Tufts Hillel - Morocco - Summer 2012

June 3rd, 2012

Day 1 in Morocco

Singing and dancing with elderly at the JDC-supported home for the elderly

Hi everyone!

We are excited to be writing to you from our beautiful hotel in Casablanca! This post is about our first day in Morocco.

We were greeted at the airport by the wonderful JDC staff, and got started with our touring right away!

We began the day with a delicious breakfast at a café overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (#CasablancaShore).  We enjoyed authentic Moroccan tea, coffee, sugar cubes, croissants and kosher packaged cookies all together!  From breakfast, we walked over to the Mosque Hassan II, the third largest mosque in the world (after Mecca and Medina) and the largest in Morocco!

Mosque Hassan II

The mosque’s minaret, measuring at 200m is the highest in the world!  The stunning architecture included an intricately detailed ceiling that can open up to let the sunlight in, gorgeous chandeliers, and towering beams.  According to our guide (and Obama look-alike) the project, which was completed by the previous kingdom in only six years, cost over $800 million.

We were inspired to take artsy photographs (some were more talented than others) and consider how the ornate quality contributes to the prayer experience.  The mosque, which can hold over 100,000 people, is a striking example of the integral role of religion in Moroccan daily life.

After our wonderful tour and quick check in to the hotel, we enjoyed a three-course lunch at one of five private Jewish clubs in Casablanca.  The salads, grilled meats, and incredible desserts offered us a delicious introduction to Moroccan cuisine (even the vegetarians among us agreed!)

Though we were stuffed and extremely jet-lagged, we trekked on to visit some of the most important and valued Jewish health institutions of the community.

We were amazed to learn about the extent of services offered by JDC funding for free healthcare, welfare and social opportunities for the less privileged and elderly in the Jewish community.  We put up a mezuzah in a new apartment for an elderly Jewish man, we danced with residents of a local nursing home, we heard from the community caretakers at the Jewish health clinic, and several of us were even blessed by the community elders to be fortunate enough to raise our own Jewish families very soon.

Putting up a mezzuzah at an apartment at the JDC-supported home for the elderly

After a short rest, we were joined by the US Consul General for dinner, and learned some more about the American-Morocco relationship.  Even though we have only been here for one day, it is already clear that the small Jewish community is extremely vibrant, close-knit and grateful for our being here with them.

Aurevoir for now!

Love,
Jordan Dashow and Shayna Schor

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 24th, 2012

Last Days in Latvia

Our last few days in Latvia were really special. We forged important communal ties, cemented the ones we built with our peers, visited historical sites and did physical labor.

On Tuesday morning, we split up into small groups of 3 (2 NYUers + 1 local peer to translate) to visit elderly Jewish people in their homes and deliver care packages. Some of us were nervous (i.e. Noah), but our briefing afterwards was full of excitement as everyone recounted the amazing conversations they had.

I (Joan) visited an 86 year old man named Leo with Noam and Jenia. He was such a dynamic individual and a musical genius. He played original jazz compositions for us on his piano in addition to a traditional Latvian song. Leo also attempted to teach Noam how to play polka! Hearing Leo’s distress as he recounted how his mother and sister were buried in Rumbala Forest really contextualized the visit we paid to the site on Monday. As Leo said of that tragedy, “there are no words.” Leo himself survived the Holocaust by walking from Latvia to Uzbekistan in 1941 with his older sister. They were 15 and 16 years old. He worked in a factory there from 1941-1945. I really enjoyed visiting him and felt honored to hear his story.

After we returned to the community and discussed our visits, we had lunch with our local peers at our fave Latvian restaurant, Lido. We then had some free time during which our Latvian friend Nastia took me, Stephanie, Steven and Allie on a whirlwind shopping trip.

We once again returned to the community where we we visited the Ariel Job Center. Part of the efforts of the JDC in conjunction with the community is helping welfare clients to re-enter the work force–they do this in a variety of ways including language classes, resume building, etc. The Ariel Job Center typically runs these sessions everyday. We learned what it is like to go through skills training by hearing a lecture about management styles. We did a group exercise where we utilized what we learned and discussed how organizations like the JDC might allocate funds.

Tuesday evening, we visited Jurmala where we had dinner and watched the gorgeous sunset over the Baltic Sea.

