Blogs

  • 14 Sep 2018 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    In November 2016, I was part of a team of clergy and professional staff from The Temple-Tifereth Israel who participated in a URJ Community of Practice (CoP), Full-time Early Education Community of Practice journey, led by Nancy Bossov and Cathy Rolland of the URJ.  During our CoP journey, the facilitators shared two concepts that helped change our thinking at a strategic level at our Temple. 

    The first is “Why”. Nancy Bossov shared a video clip of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why - TED Talk Short Edited.   According to Sinek, “Why” is the core belief of any organization. Why does the organization exist? Once you identify your “Why,” you will know what to do and how to do it. 

    The second concept is “Relationship, Meaning, and Impact”.  The concept was introduced by URJ’s Vice President and Director of Strengthening Congregations, Amy Asin. In Asin’s article, Change Your Congregational Culture by Changing How You Measure Success, she states, “We need not discard the old measures of success, but in order to stay relevant and to succeed, we must also incorporate and focus on these new measures.” Asin went on to explain what she meant.  

    • Relationships-Are we helping congregants build deep relationships with people who will be there for them in difficult times and times of joy?
    • Meaning-Are we building meaning by bringing Jewish tradition and wisdom to the challenges our congregants face?
    • Impact-Are we having an impact on our congregants and the world around them?”

    Asin says, “These new measures must address the whole of congregational life and revolve around what matters most to our members”.

    These two concepts really make you think about building relationships, and focusing on how to connect with people.

    Our CoP team was excited to bring these two concepts back to our colleagues and leadership, and they have really begun to shift the culture here at The Temple – Tifereth Israel. The concepts really sparked excitement in me, and I (we) am looking at things differently.  This year when we were scheduling our calendar, we began the conversation with “Why?” and we focused on our Vision Statement to ensure that what we were planning aligned with core beliefs.

    For example, our Annual Early Childhood Center’s Fall Family Apple Picking will now become an all-Temple Family Apple Picking. This gathering is a wonderful way to connect to the High Holidays, creating memories and rituals among families and our community.  We are excited to see all of The Temple community come together at the wonderful outing.

    I encourage you all to watch the Sinek video clip and read the Asin article. They really have transformed the way we are engaging families.

    L’Shalom,
    Lori

    September 2018

  • 14 Sep 2018 by Tricia Ginis

    Non-profit leaders need all the resources that they can get. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to develop the board, bring in new leadership, and engage members.

    I’m happy to share a very special opportunity for leadership learning. On October 28, 2018, the URJ is holding a URJ Day of Leadership Learning: Finding the Joy in Board Service, which will take place in 48 locations across four time zones. The 3-hour event is intended for executive committee members, clergy, and professional staff (or their equivalents) from congregations of all sizes.

    The key speaker will be Joan Garry, a noted non-profit consultant. Garry’s practice focuses on building strong board and leadership teams. Through the wonders of technology, Joan will stream into the various host sites to share her wisdom and spark discussion.  

    Registration is $10 per person (includes food) and will remain open until October 25. For any questions, contact the URJ Communities team (URJCommunities@urj.org).

    Tricia

  • 07 Aug 2018 by Tricia Ginis

    At this time of new beginnings, you and your organization can rely on ECE-RJ to support any transitions or challenges that arise.
     
    For directors, ECE-RJ can provide:

    • support during contract negotiations
    • professional development through yearly in-person conferences/kallot, monthly “Meet Up” webinars, and Listserv Live convenings
    • continued peer support with ongoing conversations through our Listserv

    For teachers, ECE-RJ can 

    • connect teachers from across North America through a private Facebook group
    • provide professional development through yearly conferences/kallot, as well as monthly “Meet Up” webinars and themed Classroom Conversations

    For congregations, ECE-RJ can:

    • support the lay leaders and congregational staff during placement for an Early Childhood Director, including offer a FREE three-month membership to the point person at a congregation who is going through placement
    • help with visioning and reorganizing programming for families with young children and early childhood programming
    • provide guidance on integrating the early childhood families into the life of the congregation

    As for our organization, our 18th “chai” year is also a time of new beginnings.  We have re-imagined our brand, enhanced the professional learning opportunities offered, and revamped the consultative services offered to URJ Congregations. It has been a year of growth and changes within the organization while keeping the vision of ECE-RJ at the forefront: to foster a dynamic community of vibrant early childhood professionals rooted in Reform Judaism.
     
