Shabbat at Kallah!
Posted on 07/19/2010 @ 12:05 PM
We hope you all had a wonderful, restful Shabbat and weekend. Our Shabbat at Kallah was a wonderful community-building experience. We held both traditional and creative services, which teens had the opportunity to plan, as well as a beautiful teen-led Menorah-lighting service, and a meaningful Havdallah experience. On Friday night, one of our Rabbis led some participants in a Tish – a traditional Friday night Shabbat singing and learning experience, while others had Shabbat Shira – a sing-a-long with our song leaders. Shabbat is a very restful time at Kallah, so many participants spent the day “just hanging out”, engaging in some Shabbat Chofesh activities, or having a good old fashioned nap. Saturday night, our educators took the stage in our first of two educator panels, where it was an “ask anything” opportunity for our participants; the educators gave different perspectives and opinions on the various subjects that came up. We ended the night with a rousing Shira (song) and Rikkudim (dance) session, a wonderful way to start our second week here together.
Today, we were back at it en force – it was a FULL day of programming! Our participants engaged in sessions all day on subjects ranging from Jewish Philosophy to Pluralism to the Jewish take on Relationships, and more. We took our all-Kallah photo, which you’ll find posted on our smugmug page really soon, and tonight, our participants engaged in a program planned by our phenomenal teen coordinators on the subject of prayer. We discussed our relationship with G-d, if we even have one, and our connection to the various communal prayers with which we engage each day.
This week, we have a whole lot in store; in addition to our usual sessions, we’ll be starting our Creative Arts electives, celebrating “Israel Night”, visiting with a local Orthodox camp, Camp Morasha, commemorating Tisha B’Av together, and celebrating yet another wonderful Shabbat.
Keep watch for more pictures, more news, and some messages from your teens that we look forward to sharing with you!
All the best,
Shabbat at Impact: DC Jam 2
Posted on 07/19/2010 @ 11:46 AM
I’m Merrit Corrigan from Plano, Texas and I want to share a little bit about my first Shabbat here at Impact DC JAM- because it was one of the most incredible and memorable Jewish experiences I have ever had.
Shabbat started Friday night in typical BBYO fashion; girls and boys dressed all fancy, flashing cameras trying to capture the moments for Facebook later, and sitting down in a circle for services. However, unlike usual, there was no urge to rush through services to get to the next program. This Shabbat was a place where everyone felt comfortable and excited to express Judaism differently but together in our pluralistic community.
Friday night services consisted of praying, singing, twirling to the Miriam song, and ended dancing down the stairs for our tasty Kosher dinner. The best part of the evening was our “no-mic night” that was a Shabbat friendly way for all us Jammers to express ourselves. People sang, recited slam poetry, played music, and I even slipped in my infamous “bunny story.”
Saturday was even more amazing. The group split for morning services. I ended up attending the conservadox services at DC Minyan. I initially had some difficulty following without my comfort zone of Hebrew transliterations to fall back on, but everyone was so helpful. Staff and participants guided me (and others who typically worship differently) through the prayer book to make it easy for all of us. The congregation welcomed PANIM with open arms and I got the honor of opening and closing the arc!
After free time in Georgetown, dinner, and a song session, the evening wrapped up with a havdallah service on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It truly was one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had. Feeling so comfortable and connected to the people around me is really the only layer I can actually explain. I felt so blessed to be in a country where I can express my religious beliefs and mix them with my government and culture. Tears collected in everyone’s eyes and ran down our checks as we realized that this is a moment that should make us proud to be Jewish Americans (or American Jews which ever way you feel).
As we opened our eyes and our voices stopped chanting the prayers, we were asked to call out some words that would help us describe the beautiful service we were leaving behind. These words not only applied to havdallah but DC Jam as a whole, it truly makes us feel:
“GRATEFUL”, “JEWISH”, “LOVED”, “FREE”, and, of course, “POWERFUL”
PDI: Starting Off in the Old City
Posted on 07/18/2010 @ 07:10 PM
By Josh Langer, International Program Associate
I’m thrilled to be blogging about our first full day here in Israel. As you know from Avery’s post, we’re currently based in Jerusalem - a wonderful setting to consider today’s theme of what makes a place holy. This was particular pertinent as the day led into Erev Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. I’ll run through all of the day’s activities, and leave you with a few of the critical questions we struggled with as a group.
We started the day in the Old City, with the goal of visiting sites holy to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. We intended to start at the Temple Mount, the site of the famous golden Dome of the Rock Mosque, and the less well-known, but perhaps more important, al-Aqsa mosque. I’ve been the Kotel (Western Wall) many times, but never had the opportunity to go up on the Temple Mount, which is under the jurisdiction of the Waqf, the organization that oversees all Muslim holy sites in the region. Unfortunately, many of us weren’t sufficiently modest with our attire, so all of us wearing shorts had to go buy some awesome pantaloons... check out our pantaloons in the picture below.