Wednesday morning was a highlight for a lot of us. The community center in Riga had a courtyard that was not only dirty and unusable but also unsafe–yet with no other choice events for children and elderly were held there. We worked hard to transform the space by painting doorways, stripping old paint, weeding, removing garbage, planting flowers and repairing the stairs. The stairs were a top priority for making the space safe for elderly people and children to enter the yard. We blasted music and had so much fun working!

In the afternoon, we took a bus to Rundale Palace. The palace was absolutely breathtaking, done in the Baroque style. After we explored the palace and its spectacularly lush green gardens the group met back at the fountain. As we were huddling up, Joey was psyching us out by fake falling in the fountain, but pushing his luck and trying to fake it again he toppled backwards splashing into the water with enough time to save Suzanne’s bag and hold his nose! Somehow my foot fell in too…but all was well.

On our way back to Riga, we stopped in a typical Eastern European village where Rav Kook resided for several years. Joey gave us a general overview of his life, explaining his importance and role in establishing religious Zionism. Our guide Ilya expanded on the importance of the area and told us about the synagogues that had once been there.

We had a group dinner at Menorah restaurant with our local peers and exchanged thank you’s and gifts. We all enjoyed our last night together, staying up at the hotel lounge until we had to say goodbye.

Thursday morning we had our final discussion about the significance of our trip and how we can bring our newfound knowledge back to our American Jewish community. The impact of the experiences we had in the Baltics will extend through the summer and the next school year. I know I am not the only one still processing everything we experienced!

-Joan

Tufts Hillel - Morocco - Summer 2012

May 24th, 2012

Tufts Hillel Students – Bios and Hellos

We leave in less than a week! Get to know us before we blog from the Morocco.

Jon Arditti is a rising Junior from Stamford, CT, and he’s majoring in Cognitive and Brain Sciences. He is most excited to interact with people from a culture so different from his own, and for the meals that end with a cup of green tea and mint!

 

 

Becky Allen: I am a rising junior majoring in Religion with a focus on conflict resolution. I hope to pursue a career working towards the goals of inclusive security and building a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. I was born and raised in Roslyn, New York, about 30 minutes from the city. However, I love traveling and I am super excited to visit Morocco! I have had a bit of an obsession with Morocco for quite some time now as it combines much about which I am passionate: French language and culture, Middle Eastern culture, and even Jewish culture! I am most looking forward to exploring the way in which these cultures interact while engaging in hands-on service work.

Rachel Clarke is a rising sophomore at Tufts University.  Originally from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Philadelphia, she is thinking about majoring in political science and minoring in communications and media studies, although she has not declared yet. Rachel cannot wait to go to Morocco and is most excited to experience the culture and meet new people.

Jordan Dashow is a rising Junior, double majoring in International Relations (with a concentration in the Middle East) and Political Science. Even though he is from the best state in the USA, New York (specifically Long Island, New York), Jordan is excited to get off the East Coast and travel to Morocco at the beginning of this summer. He can’t wait to learn about the Jewish communities in Morocco, engage in meaningful service, and get to know his fellow Tufts students even better! In addition, Jordan is looking forward to spending 10 days with Alyza Weinberg and is hoping to perfect his “Alyza face” by the end of the trip.

Sara Eisemann is from Manchester, VT. She graduated on May 20 with the Class of 2012 and now has a B.A. in international relations! With this degree, it is unsurprising that she is most excited to travel to a new country and experience its culture, forming connections with the people there and learning about Moroccan Jewry firsthand. She is also excited to get to know her fellow trip participants better during the trip!

 

Hi, my name is Mollie Elkin and I am from the sunny Daytona Beach, FL. I am a rising junior at Tufts studying Child Development. I am excited for the opportunity to visit Morocco! I cannot wait to spend Shabbat with the Marrakesh Jewish community, volunteer in two schools (especially helping to teach a computer class to Moroccan students), and just getting time to explore!

Hi, I’m Emma Hershey and I’m a sophomore from Sherborn, MA.  I’m a math and computer science double major with a minor in music.  I can’t wait to work with kids at the Neve Shalom Ozar HaTorah School in Casablanca and experience Shabbat in Morocco!

 

Leah Lazer: I’m a sophomore from New Milford, CT majoring in Food System Studies. I am most excited to learn about how the lives and religious practices of Jews in Morocco have been influenced by Arab culture, and to make personal connections with members of the Jewish community there.

 

I am Andrew Lutz, a rising senior from Baltimore, MD. What I’m most excited for: I’m very excited to meet new people and learn from their culture. I’m very interested to see how Judaism fits into Moroccan culture and vice versa. And most of all, I’m looking forward to making lasting connections with the communities we visit!