    Please contact me for more information at executivedirector@ecerj.org.  Please also feel free to reach out with any questions or just to introduce yourself! I look forward to supporting the work of the ECE-RJ membership.
     
    Tricia

  • 07 Aug 2018 by Lori Kowit

    Dear Friends,

    As we begin to get ready for a new school year and the High Holy Days, we often find ourselves thinking about the new people who will enter our schools and our synagogues— new students, new parents, new grandparents and caregivers, new teachers and staff members, new and prospective synagogue members, and many, many guests.  Then, our minds quickly jump to the ways we make these new people feel comfortable in our "homes."

    Rabbi Rick Jacobs talks about Audacious Hospitality, “Audacious Hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so people don’t feel excluded. It’s an ongoing invitation to be part of the community—and a way to spiritually transform ourselves in the process. Audacious hospitality is a two-way street where synagogue and stranger need each other, where we not only teach newcomers, but they teach us” (Rabbi Rick Jacobs, March 2014, www. blogs.rj.org/blog/2014/03/17/what-is-audacious-hospitality/).

    In early childhood education, we understand the importance of rituals and routines in everyday life.  They give children a sense of security and control over their environment. Routines allow children to emotionally prepare for changes that are to come.  We might consider the concept of Audacious Hospitality in the same way—not as a temporary or isolated act, but instead as a ritual and routine to give guests a sense of security over their new environment.

    Our days can become busy and overwhelming, and we may forget to take time to notice and perform acts of love and kindness. Traditionally, Jews begin each day with Modeh Ani, the prayer that thanks God for returning the soul to the body, enabling the individual to live another day. What rituals and routines can you add to help children, families, and educators feel connected and welcomed into your school, congregation and community?

    Here are a few wonderful resources:

    www.urj.org/audacioushospitality/audacious-hospitality-toolkit

    www.pjlibrary.org/beyond-books/pjblog/march-2017/a-book-list-about-welcoming-guests

     

    L’Shalom,
    Lori

  • 09 Mar 2018 by Lauretta Thomas

    As a Christian visiting Israel it has strengthened my own faith. I have deeper knowledge and understanding of the miracles that took place there. Sharing the experience with a group of dedicated Early Childhood Jewish Educators made it so much sweeter.

    Today we visited Na'ot Kedumim and learned about the connection between the land, the seven species and the festival cycle. I went to Israel with an open mind, but I am truly transformed from this experience. This sign speaks of the three types of virgin. I went into this experience with a virgin curiosity but came back transformed as a mature woman with a better understanding of my history in this land.

     

     

    Cooking in the garden reminded me of my childhood in the Caribbean surrounded by people I love and appreciate . A special thank you to all the steering committee members for doing such an amazing job.

  • 07 Mar 2018 by Heidi Baker

    It is exactly one week ago that the ECE-RJ Israel Experience ended.  Throughout the eleven days of learning, discussing, questioning, touring, observing, reflecting and listening we learned that Israel is complicated.

    Israel is a unique place in the world a center for many religions and a homeland for Jews.  It is a place where diverse groups of people often live separately and struggle with getting to know the other.

    It is a place of unbelievably historic sites and new developments and expansion.  A place where Israelis ooze pride in their country and their land.  A place where people choose to live with stress and danger in a beautiful area because it is their home.

    It is a place where connections between people are being made with integrated schools, Arab and Jewish teachers meeting together, and a Path to Peace Wall is growing each day.

    What was not complicated was exploring and experiencing this amazing place with our ECE-RJ group.  A committed group of educators learning, sharing. singing, praying, laughing   and crying together as we explored this dynamic country through the lens of an Early Childhood Professional.  This was a group of 40 individuals from all over the United States that truly shared thoughts, opinions, ideas, and lots of questions in a meaningful and respectful way.  Genuine bonds have been created and will continue as we all process and share our wonderfully complicated experience with our staff, friends, and family.

  • 03 Mar 2018 by Stacey Gabriel

    I can’t believe that just one week ago I was in Israel for Shabbat.  I sit here now with my mind spinning with all that I have learned, the people I have met,  and the wonderful experiences I have had. Each day brought new experiences that  topped the one before it.  

    While in Tel Aviv early on in our  trip,  we met a graffiti artist named Rami Meiri.  He explained to us that his mural paintings are a gift to Tel Aviv, the city that he loves.  Rami wants to create an environment for the people who live in Tel Aviv that is happy, peaceful and kind.   Much of his work is whimsical and carefree.  Rami uses the natural settings and the Israeli culture as inspiration for his art.  He is able to take an ordinary wall, doorway, building and create an optical illusion. When I was listening to his explanation for creating a particular mural or talking about his African project I could see the excitement and joy he gets from sharing his work with the world.  

