Weekly Updates – Jerusalem October 6, 2019
As you probably already know, this past week was very special here in Israel due to the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. All of the students went away for the long weekend and spent the holiday with family, friends, Jewish communities, and some even went to dinner at our staff’s homes.
Eliana Cohen said, “This year for Rosh Hashanah, I was blessed to be in the Holy Land! I spent the chag in Modi’in with my family’s close friends. On Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, I went to synagogue and spent time praying. The shofar had never sounded so clear to me before. There is an unmatched energy in Israel that is amplified during the holidays. It is easy to feel the spirituality of Israel and Judaism. I really connected to my heritage and religion and I am so appreciative that I took the opportunity to be here in body and soul. Wishing a Shanah Tova to all!”
Between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, some of the students flew to Spain for our First International Trip of the Semester.
This week in “Religions of the Holy Land”, we discussed the “Fast of Gedalyah” which commemorates the politically motivated assassination of Gedalyah Ben Achikam the governor of Judea during the time of the first Temple exile. We examined the themes and messages of the story, and how they are sadly still as relevant today as they were close to 2,600 years ago.
In “Judaism Confronts the Modern World”, we delved into the Jewish concept of “tzniut” (modesty) in the context of our modern day Jewish experience. Specifically we discussed how this concept could be approached in the age of awareness about healthy and positive body image and the #MeToo movement.
For Selah – These past two weeks focused on the topic “The blowing of the Shofar”. We had a Shofar Workshop in which each of the students made his own Shofar. We studied in Chavrutot about the concept of Teshuva and heard stories from Rabbi Hanoch Teller about Rosh Hashanah. We also had our weekly song session with the song Haneshama Lach (Our Soul is For You), preparing fully for Rosh Hashanah. After Rosh Hashanah we dove deeper into Teshuva, studying the story of Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan from the Talmud. We held discussions on the topic and our song of the week was “Mi Haish” (Who is the Person that Cherishes Life). We examined how each individual can connect practically to the notion of true life, through the eyes of saying you are sorry and Teshuva. This Sunday, we went on our second experiential Jewish tour, learning and experiencing Tashlich at the Mamilla Pool, then continuing to the 4 Sephardi Shuls in the Jewish Quarter for a “Sofer STAM”(Scribal) workshop where we tested our artistic skills and ability to focus while scribing our names in the book of life, preparing to Yom Kippur. From there we continued to “Mea Shearim”, an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, to experience and see the Kaparot tradition performed with live chickens. This was accompanied by a discussion around the topic of animal practices in Judaism. I feel prepared for Yom Kippur here in Israel, find the opportunity to speak to your children about these topics and enjoy all that we have learned together so far.
This week the entire Jewish people will celebrate Yom Kippur together, I encourage all of the students to go out and see the special synagogue in Jerusalem. Over this holiday the entire city is painted in white, there are no cars on the road and everything comes to a halt.
Have a great week and Gmar Chatima Tova,