Lost in Tsfat
Posted on 07/29/2010 @ 07:10 PM
by Rachel Heilbronner, Rocky Mountain Region Program Director
Most of us were eager to spend the better part of Thursday in Tsfat. After a morning learning session with Rabbi Dr. David Starr (aka ra-doc-starr), we boarded the bus and braced ourselves for a hilly and windy road, (Dramamine a necessity for some). We arrived safely after only one game of chicken with a cab, and Avi, our fearless bus driver and former tank commander, won that game fairly easily. A little bit of “rak b’yisrael” (only in Israel) morning entertainment for the rest of us…
Tsfat is the highest city in Israel, sitting at an altitude of 900 meters and providing its visitors and residents with stunning views of the valleys below. It has been known as one of Israel’s holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hebron. After the Spanish Inquisition Jews began to find their way there, including some of the important Kabbalists, and the city began to increase in significance. Since then, it has been the center of Kabbalah and mysticism.
These days, people mostly come to the city for a couple of hours, and we were certainly no exception, though we did stick around for most of the day. We joined throngs of Birthright participants in the twisted streets, trying to take in the sights and sounds, doing everything possible to escape the relentless sun. We started our day with some autonomy, after a quick learning session about basic history of the city, we split into small groups and took self-guided tours through a story that led us to different places of significance around the city. We were then able to enjoy a bit of free time and break for lunch before heading to a place where most visitors don’t go in the city, the museum of Hungarian Jewish Heritage. One of the things that came out of this visit was a discussion about the early youth movements in Israel. This kind of information is something that we can turn into programming with our teens, and it is likely a few of us will do that as part of putting this Israel experience into practice.
Our final stop in Tsfat, before having more free time to shop in the art, Judaica and jewelry stores, was a quick visit to an organization called Livnot U’Lehibanot, which translates to “To Build and To Be Built.” Livnot tries to bring unaffiliated Jews to Israel to give them meaningful Jewish experiences (sound familiar?). The director showed us the site of their new building, and then took us up to their current office, where he spoke to us a little bit about the organization, but did not go into as much depth as we would’ve hoped. We met with two former Livnot participants who are married and living in Israel now, both studying at different Yeshivas in Jerusalem.
Though we spent a number of hours in a very spiritual place, I think most of my colleagues would agree with me when I say that dinner was actually the most spiritual part of the day. We ate a place called Ein Kamonim, an organic dairy farm, which did not disappoint. We were able to try a variety of cheeses (paired with good wine!), multi-grain rolls straight out of the oven, different salads and spreads, yogurt, and baked apples and sorbet for dessert. Feeling satisfied, we split up into three groups for the rest of the evening. Some opted to go back to the hotel, some went on a night hike, and some went to the Carmiel International Folk Dance Festival. As our time in the northern part of Israel concluded-- five days that were rife with a variety of experiences--anticipation hung in the air for our second and final Shabbat in Jerusalem.
Kallah Blog Group Winds Down
By Kallah 2010 Bloggers on 07/29/2010 @ 05:05 PM
Top Ten Things About The Mock Wedding
10) Aaron and Julia just met, and then they got married
9) Julia’s name isn't Julie, Aaron...
8) Everyone got really dressed up
7) Snacks and soda
6) Speeches and vows
5) We learned how to have a Jewish wedding
4) All of us danced as a community
3) Aaron and Julia went to marriage counseling
2) Dinner was delicious and cake for desert!
1) We are all so excited to get married when we get older!
Chevruta Learning Comes to a Close
For the past day or two, the Chevruta groups have been finalizing their presentations. My group has been researching Humanistic Judaism. We spent time in the library looking through books to study the philosophy behind Humanistic Judaism. We also made phone calls to several Humanistic synagogues from various parts of the U.S. to ask questions about their congregations, practices, and views. One synagogue emailed us songs that are part of their liturgy and we are usuing them to create a mock service to present to all the other groups workkng with Jason. -Renee, Lonestar
BBG and AZA Separates
On Monday, July 26, the BBG and AZA Kallah communities participated in special separates programming. The B’nai Brith Girls of Kallah offered each other inspiring words of advice and bravely told each other about some of their most emotional experiences. Not a single individual was left untouched throughout the program. Afterwards, the AZAs and BBGs came back together as one community to declare their faith and pride for Judaism.