    At the end of our visit Rami had a surprise for us.  We were given paint and brushes and a spot to leave our own mark in Tel Aviv.  I knew immediately what I wanted to paint.  SAAZ in a heart.   I sign all our exitended family cards as SAAZ. The whole time I had been thinking of my family.  The opportunity to go to Israel was a gift and I wanted to share it with my family.  I wished  they were there with me to experience it together.  So, I left my own gift in Tel Aviv for my family.    Stacey, Adam, Alex and Zachary.  

  • 01 Mar 2018 by Tricia Ginis

    Another amazing day in Jerusalem! Our group had the opportunity to work with artist and Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz at Kol Haot, an interactive Jewish educational art program in the enchanting Hutzot HaYotzer Artists’ Colony in Jerusalem. Rabbi Berkowitz walked us through a collage depicting the story of the binding of Isaac showing us how a story can be told with pictures. It was incredible so see the story unfold without the use of words. We then used the same technique to trace our journey through Israel on the 2018 ECE-RJ Israel Experience. Choosing 10 key components and assigning colors to represent these, the group worked individually and some with partners to create a timeline story of our journey together. It was a wonder opportunity to reflect on what we each experienced, what we have learned and how we can take what we learned and bring it back to our early childhood programs.

    Learn More about Kol Haot

    Check out a slideshow of our visit

  • 28 Feb 2018 by Karen Lucy

    The ECE-RJ journey to Israel revealed many walls and/or barriers; the cold, protective walls facing Gaza, the holy and inspirational wall in Jerusalem and the earth tone sand walls of Negev.  In contrast of these barriers, the visits to the various preschools created such hope and dreams for the future of Jewish children in Israel and the United States.  As an educator, I choose to view my world through a bright lens encouraging children to develop their strengths for success. Likewise, the Ella tree in Negev displays towering strength of growth in a relatively barren ecosystem. Continue to stand tall, sisters, by guiding children like the Ella tree.  


    Ode To Ella

    As I rest beneath your expansive arms -
      always welcoming
      always strong.

    I imagine you at other times -
      as you mature
      as you grow.

    Were others kind to you -
      were they respectful
      were they interested?

    At times I feel your crisp, cool breath -
      it tingles my skin
      it makes me smile.

    Ella, your earthly beauty -
      is majestic
      is surreal.

    Another day, another time -
      I hope to see you bloom!

  • 28 Feb 2018 by Laurie Matez

     Today we left from Tel Aviv to go to Kfar Aza, a kibbutz on the border of The Gaza Strip.  One might ask themselves whether or not this is a safe place to be, and I too was curious as I had never thought of being in a place where I might be in danger. We were assured that we were safe, and that our experience would be intriguing. Upon arrival at Kfar Aza, we had the opportunity to meet with the childhood director for the gan on site.  She gave us insight into another childhood education system and style. We were lucky to speak with Ralph Lewinson, the sort of manager of the kibbutz to explain to us why he chose to live in this area and what the kibbutz life has to offer.  Ralph explained the history of where his family was from, and claimed “before I came to Israel I had no soul - I came HOME.” He also explained the manner in which children on this kibbutz...and around Israel are protected and that they do not live in fear.  They are aware of what goes on around them and best equipped to handle the challenges of living so close to the Gaza Strip. One final quote which touched my soul was that “Israel is an island of sanity in a sea of insanity.” Use your imagination to picture what that means for Israel, it’s people, and those around its land.

    We took a bus ride to a small area called Moshav, where we had a visit with a lady named Tzameret. She lives close to the Gaza area, and feels the daily stress of living in an area threatened by missiles.  She took her fear and created an art piece called “Path to Peace” wall where she created mosaic stones to be placed on a wall between Israel and Gaza. We participated in this amazing and moving workshop by placing our stones on the wall. We gathered together in front of the wall to sing “oseh shalom” as a group.  This was so powerful being all together with a common idea of peace for our world. Even though we stood not far from Gaza, there was a sense of calm, togetherness, and hope that there could one day be a peace for all.

    our final stop for the night was for a dinner in Yerucham.  We were treated to a dinner made by a woman who provides food for the people in her town.  She has a unique back story of her path in life, however, she has surely found her home here cooking for those around her.  She is one of the queens of Yerucham.

    off to Mashabey Sade kibbutz for our overnight!

