For the past five months, BINA Gap Participants have been able to be completely immersed within Israeli culture and lifestyle. And as time passed we came to the conclusion that we missed the comfort of the way we celebrate Shabbat at home. We wanted to share with the Israelis a piece of our home, considering they graciously invite us over to theirs for off weekends. It became clear that it would be impossible to squeeze everything into one weekend so the international participants collectively decided to fixate on what felt like the most core aspects of our relationship to Judaism: religion, culture, and asking questions. We decided to replicate a conservative Friday night – filled with singing, praying, and of course matza balls. Saturday continued with a day full of learning. Starting off the weekend with a religious kabbalat Shabbat created a new atmosphere we had yet to experience in mechina. We did the traditional brachot, including the blessing for the children – done by our madricha. The feeling of community and family really shined through that night, making the internationals feel right at home.
The following morning we, led a mishbetzet (learning session) on antisemitism in America. In our regular schedule we have a class once a week entitled: “Couples Therapy,” where we discuss the relationship between Israelis and Jews in the diaspora. Through the months of learning, we realized that the discussion wasn’t always balanced. We constantly hear about Israel on the news and more often than not have to defend the land of our people; while Israelis almost never hear about attacks of antisemitism. After the shooting in Texas, we felt it was our duty to educate our peers. The Israelis were shocked to learn of our own personal experiences, as well as how much antisemitism has affected our relationship to Judaism. The conversation was so impactful that we ended up talking for hours and even sparked conversations throughout the whole day.
Afterwards we believed it critical to show the beauty that is able to come out of our diasporic experience. To show the culture and comedy Jews have established in the world we had a viewing of Seinfeld, as well a parshat hashavua on Mishpatim. One of if not the most vital aspect of conservative Judaism is to ask questions and invite curiosity. We conversed over what it means to have a Jewish society and view on the world. It was incredible to share such personal aspects of our lives with the Israelis, as well as take initiative in mechina. Being able to lead the whole weekend gave us the freedom to execute the Shabbat how we saw fit. The Shabbat was definitely a highlight of my year so far and to know it came from our hard work made it even more impactful.
// Odelya Kalmanofsky