On Jewish Peoplehood
Posted on 07/28/2010 @ 07:10 PM
By Emily Frank, Rocky Mountain Region Program Director
Today, we spent the day learning, both with Israeli education students and by ourselves, at Oranim College in the North. Today was the first day that we had academically discussed the concept of Jewish peoplehood. While this might seem like a discussion that is strange to leave until the end of a study program, I think it was necessary. You cannot intellectually investigate the concept of the Jewish people, until you have explored it emotionally. From Jerusalem to Gush Etzion, Nitzan, Sachnin and Tel Aviv, we have seen so many sides of the Israeli people, we have had no choice but to reflect on how we feel as members of the Jewish people. So today, after a week and a half of emotional exposure to Israel (while academically exploring other facets of the country) we finally tackled the idea of the Jewish people.
The day began with a lecture by Dr. David Mittleberg. He talked about divergent and convergent dimensions of Jewish peoplehood. The most important component of this exploration is that of the globalization of the Jewish (and secular) world. The world is now flatter than it has ever been, and the ease of access and connection to worldwide culture is integral to the definition of Jewish peoplehood. He had a few points that were especially relevant for us in BBYO.
- Most Jews have multiple identities. Jewish-American. Secular-Israeli. National-Religious. Those multiple identities are hard to navigate, since we often feel that we must pick one or the other. Rather, the most important part of those multiple identities is the hyphen itself, and the ability to connect more than one identity. We feel this as American Jews, BBYO employees, Jewish educators and (sometimes) Zionists, all the time. We must learn to appreciate not only the hyphen, but also the list.
- In a recent survey, 45% of North American Jews who had traveled to Israel and who classified themselves as “Just Jewish” (not reform, conservative or orthodox) said that they had an emotional connection to Israel. This means that the other 55% of those same people went on an Israel trip that did NOT result in an emotional connection. This statistic impacts our Israel education methodology, our trip curricula and our understanding of the impact of Israel alone on the global Jewish community. We, as educators, must redefine our strategies for connecting our teens not only to Israel, but also to the global Jewish population. One of the most poignant lines from the lecture was “what happens here matters…” meaning; you can’t just drop a trip in Israel and expect them to find inherent meaning in the land. The trip, the curriculum, the staff and the schedule are all crucial components of making a trip successful
- One of the most influential experiences for Americans can be travel to Israel – but so too, the most influential Jewish experience for Israelis can be travel to the US. We don’t often understand our own religiousness, Jewishness or culture until we have experienced it in a different environment. This is even more evidence that globalization of the Jewish community, and acknowledgement of the “flattened” world is essential to affiliation, connection and a positive relationship with one’s own Jewishness.
After the lecture, we divided into groups with Israeli education students from Oranim College. There were four groups that dealt with four components of discovering Jewish peoplehood and dialoguing about the differences and similarities between Americans and Israelis.
After lunch at the Oranim Cafeteria, we had a lesson with Rabbi Dr. David Starr, where we finally had the time and personal experience needed to delve into the timelines and maps that we’ve been carrying around with us for the past week and a half. The session was great – full of questions and information, and hopefully we will get to continue it soon, since we only made it through the first World War. Our final session at Oranim was a Hebrew lesson with Roberta. The shoresh of the day was “Mercaz” or center. The lesson itself was great, but the most important piece for many of us was Roberta’s decision to share with us where her concentration, or center, has been for the past few days.
Roberta shared that her son, who is a helicopter pilot in the Israeli Army, is in Romania doing training exercises with Romanian Air Force. On Monday, her son was in a line of helicopters practicing routes through a very mountainous region when the first helicopter in the line suddenly found itself between two very close mountains, and trapped in a low hanging cloud. The other units pulled back, but that first helicopter unfortunately crashed, almost immediately, into a mountain and burst into flame before it went down in the mountains of Romania.
Roberta’s son was in the third helicopter and physically, he is fine. However, the mental and emotional repercussions of what happened are unimaginable to us. He lost 6 comrades, including his commanding officer, whom Roberta referred to as her son’s “hero.” The pictures in the newspaper of the six Israelis lost in this accident showed their youth, as well as many of their young children, and brought to life the realities of an Israeli existence. Having children or a husband or family in the army creates a level of anxiety most of us cannot imagine, and the process of internalizing how that affects a person’s sense of peoplehood was shocking.
The pride that Roberta expressed in her son’s commitment to his country, and his fallen comrades, is a kind of pride Jewish American mothers don’t frequently feel. Her son’s decision to stay in Romania and maintain his role in his unit while waiting for the Hevre Kadisha (the Jewish burial authorities) to come and search for remains was one that brought her such conflicted emotions - one of which was an incredible sense of pride in her son’s commitment – and how many parents have children under 20 that inspire that kind of emotion?