  • 27 Feb 2018 by Sonia Ferreria

    What a different experience- impossible not to float. Floating in the Dead Sea is THE most unique experience I have ever had in my life! Walking into the water you can feel a salty ness on your skin. At waist level the water just seems to pick you up! It is a weird feeling at first, but I relaxed and it was fun and somewhat unbelievable that one can float so effortlessly. Floating in the Dead Sea is like a life lesson…Sometimes in life you just have to let go and go along for the ride, or float in this case! Once you let go, amazing things can happen! For me, the fact that I was floating in the Dead Sea made my heart full of joy!! I felt inspired and the luckiest girl in the world to have the sun shining above me. ~The most important tip is to have fun and enjoy the fact that you are floating in the saltiest body of water in the world and are standing on the lowest point of dry land on Earth!

  • 25 Feb 2018 by Laurie Matez

     Each day will begin with a welcoming of the day either through Music or conversation. Today we journey to the center of Jerusalem, the old city.  Our tour guide gives us a vast history of the Jewish people, Christian people, and Arab people. We enter the old city and immediately you can feel the difference from being outside the walls. Quaint streets, people walking everywhere, and of course a deep history.As we walked down the first street we see a man with a cart full of food rushing to this family, to get ready for Shabbat. We walk through the streets Learning and exploring the many sites within these walls. We have the opportunity to approach the Western Wall and place a  note among the many pieces of paper waiting for their wish to come true. It is eye opening to see the separation of the men and women, although all are deep in prayer and thought in this area. It is a moving experience to sit with others and explore the feelings we have of those who have not come to Israel, or those that we bring along with us wether  in their shoes, wearing their jackets, or just having them with us in our hearts. After a quick lunch, our guide takes us on a tour of the Christian quarter where we walk through the market to get to the Church of the Holy Sepluchre. It’s amazing architecture and structure are so detailed.

    we finish our day with a visit to Kol Haneshama synagogue to join the community in prayer. Dinner in the hotel ends our evening together, Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!

  • 25 Feb 2018 by Tricia Ginis

    Israel Experience participants enjoyed, "the rare opportunity to touch your roots." with an Archaeological Seminars Institute "Dig for a Day" program. 

    According to the ASI website, "The Dig for a Day program runs three hours. The activity includes: digging, sifting, pottery examination and touring the National Park of Beit Guvrin with an exciting crawl through unexcavated cave systems. Currently, Archaeological Seminars is digging at Tel Maresha, in the area of Beit Guvrin, ancestral home of King Herod. Vast underground labyrinths of man-made rooms are being systematically cleaned and give evidence of underground industrial complexes dating from the Hellenistic period. Remains of olive oil production, weaving installations, water cisterns and baths confirm a high level of material culture."

    We did the dig in 2 of the excavation rooms - Ana and Ronen. Half of the group did the crawl through the unexcavated cave system while the other half went to see how olive oil is made inside a fully excavated cave.

    Check out this quick slideshow of the ECE-RJ visit to the site.

  • 25 Feb 2018 by Carol Paster

    Pen Pals and Olive Wood 

    Shared by Carol Paster
    Photos shared by Tricia Ginis 

    What started out as a simple Facebook post by a fellow woodworker remarking that he was lucky to find a small olive tree branch on the side of the road became an international trades deal thanks to the kindness of strangers. Realizing that olive trees aren’t native to the east coast, I did a little research and found that this wood was from Jerusalem. 
    I immediately contacted Yosef who said he’d be happy to trade his olive wood for something less available in Israel. After 3 months of exchanging ‘pen pal letters’, I had all but given up hope on finding a way to meet Yosef. But leave it to Batya, our incredible tour guide, to arrange for Yosef to meet our bus as we passed by his town.

  • 24 Feb 2018 by Laurie Matez

    A visit to Mashabey Sade classrooms is the first thing on our agenda today.   It has been so wonderful to visit the classrooms in Israel, not only to see the differences, but to see the similarities. Although our languages are different, we are able to speak with the classroom teachers and get a sense of their daily routine’s. It truly is wonderful to see how valued the children are in Israel. They are number one. I believe as we take care of children on a daily basis, they should be .

    Next up, a short day hike in the Erin Avdat nature reserve. Any ideas of what the desert is have completely been removed from my mind. In previous thoughts I imagine sand dunes and many plateaus . This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The desert or Negev, is a wonderful example of layers and layers of history and rock, along with beautiful waters that flow through the land, trees many years old, and nature which grows in places we could not even know. The beauty of the Negev is how peaceful and serene it is all while divulging the history it has to offer.

