book of the generations of man on the day that God created man, in the image of God He formed him’.”
Ben Azzai was highlighting the fact that every human being is created in the image of God. Consequently, we have an achrayut, responsibility, towards those who are both inside and outside our immediate communities. Following my first-hand experience of the vital work of Jewish charities on a visit to India with Valerie in 2015, I created the Ben Azzai Programme, and named it in recognition of Ben Azzai’s choice of verse.
Before the pandemic hit, the Ben Azzai Programme took high calibre university students on an immersive trip to Ghana or India, so that they could learn about these countries, including the realities of extreme poverty, within a Torah framework. On their return, alumni of the programme became my ambassadors, and helped convey a message about the importance of social responsibility across the Jewish community.
Although Covid-19 has prevented the programme from taking place for the last two years, we have re-imagined it together with our long-standing partners, Tzedek and OLAM, generously supported by Pears Foundation. I am delighted to now re-introduce the Ben Azzai Programme as a year-long initiative for Jewish university students, focusing on four major global issues:
• International Development
• Climate Change
• The Refugee Crisis
• Global Public Health
The programme will ground future leaders of the community in these areas, demonstrating how the issues at stake are both intrinsically linked and deeply relevant to Judaism in the modern world. Through a combination of online learning with subject experts and site visits in the UK, the programme will deliver a global education from within this country. It will highlight crucial work being carried out across these four fields, while exploring the Jewish imperative to be responsible, compassionate members of society.
Depending on the trajectory of Covid-19 and its impact on international travel, participants might have the opportunity to visit initiatives abroad as part of the programme.
At the end of the year, participants will join previous Ben Azzai Programme alumni as my social responsibility ambassadors. They will be expected to share their Ben Azzai experiences across the Jewish community and beyond, in schools, communities and on campus, and will have opportunities for ongoing interaction with high-level speakers, continuing their journey as Jewish leaders of tomorrow.
I look forward to engaging personally with the future groups taking part in this programme.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
To apply for the Ben Azzai Programme 2022/23, please click here. The deadline to apply for this year’s cohort is Monday 4th April.
For more information about the Ben Azzai Programme, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8343 6301.
The Chief Rabbi’s Ben Azzai Programme is an Office of the Chief Rabbi initiative in partnership with Tzedek and OLAM, supported by Pears Foundation.