Roberta’s strength as a mother is both heartbreaking and moving. We know life is different here, but belonging to the Jewish people here means something entirely other. Yes, it means risking your life – and the life of your family, or your husband or your son – and finding pride, hope and community inside the anxiety that is surprisingly rare. But it also allows for a commitment and a sense of unity that is unthinkable in our own lives. We listened to Roberta’s story, many of us with tears in our own eyes as hers remained dry. Those tears came from a place of belonging for us – her son and his unit sacrificing so much to learn to protect the land we are learning to love means that we are as much a part of this whole as Roberta… and that is not an easy emotion to comprehend.
Jewish peoplehood is complicated, but also wonderful and inescapable. Loving Israel is complicated. Being Jewish is complicated. Today, we ended the day with incredible dimension to our struggle, and tomorrow we start again, in a different place, with different complications.
Back to Base Camp!
Posted on 07/28/2010 @ 05:13 PM
Success! We have made it back to base camp!
Our last days with the Hopi were spent harvesting corn, cleaning the village and meeting the elected leaders of the Hopi people.
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Hopi people welcomed us into their offices and explained to us the issues that the Hopi face today and in the future. They willingly answered all our questions and impressed us with how much they shared. It was a great encounter with another piece of the Hopi culture.
Harvesting corn was quite an experience. We drove down to Camp Verde to the corn fields where we met our Hopi friends. Together we picked corn and loaded them into trucks. Corn is a very important part of the Hopi culture and it plays a significant role in the Homedance.
When we returned to our camp site we had Friday Night Services and a lovely Shabbat Dinner overlooking the beautiful desert scenery. It was nice to rest and relax after a week of hard work.
We woke up before the sun and hiked to the village. As the sun rose more and more Hopi gathered in the plaza in anticipation for the Homedance. It was satisfying to know that the village looked nice and that the dancers preparation and rest areas were clean because of our work.
Then, it began. The dancers entered, each holding the corn that we harvested! It was special to know that we played a big part in an ancient ritual. The Homedance was a rich experience. Dancers chanting and stomping in unison for an entire day. Witnessing this beautiful ritual was incredible.
We returned to the camp for more rest and some Shabbat programming planned by the teens. Before dinner we went back to the village plaza to see the end of the Homedance. Our responsibilities were complete and the Hopi appreciated how we contributed. We ate dinner prepared by our hosts and sadly had to say goodbye.
Our journey then brought us to the scenic mountains of Colorado. While in the mountains our group hiked a 14000ft peak. Yes, all of them. At first the teens were unsure but as we stood atop the mountain we celebrated our accomplishment. It was a day no one will forget and hopefully the participants will be able to take on other challenges and obstacles in their lives that they were unsure of getting past or achieving. Fantastic life changing moments!
The rest of our time was spent hiking and exploring the mountains and forest as a group and on our own. We sang, and danced. We reflected and fondly remembered our experience together. Now we are at the Deer Hill Base Camp. Cleaning gear and getting adjusted to running water and the indoors.
On behalf of the staff, I want to tell you how enjoyable Impact: Southwest 2010 was. While the new places and tasks were a huge part of the trip, it was the people, the teens themselves, that made this a once in a lifetime experience that no one will forget.
CLTC 7 Teens Arrive Safely!
Posted on 07/28/2010 @ 10:40 AM
The teens have all arrived safely to camp!!!!!!!!!!
Over the course of the next twelve days, the participants will learn skills to help them become more responsible leaders; they will plan and implement new and unique programs; and create meaningful Shabbat experiences. Additionally, they will be attending sessions on Jewish Experience, Shira (singing) and Rikudim (Israeli Dancing.) They will also benefit from Problem Solving sessions and How To Workshops.
An important aspect of leadership training is character development and the CLTC curriculum will include the "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens," based on the acclaimed book written by Sean Covey. Our goal is to help the teens to formulate good work habits, to teach them how to work with their peers in a positive environment and to help them recognize their strengths, build on their potential and to set standards for themselves now and in their future years as adults.
As you can see, we have a full schedule for the next twelve days and I can't wait to share all of our experiences with you. Please check your e-mails and http://bbyo.smugmug.com for my updates and our pictures.
That's it for now! I'll be in touch.