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Teen Reflections on the Impact: Southwest Experience

Posted on 08/09/2010 @ 10:45 AM

Impact: Southwest 2

One night, two women who are in Phil's peacemaking class came to our campsite to teach us how to make the traditional navajo flatbread. We were actually able to knead and shape the dough, and then eat the bread we worked on. It was great to talk with the women, and learn more about their culture. They were very nice and open to questions; they were also very interested in hearing about Judaism. It was really interesting to see how similar the flat-bread making was to making challah, which we explained to them. They enjoyed learning the Hebrew words for challah and bread (lechem). We saw the women again the next day when we visited Window Rock, and one of them explained some of the uses of the plants and trees there. The Navajo culture she mentioned uses certain branches from certain trees to cover their shade huts in the summer; which reminded us of our sukkahs. I've really enjoyed realizing the enormous amount of similarities between Judaism and Navajo. -Joanna Bethesda, MD

We spend a good portion of our day doing service, but, every day we also take a break to discuss Judaism. My favorite discussion was on Tuesday when Matt gave us a list of 70 names of God and put us into pairs. We talked with our partners about which names we liked and didn't like, understood and didn't understand. Then we joined back together as a group and talked about what names our partners had agreed or disagreed on. It was a really interesting conversation, but my favorite part was that nobody was telling us what to think, like in other religious situations I've been in. Instead, we were asked what we think. I really appreciated that, and it made for a better sharing experience for everyone. -Abby Silver Spring, MD

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The trip has been great so far. We arrived at base camp and soon met our staff, Matt, Keren and Amanda. We headed out to the Navajo Reservation and arrived on Phil Bluehouse's property, where we would be doing our service work. Except for the rain, this trip has been great so far, the service work has been really fun with pouring cement and fixing a messed up road. The scenery in New Mexico and Arizona has been flawless and at night the stars are just amazing. The area close to our campsite is especially one of my favorite parts of our trip so far because I am interested in geology and things like that and there is a lot her. I talked to Phil and he informed me that there were meteorites out near our campsite and I have found many so far on my free time and am still looking for an enormous one. This trip has been amazing both culturally and emotionally for me. I can't wait to see what else is going to happen. -Jonathan Feigin Washington Township, NJ

The more time we spend here, the more similarities I notice between Navajo people and Jewish people. Both involve a deep connection to the land, a rich oral history, and an awareness of what's around you. Yesterday we learned about sweat lodges, which are used for a cleansing ritual, similar to our mikva. They have a fried bread that is very important to their culture, like our challah. Learning about Navajo people makes me think about Jewish practice. I can't wait to continue learning more about their way of like. -Liat Boston, MA

The most impressive and exciting aspect of this trip this far (for me) is the sense of willingness I see from these students. For example, it is currently before 8am, but the students are cooking, eating and cleaning with plenty moxie. Thank you all for sending me such mature and fun-loving individuals. I feel as though we are just a large family and I am just another sister. -Program Leader Amanda Kesselman Westport, CT

I've been very impressed by the spiritual side of the experience. Before each meal we have a kavanah, a pause to provide meaning to our experience. The Kavanah Team for the day will provide a Jewish text, quote, or activity to help frame our experience with service, weather, communal living, etc. We are also discovering a multitude of similarities between Jewish and Navajo culture, their tie to the land and many of their customs and traditions. -Judaic Instructor Matt Lemchen Seattle, WA

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