We eventually got to the Temple Mount, but not until after we visited what is known as Kotel Katan (the small Wall), a little-known, yet very interesting section of the Western Wall. The part of the wall that everyone is familiar with has a large plaza that was cleared out after Israel gained control of the area during the Six Day War in 1967. Until that point, homes and shops were built up right against the wall while the area was under Jordanian, and before that, British rule. Some sections of the wall still have homes, shops and offices built right up to it - and one of those sections of the wall has a cleared out space that is roughly 20 yards long and ten yards wide. It’s the exact same wall, but it obviously doesn’t have the same level of importance as the part of the Wall with which we’re all familiar.
After the Kotel Katan, we returned to the Temple Mount appropriately dressed. It was spectacular to see the Dome of the Rock mosque so close up - but what was even more special for me was to have the views of the rest of the city from the Mount that I’ve never seen before in all my time in Jerusalem. It’s a totally unique perspective of the surrounding areas, especially the Mount of Olives. Many of us felt conflicted on the Mount - it was a very powerful place, both because of the special environment created by the Muslim holy sites, but also because of the significance of the site to us as Jews - it is the site of the former temples, and also where Abraham bound Isaac. However, the area is now the most controversial piece of real estate in the world, and to be in a place that has time-limited and activity-restricted access for non-Muslims was a very difficult fact to face.
As we exited the Temple Mount, we passed a group of young Orthodox men standing outside the gate of the Mount. They were chanting a beautiful niggun (traditional chants, often with syllables instead of words). They were chanting with real vigor - I interpreted the emotional chanting as a lead-in to Tisha B’Av, starting later that evening, and as a protest against the Muslim authorities who currently administer the Temple Mount and restrict Jewish access to the Mount.
We then visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, an extremely holy site for Christianity, as it is where Jesus supposedly buried and resurrected - interestingly, different Christian denominations identify different locations in the larger church complex as the site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection. I found the church to be “overdone” - it didn’t have the simple, subtle power of the Temple Mount or the Western Wall/Kotel Katan. It seemed cluttered and busy.
After finishing in the Old City, we returned to the hotel for a Hebrew lesson and took a brief break. After the break, we were back on the bus for another exciting expedition, this time to Gush Etzion. “The Gush” is a bloc of Jewish settlement in the area known invariably as The West Bank, Judea and Samaria, the occupied territories, the liberated territories, and so on. Each label is a loaded political term. At the very least, I can say that these Jewish communities are extremely controversial. We had lunch with a member of the city council, who explained her perspective on the history of the land, her connection to it, and the importance of Jews settling and maintaining the land. After lunch, we toured a settlement called Bat Ayin, most enjoyably the home of Avi and Debby Neuman, who worked as educators in the past few summers at our summer programs. Avi lovingly called his community “freaks on a hill” - Bat Ayin is seen as one of the more radical settler communities. Bat Ayin was a very simple and rudimentary community, with the most basic homes, unpaved roads, etc.
Following our time in Bat Ayin we drove through an adjoining settlement, Efrat, that was completely different. It looked like any modern, thriving town in Israel, with beautiful, large homes, clean paved roads, playgrounds, shopping centers, and so on. Jewish settlement in the West Bank is diverse and nuanced and complicated. These communities are only 20 minutes from Jerusalem, and their eventual status will be an extremely controversial development as the Israelis and Palestinians continue to play with the border.
We ended our tour in Gilo, a southern suburb of Jerusalem that overlooks Bethlehem, and a number of other Palestinian towns that share the same valley. It also overlooked what’s called by the Israeli government as the “seam zone” - or what most people in America know as the security wall/fence. We saw how it meandered around Bethlehem, and learned the reasons one might support or oppose its existence. What’s important to know about this barrier is that it is not unilaterally supported on the “Jewish side”, particularly by settler communities who are worried that they will remain stuck on the “wrong side” of the barrier. One often hears Jews who have moral misgivings about the barrier, but there are also Jews whose reasons are more geopolitical.
We finished our day with a text study, and a special visit back into the Old City to experience the traditional chanting of Lamentations at the Western Wall. I chose to participate in an egalitarian (mixed men and women) chanting at the southern corner of the wall, an absolutely stunning setting, as we sat on huge stones at the base of the wall as lights cast our shadows on the wall in front of us. The chanting was beautifully haunting and perfectly conveyed the depths of mourning that one would express to represent such dramatic loss.