    Imagine, that all your life you have not visited Israel. You have in your mind a picture of what you believe to be the western wall in the city of Jerusalem. The excitement builds as you’re driving in the bus closer and closer to the city limits. Upon arrival, the  surroundings change, and you begin to see a variety of Jewish people. As we ascend  the road to the top where Jerusalem lies, I get more and more excited as to what lies ahead. 

    We arrive at the Haas promenade for a blessing and a first glance from afar of the holy city.  I am eager to explore this city and to find my connection to its history.

     

  • 24 Feb 2018 by Susan Anderson

    On our seventh day, it was Shabbat. After those seven days of early mornings into late evenings of learning, exploring, processing, discovering and opening ourselves up to more emotions, questions and feelings than we ever thought possible we were very ready for Shabbat.  The morning started off slow wih some people opting to explore the city on foot, have a late, leisurely breakfast, find a new delicious coffee spot or catch up on some much needed sleep. At 10:30am, we all came together after our mornings in smaller groups or alone in Haatzmaut park.  We brought yoga mats onto the grass, gathered as close together as we could to begin our Shabbat experience. "Look where we are!" Shira gestured to the sky and our surroundings. To be together, in the middle of Jerusalem, experiencing this beautiful curated Shabbat celebration was absolutely incredible. 

    The park was full of different prayer groups, families enjoying the warm weather with a picnic or reading books, a group of people playing Frisbee and many people walking their dogs. We drew some attention and a handful of people came close and even joined in by sitting nearby or jumping on a yoga mat and going through the poses with us.  The community that we felt together began to blossom into the community of all of those around us. We weren't all saying the same prayers in the same way, but we were together in that beautiful park, called to be outside and experience something personal, but together. 

    The Shabbat experience incorporated song, prayer and chanting led by Shira Kline and special guests Yoel Sykes and Daphna Rosenberg from Nava Tehila. It didn't take long for our entire group to be surrounded by harmony as we came together over words both familiar and new.  Mary led us in "embodied morning prayer" stretching our bodies and breathing deeply. Laurie helped us explore our Spiritual Wardrobe and we ended dancing in a glorious smush. 

    After a quick lunch back at our hotel, we had some free time to use as we wished.  Everyone split off into small groups, some to do more exploring or shopping and a small group of us went to the Israel Museum.  

    The museum wasn't very crowded and full of interesting exhibits. It felt good to quietly walk in between exhibits and see everything from the modern Ai Weiwei exhibit to the Dead Sea Scrolls and everything in between.  The museum was surrounded by a gorgeous outdoor art garden that led to a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.  An exhibit of chimes filled the air with delicate music as you explored all of the different paths and sculptures. 

    This Ai Weiwei installation made entirely of Lego definitely spoke to the early childhood educator in me!

    We returned to the hotel with enough time to quickly get ready to meet back at the park for Havdalah. We sat in the falling twilight and allowed ourselves to really feel the transition from Shabbat to the week. We waited for stars to appear in the Jerusalem sky and were led in meditative music by Shira and guest vocalist Netanel Goldberg. "Sing however you need to to sing yourself home" Netanel guided us. Again, our voices raised into the skies of Jerusalem as we huddled closer than we thought possible and whispered a holy goodbye to Shabbat as darkness swept over the park. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Each day on this trip I experience amazing things that will be forever solidified in my memory, but I think that Shabbat in Jerusalem, surrounded by this group of women, wrapped in songs, prayers and chants that have become a comforting soundtrack to my every day thoughts...this may be the memory that shines the brightest.

  • 23 Feb 2018 by Tricia Ginis

    The Israel Experience participants were fortunate to take in the inspiring work of the "Path of Peace" project. Find out more about this incredible project at the Path to Peace website.

    "Path to Peace" - is a joint mosaic creation, by thousands of people, towards hope, love, and happiness among all people. The creation is placed upon the border wall that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel, adjacent to the homes of Moshav Netiv HaAsara.

    The creation is seen from both sides of the wall, spreads on the gray security wall and completely changes the place's atmosphere.

    In this unique project, the visitors are invited to take an active part in the creation of the peace wall, every visitor writes a personal wish on the back of a colorful mosaic piece and glues it onto the security wall. The mosaic pieces are made by hand-work in the Path to Peace workshop. Among the colorful and optimistic pieces, we can find different designs such as flower and butterflies, mosaic pieces with the word Peace in different languages and more.

