Your Jewish Journey Starts Here.

Dear Sabbatical Diary: March 6, 2017

Dear Sabbatical Diary, 

The Federation trip is coming to a close. Today is my last day in Israel. My soul feels so blessed to be in my body, sitting at a café in Mamilla mall, next to the Old City, with a few moments for reflection. Fresh coffee, jazz on the speakers, at the end of a powerful trip to Israel. The highlights of the trip were shabbat, social service recipient visits, and some meaningful personal connections. 

For shabbat, my responsibilities were to create a pre-kaballat shabbat service at Robinson’s Arch and to put together a havdallah service after shabbat at the hotel, overlooking the walls of the Old City. For both services, I was able to integrate the observations, reflections and skills that I learned during my sabbatical to create sacred space. Both gatherings were soulful, participatory services that brought spirit, song, bonding, and value to the moment. They were satisfying and meaningful for me and the mission participants. I am looking forward to my return to process and integrate my sabbatical experiences with my synagogue community in a sensitive, gradual, and transparent process. 

One of the many unique Federation mission opportunities is to visit recipient agencies of Federation funds. One of the visits to a recipient fund moved me to tears. This agency created a preparatory army experience for underprivileged teens at risk. Many of these teens would otherwise be rejected from the army because of their record of misdemeanors or their psychological testing. The Federation-sponsored mechina program teaches them life skills, coping skills, army skills, and exposes them to healthier ways of living. We met some of the teens in the program. One of the teens was a “fallen charedi”. He grew up in an ultra-orthodox home, and at the age of ten, decided that that life wasn’t for him. His parents rejected him and he lived out the rest of his childhood homeless on the street to fend for himself. It did not go well. Through a variety of connections, he found the mechina program, cleaned himself up, and is entering the army. The program turned his life around and gave him a chance. It was an incredibly moving presentation. 

During the trip, I had the opportunity to serve and connect with individuals who were inspired by the trip to Israel to deepen their Jewish identities. I shared some transformative moments with the group as a whole and some powerful rabbinic moments with individuals. It’s a great trip. Sign up for a Federation Mission to Israel. 

Also, I was blessed to spend some time with my family in Israel. I spent shabbat lunch with my parents, in their apartment, and my sister Shira joined us. Her husband was on a business trip to Los Angeles, so she was on her own. So, she took the opportunity to spend shabbat with my parents, too. We had 4/5 of my nuclear family together around the shabbat table! My other sister lives in Chicago. 

I’m spending my last day in Israel in reflection and in connection.

 

RJT