Jerusalem Weekly Updates
Dear Parents and Students,
On Monday night we went to a store called “Kad Vechomer” for our monthly art workshop. The students chose from a variety of clay dishes to paint and take home. Everyone had to chance to show off their artistic talents.
William Oken said, “This was the most fun thing I’ve done since preschool!”
For Tuesday’s trip we took the students to one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Jerusalem, “Mishkenot Shananim”, which was the first neighborhood to be built outside the walls of the Old City. An actor named Ariel led the tour and he portrayed different historical characters throughout the tour. First he was Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet (24 October 1784 – 28 July 1885), a British financier and banker, activist, philanthropist and Sheriff of London. Montefiore, who was born to an Italian Jewish family, donated large sums of money to promote industry, business, economic development, education, and health among the Jewish community in Palestine. This included funds for the creation of Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, which at the time was the first settlement of the New Yishuv. As President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, his correspondence with Charles Henry Churchill of the British consul in Damascus in 1841–42 was pivotal to the development of Proto-Zionism.
Next, the actor became an old woman from Tripoli, and for his final performance, he transformed into a Yemenite Jew who once lived in the neighborhood close to the Jordanian border during the Six Day War.
Tamar Goldwasser said, “He taught us about how Mishkenot Shananim came to be in an entertaining and interesting way. We also learned about the history of the area through his multiple characters and their stories.”
On Tuesday night, the Faces of Israel activity took the form of a group trip to one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Meah Shearim. This area is famous for its ultra-orthodox nature, and infamous for its treatment of outsiders to their beliefs. Luckily, our students were able to walk the streets, in order to observe the customs and culture of an extremely exclusive society. In fact, many of the students were pleasantly surprised by the kindness and welcoming environment they experienced there.
This week in Parsha and Pizza, the group discussed the double Torah portion of Nitzavim-Vayelech. The Jewish people gathered for one last time before entering the Land of Israel and they renewed their relationship with God. Everyone was present – men, women and children, rich and poor – and even the souls of all future Jews. Rabbi Marc picked out one of his favorite lines from the Torah (Devarim Chapter 30, Verse 19 if you are interested!) and led a discussion about choice and the freedom’s we have to decide how we live. Having the power to choose still means that we have to choose wisely and the group talked about how hard it can be to make meaningful choices in life and not to default to laziness, convenience or peer pressure. We also read in Verse 12 that the Torah is “not in heaven” and explored how close or distant we all feel to Jewish life, values and practice.
This week on Selah, our Jewish identity track, the group visited Maaleh School of Film, Israel’s only film school that focuses on Jewish themes and caters to the religious sector. We met director Pazit Lichtman-Epstein who screened her short movie called ‘Willingly‘ about her experience of divorcing through the religious courts. She then talked about how it was to be an Israeli religious filmmaker attending international screenings and festivals. We also watched a comedy called ‘The Little Dictator‘. However, the highlight was having the chance to write a screenplay about a theme. Some wrote about an imagined 3 minute conversation with God, others wrote about being locked overnight in a Synagogue with someone whilst a few wrote about something going wrong underneath the wedding Huppah.
We also began our new classes on Thursday morning and met our teachers. There are classes on Speech Ethics, Shabbat and the thoughts of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The group also had time to begin their learning in our Hevruta program (one-on-one learning).
For Shabbat the group will travel up north to the holy, mystical city of Tsfat. They will be hosted by Ascent who have an amazing program planned including prayers, challah baking, meals, Kabbalah classes and more. It was a great week for Selah.