    Tricia Ginis shared some colorful photos of their visit to this unique site. 

  • 23 Feb 2018 by Tricia Ginis
    Israel Experience particpants recently visited "Bustan Yafa" - a bi-lingual (Hebrew, Arabic) kindergarten, that operates according to the Waldorf educational methodology and serves children of both nations. The kindergarten was established in 2010 by Ihab and Ora Balha, out of a personal need to provide their own children with an educational solution that would continue the manner in which they were educating their children at home: integrating two languages, religions and cultures, in a path of love. Beyond bi-lingual education and multiculturalism, we also stress humaneness and respect between people and people and the earth, and works to educate towards sustainability. The children experience the connection between people and the earth, without harming the environment, while showing their respect for the earth and creation. Find out more at their website: http://www.bismilla.org/copy-of-sufism-1

    Here are pics from our visit to Orchard of Abraham’s Children courtesy of Tricia Ginis:

     

  • 22 Feb 2018 by Laurie Matez

    Wow, wow, wow! I could not imagine that our second day could be even more momentous than the first.  I came to Israel as part of an educators trip to see preschools and learn about the land of Israel.

    I never imagined the impact I would feel from all my interactions and observations.

    We started our day with a visit to Ashkol Yachalom .  We were treated to a most delicious breakfast selection, followed by a delightful group of children singing songs of peace, love and harmony. We enjoyed a whirlwind visit to their gan, to see how they experience education in their communities.

    From there, we were on our way to the city of Holon. We met Rabbi Galit who gave us a short commentary on the creation and challenge of developing a pluralistic school community and congregation.  We went to visit these two ganim, and saw the differences from the one before. Each school has its own charm and its own style.

    Our third stop to the Orchard of Abraham children’s garden, was to me, the most touching.  We met Ihab, an Arab man, and his wife, Ora, a Jewish woman. We sat in the garden of their school for a brief introduction to their life and how this school came to be. These two created this school for their children so there would be a place of neutral learning and appreciation.  They hired both native Arab and Hebrew speakers as the teachers so the children would be exposed naturally to both languages and would not have to choose which they were more comfortable using, as they would be able to use what came to them automatically.  After some small confusion, we were invited back to their home for som lunch and the remainder of the story of how they met.

    We took off our shoes as we entered their sacred home and sat on the floor, eager to try the foods created by the women of the town who cook in order to make their living.  We feasted on homemade hummus, labeneh, rice with veggies, and various salads….all too delicious to describe.  While sitting in their home, they told us the story of their journey to be together and the unimaginable hatred they had to endure before they came together as one.  They have three beautiful children and a strength beyond words.

    We think that life is easy, but it is not. Each day there are real struggles all across our world.  These visits are eye opening to the long road ahead of us.  I reflect deeply on what I am seeing and ask myself how will this change me and the way I view others.

  • 20 Feb 2018 by Laurie Matez

    I am so lucky to be able to be in Israel on the trip of a lifetime. I’ve thought about my expectations for this trip, and I have set them aside. I go into this trip with an open mind and open heart to absorb all I can from the land of Israel.

     Our day begin with introductions and welcome of Shira (both Kline and song), encouraging us to reach into our very being and to feel all which we will experience.

    We started our tour with our guide, Eli, who took us through the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek.  This neighborhood is an old neighborhood, the first outside of Jaffa and sits in the shadow of the modern city Tel Aviv. We are introduced to many famous people who have helped to develop and settle the area.

    After this tour of the quaint city, we headed over to Independence Hall for an introduction to the history of when Israel became a state. We  listened as David Ben-Gurion read aloud the declaration of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. This was followed by the shehechianu  blessing and the singing of Hatikva, the national anthem of Israel, where we all stood and sang together.

    Following this emotional moment, we walked in the city to the Carmel shuk, or market.. It was exciting to walk through the narrow paths and look at all the colors of the fruits, vegetables, spices, candies  and other items for sale. It was a an explosion of the mind.

    We were treated to a graffiti tour by the artist Remi Meiri.  He took us through the streets to show us the artwork which is painted in the city to enhance the peoples experience as they walk or drive through the streets. We had a visit to his art studio, and were excited to paint our very own masterpiece on the city walls.

    To end our evening, we went to the cooking studio for a hands on experience creating delicious Israeli cuisine to eat. We had such fun sharing, laughing, and being in our hevruta, or friends group.

    I cannot imagine what tomorrow will bring.                         

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