Virginia Tech represented as we volunteered to lead the Birthright trips in prayers over lighting the Shabbat candles as well as the blessing over the wine and ha-motzey. Everyone had the chance to light their own Shabbat candles, and for many it was their very first time. We chose from two service options and a discussion about what Shabbat means to you. I chose to go to the conservative Kabalat Shabbat services because it had been a very long time since I had attended one. It was special to me to have shared it with a lifelong friend and the new ones I have made on our journey. The room filled with our voices as we all came together and sang aloud, and those familiar sounds helped to sink in that I was celebrating the Shabbat with my peers (something I don’t do very often anymore). I was reminded how good it felt to sing those psalms and mentally prepare yourself for receiving Shabbat. Dinner was an amazing feast of a vast arrangement of Mediterranean cuisine and everyone ate to their hearts’ content. After dinner it was a sight to see all the different schools sing together different Shabbat and Jewish songs. It was a good feeling to know that no matter where we came from or what different Jewish experiences we have had in our lives that we are able to come together as a Jewish community and embrace the holiday of Shabbat in solidarity and happiness. I would definitely say that this erev Shabbat was one experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was almost too surreal to believe that we had finally arrived and received this holiday in our home land. I felt empowered as a Jew to know that we were doing something that our ancestors prayed for and we were able to live out their dreams.
Shalom and I’ll be home too soon,
(just a quick hello to my family- I love and miss you!)
As the conflict in Israel continues, I think about all the students and parents of Taglit-Birthright Israel trips that told us how grateful they are that they or their child had the opportunity to experience Israel firsthand and make personal connections with Israeli soldiers and citizens.
Watching the news each night, we know that this special relationship now takes on a new, important meaning at this time. There are currently thousands of Taglit-Birthright Israel participants in Israel having a wonderful time.
Safety is our number one priority. Our groups are going nowhere near Gaza, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon or Ashdod. No trips have been cancelled and our agenda is staying as is at this time.
Well, we leave in 2 days! Get psyched!
May 2009 be a year of peace for the world and all Israel.
After a very long, 14-hour drive on Saturday, we were all anxious to arrive in New Orleans. However, we had no idea what to expect. Katrina hit about three years ago, and for those of us who had never been here, the devastation that still lingers left us all in complete shock. We began our work at a building that used to be a school and has now been transformed into a center for fine arts. The artists pay the rent by teaching classes, as it is slowly renovated back to what it used to look like before Katrina struck. Just by doing simple things like painting and laying carpet, we made such a difference by the end of the week, and it felt so great to know how much we helped these artists.
We also took a tour of the lower ninth ward where the levies broke, and watched a documentary on the disaster, which really brought everything home. This town still needs so much more help, and with what we learned and experienced on this trip, I know I will be back to help, as well as share my knowledge with others and encourage them to do the same.
Being such a culturally diverse city, New Orleans has had a lot to teach all of us. We have been so fortunate to be able to experience all that the city has to offer from the great Cajun and Creole food to the arts to the nightlife.
During the day, we have been busy helping to paint and lay carpet at a school, which has been converted to a community arts center and community center in the Lower 9th Ward district. Though we aren’t rebuilding houses, I feel so good about supporting the arts and helping to restore public buildings. On New Year’s Eve day, we went to the New Orleans Children’s Museum to volunteer with kids for their New Year’s celebration. We were also able to watch an Imax documentary about hurricanes in this area.
Before this trip, I had no idea about all the devastation and tragic circumstances that had come from Hurricane Katrina. This city needs not only our hands-on help, but the knowledge we can spread and bring back home to new people is so important. I have spoken with local people in the area about their personal experiences and have had a much more personal connection to the city than I would have expected. This has been an eye-opening experience for me and I hope to carry it with me for a long time.
See Photos From New Orleans
We’re having our first Shabbat together as a great Alternative Winter Break to New Orleans group!
We’re having our first meeting soon. Have a great evening! More information to come!
We can’t wait to get to New Orleans and begin to work on the school! On December 31, we will be working with the Children’s Museum of New Orleans and helping the children celebrate the new year. This is going to be an amazing trip. We can’t wait to share our stories and photos with you.
We’re really excited about leaving for New Orleans and having the opportunity to help the community in any way they need us.