Hi! My name is Julie Margolies and I’m a rising sophomore at Tufts.  I’m from Carlisle, MA and I’ve lived there all my life.  Although I haven’t declared a major, I’m planning on majoring in sociology and potentially double majoring in child development. In terms of the trip that we will be taking to Morocco, I think I’m most excited about meeting the kids at the schools we’re visiting. I’m really interested in education and I also just love talking to and interacting with people; the fact that these kids are close to our age will just make the experience more interesting and relatable. Overall, though, I really just can’t wait to take off and learn about the Jewish communities in Morocco in a way that will really let us experience their culture firsthand.

Rose Pollard is from State College, Pennsylvania. She is a rising junior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Music. She cannot wait to travel to Morocco and connect with people! She is psyched to get to experiences the communities there and learn about people’s lives, their pasts, their hopes, their families, their friends, and interests.

Hi everyone, my name is Ben Preis, and I just finished my freshman year! I’m from Pittsburgh, but since having started Tufts I love my new home. I’m planning on double majoring in Physics as well as Peace and Justice Studies. I’m extremely excited for this entire trip, but I especially look forward to meeting both Jewish and non-Jewish Moroccans. When traveling, I love interacting with the people who live there, and I hope to use this opportunity to the fullest extent.

Laurie Rabin is a junior majoring in Engineering Psychology and Child Development. She came to Tufts from Oceanside, New York. She is really excited about getting to see how the schools in Morocco are using computers in their classrooms and learning more about the country and the people we meet!

Shayna Schor hails from Millburn, NJ.  A rising junior majoring in Political Science, Shayna also serves as Co-President of LCS and staff writer for The Observer and TuftScope.  Besides turning 20 during the trip, Shayna is very excited to spend time with children at the local schools.

Elana Shapiro (’15) is an intended International Relations and Community Health double major from New York City. Elana is most excited about meeting the Moroccan people and learning more about their culture. She is also looking forward to working with children, trying Moroccan cuisine, and exploring Rabat.

Anna Simonovsky is a rising sophomore from New York City who has absolutely no idea what she wants to study and hopes she will figure it out by next year. She cannot wait for the trip to see Judaism practiced in a completely different manner.

Aliza Small is a rising sophomore from Deerfield, IL. Her major is most definitely undecided, though English and History are both in the running. She is minoring in Film. Aliza is excited to see the architecture of the major Moroccan cities and engage with Jewish residents in rural areas, learning about their daily lives.
Hi, I’m Seth Teleky, soon to be a Senior (first time i’ve said that, sounds so scary) My major is Political Science and History. I’m from Bayside, New York. What I’m most excited for: Getting to meet the locals and experience what life is like for them!

 

 

I am Sam Tye, and I am a junior from Newton, Mass. I am majoring in Community Health and Psychology. I am most excited to go on this trip because after meeting Jews from all over the country when arriving at Tufts, I would love to meet Jews from other places in the world. I can’t wait to meet and spend time with the Jewish community in Morocco.

Alyza Weinberg, Program Associate, is responsible for supervising our student board and student executives. Alyza also plays a critical role in Hillel’s Alternative Spring Breaks. Alyza was born and raised in Canada and graduated from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Before moving to Boston, Alyza participated in AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and worked at a public charter high school in inner-city Washington, DC.

Lia Weintraub is a rising junior at Tufts, majoring in International Relations and Spanish.  She is from West Hartford, Connecticut.  She is most excited to come on this trip to learn about Jewish traditions in different parts of the world, experience a new place and culture, and have an amazing time with the Tufts group!

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 22nd, 2012

Jewish Museum of Riga

I just want to quickly share what was a powerful moment for me personally. The third floor of the Jewish Community Center in Riga, Latvia houses the Jewish Museum. The collection enccompasses three rooms and is very comprehensive despite its relatively small size.

Before coming here, I knew that my great-grandfather had emigrated from what my family calls Dvisnk. I was unsure whether I would be able to find out anything about it so when I was thrilled when saw it on their historical map. It gave me goosebumps–Ilya, the dorectpr of the museum knew a lot about the city and showed me a panel of photographs from the city which is on the river. It is now called Daugavapils. Joey Eisman (the JDC fellow based here) told me it is still the second largest Jewish community here in Latvia and that he will be visiting it in a few weeks.

