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Culinary Pioneers: Nourishing Resilience Amidst Conflict

Despite ongoing challenges in Israel, the inaugural class of Jewish National Fund-USA’s Galilee Culinary Institute will relish every bite of their new adventure.

New renderings of the Galiliee Culinary Institute (GCI), as of May 2022
New renderings of the Galiliee Culinary Institute (GCI), as of May 2022

When Cammy Bourcier hops onto a plane later this year, she’ll be leaving behind her husband, two adult sons, and a busy life in New Jersey for a yearlong adventure of a lifetime in Israel’s Galilee. Like 14 other students from around the world, Cammy will be part of the inaugural class of the Galilee Culinary Institute by JNF (GCI by JNF), taking part in an intensive 12-month community immersion and culinary arts program like no other. While the war may have delayed the opening day, it hasn’t put a damper on the students’ excitement or enthusiasm.

GCI by JNF forms an integral part of Jewish National Fund-USA’s Go North strategy to develop Israel’s northern frontier and bring economic prosperity to the region.

The students will live on the grounds of a picturesque kibbutz and study on the beautiful, new 25,000-square-foot Marvin Sukonik Campus, where the Rosenfield School of Culinary Arts will provide an immersive global environment. The intensive year will introduce them to a wide range of culinary experiences, including participatory restaurant experiences, winemaking, working on ecological farms, and delving into the food culture of 80 different ethnicities that make up the rich tapestry that is uniquely Israel.

From Pipe Dream to Pioneer

Now in her fifties, Cammy was born in Israel, the only child of Holocaust survivors who moved their little family to New York when she was still young. While her professional career led her to journalism and marketing, her true love has always been food.

Galilee Culinary institute

“I’m really proud of myself,” says Cammy. “I feel a bit like a pioneer. I’m so looking forward to meeting new people and learning new things. It’s an adventure of a lifetime.”

She admits that while “a lot of my friends think I’m crazy” for coming to Israel during a war, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I want to be in Israel right now,” she says adamantly.

Zero Cancellations

According to Bazy Rubin, student concierge for GCI, not one of the aspiring students, ranging in ages from 20 to 70 years old from Israel and around the world, have dropped out of the application process.

Cammy Bourcier

“The students tell us: ‘We know there’s a war. We’re not concerned. Just tell us where and when, and we’ll be there.”

Rubin says that the students’ attitude has been inspiring for everyone involved in the institute, herself included.

“As someone who lives in Israel, and whose husband has been in the army for the last few months, to see that GCI is pushing forward and building something that’s going to change the North and bring jobs and tourism and people from all over the world, has been a huge source of comfort,” she says. “It’s so inspiring to see that as the days go by, more and more people are interested in the program.”

“October 7 Strengthened My Decision”

For Elissa Fadell from Atlanta, a mother of two daughters in her 50s, cooking and baking have always been her number one passion. She is excited to experience such a different lifestyle at this stage in her life and chose GCI in part because of its location.

“October 7 didn’t affect my decision to come,” she says. “If anything, it strengthened it”.

“It’s more important than ever before to live a joyous, proud Jewish life. That’s what I intend to do at GCI.”

Overwhelmed by Optimism

As the time gets closer for the students to begin their studies, they are excited about the connections they’ll make and the people they’ll meet. They are regularly updated about the course by Rubin and others on the team, including CEO Nathan Hoffman.

“I am completely overwhelmed by the optimism being expressed by GCI, despite the war” says Cammy. “That is a true picture of Israel that needs to shine.”

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