Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Tufts Hillel wrapped up their experience in India this week. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg shared some final reflections.
Our incredible trip to India has at last come to a close! It was a wonderful whirlwind of 10 days, utterly successful on every level.
Our ultimate goal was to forge a deep connection between Tufts students and the Bene Israel community, and I daresay that we achieved that in spades. After beginning to get to know Jewish life in Mumbai (Bombay), Alibag, and a number of other fishing villages in the Konkan region, we traveled to a camp/resort in Karjat, where we spent three long, glorious days on retreat with JYP (the Jewish Youth Pioneers; participants at the retreat aged 15-26, with most aged 19-21). During ropes courses, rock climbing, zip-lining, structured discussions and text studies, meals and card games, singing together, creating a joint Indian-American Kabbalat Service out in the grass, impromptu dance parties and hanging out in the pool, the two groups fell in love with one another. We left camp on Sunday morning, after an extended goodbye, visited another synagogue community in the area, spent the afternoon sharing stories and songs with the elders of the Bayiti elder home and painting a gorgeous seascape mural on the facility’s wall, and had dinner with the vibrant Jewish community of Thane, a Mumbai suburb. Monday included a little souvenir shopping in downtown Mumbai, a long feast of a lunch, and dinner and celebration back at the Jewish Community Center, where goodbyes and tributes were made to the JYP, the many people we had gotten to know along the way, and a few friends. And, of course, we ended our night at the JCC with more dancing.
It was a wonderful trip, and from my conversations with our students, it certainly had an impact on the way they think about world Jewry, their own Jewish identity, their place in the world generally, their values and a number of other crucially big issues. The success of the trip was due in large part to the extraordinary nature of these students; each of them displayed an exceptional willingness to not only engage wholeheartedly in potentially uncomfortable situations, but to engage the questions and ideas that emerged from those situations on the deepest, most sensitive level. It was an honor to be with them as they each underwent important, potentially transformative processes with such bravery and openheartedness.
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with your sons and daughters this autumn; we’ll be creating some post-trip projects focused on educating the Jewish community about and fundraising for the Bene Israel community with whom we now have such an important connection.
I hope you are all well and having a wonderful summer.
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg
Previous posts from Tufts: At the JYP Camp! | Namaste from Alibag! | Waking up in Alibag | Reflecting on Day 1 | Greetings from Mumbai! | Nine Days til India! | An Open Letter to The Jewish Community of India | Supporting the Jewish Community of India with Cookies!