Ilya explained the situation there to me at the turn of the 20th centiry when my great-grandfather left for NY. He said there was am economic crisis and 2/3 of the Jews were relying on Jewish charity. I am so grateful he was able to make it to NY where he went to Cooper Union, became an electrical engineer and fought for the US Army!

Since the museum relies mosty on private donations of family photographs and relics, they very much welcome any information people can provide. It is simple to scan a personal photograph and I am hoping to be able to find and send them photos of my great-grandfather’s family when I return to the States! If anyone else who sees this blog post has something to send them, their email address is info@jewishmuseum.lv and anyone who comes to Riga should pay the museum a visit!

-Joan

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 21st, 2012

Sunday-Monday

Hello from Riga!

Sunday seems so long ago, with all we’ve done since then!  We started off the day at a newly purchased building in Talin, which is going to be used as a Jewish kindergarden.  Due to its previously being an office building, there are many changes that need to be made before it can be child-friendly.  As the first volunteer group there, we had a lot to do! We had to clear heavy boxes of paper work out of a dusty garage, take down doors,  break apart old desks, knock down wooden beams and more!  Although the work was tough and dirty, we had a lot of fun– and some of us even had the pleasure of wearing flower tiaras hand-made for us by our Estonian and Latvian peers!

After that, we headed over to the community for an activity with the incoming Madrichim (counselors).  We had interesting tasks, such as creating 3 new words and gestures in separate groups, which led to inside jokes.  Then some people were shuffled around to new groups, and we were able to see what it is like to be “an outsider” or have one in our “community”.  This led to great discussions and connections between us and the Estonian/Latvian Madrichim.

It was a great way to end our time in Talin, before our 4 hour bus ride to Riga, Latvia!  The bus ride was gorgeous, as we passed through scenery full of trees, rivers, and the Baltic Sea.  Now here we are! On our first evening here we took a walking tour of the city.  The weather is warm and humid and in the evening it is full of mosquitoes!  The city is truly beautiful.  A combination of old, new, and natural.

Today (Monday), we visited the Jewish museum and took a Jewish walking tour.  There is much more Jewish history here than in Talin.  We saw the remaining synagogue which is currently in use (one synagogue here that survived the Nazi destruction), as well as the ruins of the four other synagogues destroyed by the Nazis.  At one sight there was a commemoration for those who helped jews during the holocaust. It was sad to see more ruins than actual synogogue. Also, we visited a park that was a Jewish cemetery.  After world war two, during Soviet occupation, the tombstones were removed and used as construction materials. Much of the area we walked through was the Jewish ghetto, a gated area in which 30,000 Jews were scuffled into.

After a nice lunch, we visited Rumbala–the sight of a mass murder where 25,000 Jews were ruthlessly shot and buried. Loni and Sasha shared packets with meaningful quotes and songs that made it a moving experience for all.

While having dinner, we made packages and gifts for the elderly on welfare. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be personally delivering these packages and spending time with them.

To wind down from the long day we relished in bowling and laser tag! Round one laser tag the Baltic peers kicked American @$$!! Bowling got intense between Loni and Noam… Loni prevailed. And even with a rematch, I (Stephanie) lost twice in a race car game to Steven!

Until next time,
Stephanie

Tufts Hillel - Morocco - Summer 2012

May 21st, 2012

Morocco next week!

More to come from us soon.

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 20th, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

Friday May 18th

We started off the day enjoying a nice, relaxing breakfast, discussing our busy and exciting day ahead. Before we could finish our delicious last sip of coffee, we were off to visit the Jewish Community of Estonia which included the JDC-supported Jewish Welfare Center. We were first greeted by Vadim Rōvlin, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community of Estonia, along with his colleagues at the JCC. Vadim discussed with us the history and current state of Jewish culture in Estonia, and especially Tallinn, where our group was visiting. Did you know, just one year after Estonia restored its independence in 1991, the Jewish Cultural Society was reorganized as the “Jewish Community” and established in 1992.

Our group later took a tour of the Tallinn Synagogue (a.k.a the “Beit Bella Synagogue”) with the Chief Rabbi of Estonia, Rabbi Shmuel Efraim Kot. This incredible, passionate, and dedicated Jewish Community leader shared with us some history and facts of Jewish life in Estonia, as well as the impact and meaning of the five-year old, beautiful synagogue. With its modern feel and seating for 200 or so people, the Beit Bella Synagogue has received high praise and attention as it was the first synagogue to open in Estonia since World War II.