So that was our day in a (rather large) nutshell. Here are a few questions we struggled with as a group, that I hope all of our faithful readers will also consider:
What makes a place sacred? Does space have inherent holiness, or is holiness assigned to space by people?
How can the same space be holy to different people for different reasons? How do we reconcile what can be emotionally charged and irrational conflicts that result from those competing narratives?
What the heck should happen with Jewish settlements on “the other side” of the Green Line? Can return of land achieve peace? Can and should we expect territorial compromise from Jewish communities who have such a deep historical, religious, and emotional connection to the land? What sort of relationships do these communities have with the local Palestinian communities?
The area around Jerusalem is just as complicated, if not more so, than the settlements we visited to the south. I guess there’s not a question here, just, if you have any great ideas for how to get everyone to agree on what should happen here, tell Bibi!
Thanks for reading - tomorrow we charge into the desert to visit Qumran, where the famed Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Enjoy the next entry! Thanks for reading!
Shehechiyanu: We Have All Arrived in Israel
By Avery Budman on 07/18/2010 @ 07:10 PM
Today, 14 participants said "shehechiyanu" overlooking Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus. The occasion and prayer that thanks God for allowing us to reach this day meant a lot to all of us -- this trip has been planned for more than two years ago since we began the program. Over those two years, we constantly talked about what it would mean to travel to Israel together and what we would want to accomplish: now it is here.
Our group is varied: Several people have lived in Israel for months at a time, some visiting in the double digits and some only on their second or third visit. We don't see this as a weakness or hardship, but rather as a chance to make a really unique and individualized agenda for which we'll experience together.
Our first real session of the program was this evening at Mt. Scopus. For anyone who hasn't seen the overlook there, definitely google it. If I wasn't so jetlagged I would post the picture myself. We got there at sunset and began a discussion of what does it mean to be a Zionist? While you might think it is a simple question, it is not:
- Can you be a Zionist and disagree with some of Israel's policies and practices?
- If you publicly disagree with some of Israel's policies and practices, does that make it easier for some people to deligitimize Israel all together?
- Can you live in the Diaspora and still be a true Zionist? Why is it important that we live in the Diaspora and still support Israel?
- Does Zionism change with every generation based on Israel's needs?
We wrapped up the discussion with the singing of one of my favorite songs, "Yerushalyim shel zahav..." so I wanted to post it for you all to enjoy...sorry we didn't take our own video but if you close your eyes and try hard, you'll be able to picture us yourself...enjoy!
Anyways, tomorrow we have a jampacked first day, including a tour of the Old City and a visit to the Kotel on erev Tisha B'av. More info on that to come...stay tuned!
Am Yisrael Chai!
First Day at Kallah!
Posted on 07/16/2010 @ 11:25 AM
What a phenomenal first full day we had!
Before we tell you all about it, a few administrative details:
1. We sincerely apologize for the challenges you may have had trying to reach us at camp. Our phone lines were down yesterday, but they are back up and running. You can reach us here at camp – there will be someone in the office from 8a – 6p every day, except for Shabbat. On Shabbat (Friday evening Saturday evening), we do not answer the phones at Kallah. We will contact you in case of emergency, and we will check messages when Havdallah ends, at 9:30p Saturday night.
a. Please also note that any messages left for us prior to this morning were not received, and unfortunately were erased when the phone company was completing repairs.
2. We know you want to see pictures of your teens. The internet here is pretty slow, and we’re having some major challenges getting the photos uploaded. Please know we’re doing what we can, and we hope to have pictures up for you soon.
3. For sending packages: please note – your teens MAY NOT receive food at camp. Food in the dorms leads to mice in the dorms, which leads to unhappy participants. Any food received will be donated to a local food bank. If it’s your teen’s birthday, don’t worry! We will celebrate here together with them, and we provide cake!
So, on to the good stuff. Today, our participants had their first Shacharit together, and a full orientation to the Kallah program. First, they toured camp, then they learned about creative arts, and last, they got a chance to meet all of our educators and get to know them a little. The day culminated with “Tribal Challenge!” a program by our friends with Bible Raps that focused on teaching Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers – a book of Proverbs and important teachings) by contrasting Jewish wisdom with non-Jewish philosophical thinkers. In the end, our participants recorded the raps they wrote, and we’ll be showing the videos at the end of the program, as well as posting them on the blog and YouTube for you all to be able to see. Right before bed, we were treated to our first song session by our fabulous songleaders (or song bringers, as they prefer to be called), Zach and Eric.
All in all, it was a phenomenal day, and we are really looking forward to our first Shabbat together at camp.
We will send our next update after Motzei Shabbat (end of Shabbat).
Shabbat Shalom from all of us at Kallah!