After lunch, the group worked with young Jewish School students for a fun painting project. The energetic bunch was quite the handful, and “painting” quickly became games of tag, shrieks of laughter, and the occasional face-painting and impressions of “Rambo” and Sylvester Stallone??????????? Despite the chaos, the students soon enough plopped themselves on the floor for some quality painting time. It was definitely a unique experience to work with students who knew very little English, and even with this language barrier, our group was able to interact with the kids while having a blast too!

Then our Shabbaton began! It was so nice to be joined by our Latvia and Estonia Peers who will be traveling with us throughout our trip. These students and “Madrachim” are Jewish school counselors of Latvia and Estonia. On top of getting to know an incredible group of individuals and quickly becoming friends, the peers have provided some terrific insights into the lives of Jewish Latvian and Estonian groups and individuals. It was so interesting to learn and discuss how our lives and experiences in the US and New York compare to those in the Baltic states.

Noam, Suzanne and Jessica led our Kabbalat Shabbat service. Noah gave a D’Var Torah on this week’s parsha tying the rules outlined in it to Our travels. After an Oneg, we walked down to the Baltic Sea and saw the sunset–at midnight! It was beautiful.

Saturday morning began with breakfast; an assortment of potatoes, veggies, fruits, juices, and pastries. After we finish eating and reflecting on yesterday’s activities, we set out to explore the city of Tallinn. This old, rustic city is truly a cultural hub of restaurants, pubs, shops, churches, memorials, and other famous landmarks of Estonian culture and history. We learned a lot about the history of the area.

In the afternoon we had free time and then did a great activity led by Joey where we reflected in our own Jewish journeys and discussed where they began and where we want them to go.

We had a fun night out at Tommy’s Place in Old Town that culminated in the most interesting havdalah service ever!

Sunday was a VERY full day and we’re wiped out! But we will be back to recap from Riga tomorrow.

-Tyler & Joan

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 18th, 2012

DAY ONE

At the JCC in Tallinn

After 24 hours of travel, we have finally experienced day 1 in Tallinn, Estonia.

We visited “The Center”– which is what they call their Jewish community here. The Jewish center here–consisting of a synagogue, a recreational center, a museum and a school– has only begun developing the past fifteen years. It has been established to instill a sense of Jewish identity in the small number of Jews that reside here (most of them not religious).

In the museum we learned that Estonia was the first place the Nazis considered Jewish-free during the Holocaust. After the museum, we met with a bunch of high school students and shared with them what American Jewry is for us.

Conversation with local Jewish Estonian teens

Then, after breaking for lunch, we spent time with Estonian youngsters during their recreational after-school “Shabbat” activity. We got to play with the children, and also helped make a painting to celebrate Yom-Yerushalayim.

Time for Kabbalat-Shabbat now; catch ya later!

-Stephanie

NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Life - Estonia and Latvia - May 2012

May 16th, 2012

Meet The Baltics Group!

Thank you for visiting our exciting, new blog! Over the next nine days, we will be sharing our experiences in Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia. Before we dive right into things, we’d like to introduce you to our amazing participants! Without further ado, here are the “NYU Bronfman Center – Baltics Service Trip” participants:

 


Sol Adler
“As I walk around New York, the one song that always pops into my head is the classic ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra. No matter where I go in the city, the song always fits in perfectly because it shows how classic New York is. Personally I live on Long Island but have been in New York for my whole life and I love the city. “

 


Tyler Becker
“If I could have super-powers, I would like to be able to read in super-fast speeds!… or just be like Iron Man”

 

Jason Brecher
Super-hero: Superman
Theme music for walking New York: Dave Matthews

 

Elana Cohn
If I could have any super power it would definitely be flying!!”

 

Erica Frankel
“My hidden talent is that I am a contest-winning champion eater”

 

Steven Getselevich
“My super-power would be to fly, and my theme song as I walk around New York would be ‘Hi Hater’ by Maino.”

 

Joan Kagan
“If I could have any superpower, I would want the power to rapidly heal like Wolverine. My theme song as I walk around New York would be “The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World” by Weezer. Just kidding–it’d actually be ‘Empire State of Mind’ by Jay-Z.”

 

Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs
“If I had a superpower, it would be photographic memory (yes, I am going to claim that’s a superpower). I hate forgetting things — people, places, things I read, lectures I heard or movies I’ve seen — and I always wished for the ability to keep a mental picture of everything.”

 

Sasha Levyn
“If I had any super power, I would want to be able to fly.”

 

Elanit Lichtiger
“If I could have a theme song to walk around New York City it would be ‘Here Comes The Sun’ by The Beatles. Always reminds me of the classic scene in ‘The Parent Trap’ where Lindsay Lohan roams London with her mom. Sun, city and the Beatles…what could be better.”

 

Suzanne Miller
“In an alternate universe where super-powers exist, I’d love to be telepathic! I would only want to be able to hear someone else’s thoughts if I could turn it on and off, though; otherwise I would probably hear a lot of things I’d rather not hear. But, as a ‘communicator,’ I am constantly wanting to know what the people around me are thinking; it would be so much simpler if I could just read their minds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Noam Mintz
“I’m going to have to go with mind-reading for my super power of choice.”

 


Noah Shapiro
“my super power would be the ability to slime people. Slime would appear an cover them leaving them unable to do anything.”

 


Alexandra Strick
“If I could have any super-power it would be to teleport and the ability to speak every language.”

 


Stephanie Torkian
“Strange Talent: I can touch my nose with my tongue”

 

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Check back here throughout our trip for more updates!

Yale Hillel - Israel - 2012

May 15th, 2012

Summer Nights

On Sunday night we split into groups of two or three and were hosted by local teenage boys and their families for dinner. My group was taken to a nice house on a moshav on the outskirts of Kiryat Malachi and was served a delicious meal of salad, omelets, and pita.

On Monday we continued the service work that we started the previous week. We made a lot of progress with the painting, completing four of the seven entrances. The spray gun made its first appearance of the trip when our contractor, Avram, did a hasty second coat of the walls we had painted earlier. The walls, paintings, and volunteers alike emerged speckled with white paint, which led to a long scrubbing session. We were then joined by Israeli high-school girls to paint the concrete benches turquoise.

After a particularly productive and thought-provoking reflection section, we proceeded to our afternoon service work in various community clubs. One group of us volunteered at Kif Kaf, a youth club for students aged 8-12, and did arts and crafts. Another group participated in a nature activity at another afternoon youth club. Meanwhile, another group volunteered at PACT (Parents and Children Together) with five-year-old kids, making Smurf cupcakes. My group went to a community center for people of all ages with various cognitive and physical disabilities, where we played a game like bocci. It was amazing to see such a diverse group of people come together to do activities and have a good time.

On Monday night we went to Tel Aviv. Part of the group went to a delicious Libyan restaurant in Jaffa, while others went to an Italian restaurant and some ate at a classic Israeli meat restaurant. We all ended the night at Mike’s Place and a good time was had by all.

Tuesday:

Tuesday morning dawned hot and bright. We donned our overalls for the second to last time, looking nostalgically at the various small paint stains (and larger stains for the worse painters among us). When we arrived in Kiryat Malachi, a few of us were dispatched to finish the painting job. The rest of the group began work on two community gardens – one next to the community center, the other alongside a nearby apartment complex.  We met with great success in our gardening pursuits – we weeded, installed a drip-irrigation system (invented in Israel to conserve water), and created a path made of bricks for residents’ enjoyment. Once more we had fun working with local high school students. During lunch, Devorah (head of JDC’s Better Together program in Kiryat Malachi) answered our questions about Kiryat Malachi, Better Place, and our specific volunteer projects. She emphasized the unique level of integration and tolerance in Kiryat Malachi among the different ethnic/immigrant groups and encouraged us to return to the city after the trip’s end. Leah then led us in a reflection session in which we discussed what constitutes worthwhile service and considered the benefits and challenges of service trips.

We then returned to the community clubs for the second time. Some of us helped with an art project and played tag with five year olds and baked cookies with middle school students. Four of us also returned to the Moadon Galgalim (center for disabilities), where we sang karaoke. We reluctantly said goodbye to the members after two hours, sad to be leaving behind such a warm group of people.

In the evening we joined Israeli soldiers and college students of our own age. We mingled over pizza and karaoke (for some of us, the second round of the day!) – singing Israeli, American (and even Brazilian) classics. We asked a lot of questions today and yesterday – about the impact of our work on Kiryat Malachi, the impact of Kiryat Malachi on our lives after the trip ends, the way to make service meaningful, the purpose of service projects in general. We’re still thinking about the answers to those questions and we’ll hopefully reach some conclusions as we complete our final day of the trip tomorrow.

Hannah Alpert and Hody Nemes