Sophie Reiss, a participant on the BINA GAP Shnat Sherut year, reflects on her experience in GAP Shnat Sherut, communa weekend and a special way to celebrate a birthday.
Up until the Israeli Government announce the most recent lockdown my week had been fairly normal: Maddy and I continued working on a fundraiser for Kuchinate (a nonprofit for African asylum-seeking women) in the mornings, and we also began a new project helping one of the women, Hadas, start her own nail salon! We are working with her on finding clients, scheduling them, and supporting her in building systems so that she can eventually run everything herself. I then went to the menash (an after-school center for kids that I volunteer at in the evenings). Fewer kids came to the menash last week, and initially I was disappointed, but ultimately it allowed me to connect more deeply with some of the kids.
Normally, I come home from the menash too late to help dinner during the week but because we had so few kids last week, we ended earlier than usual. I spent most of my nights cooking and learning new recipes from other members of my communa. I came into this year not knowing how to cook at all, but since we cook all our meals for ourselves as a communa, it’s impossible not to learn.
At the end of the week we had a communa weekend, which means we got to spend the whole weekend together. Friday night we made Shabbat dinner, and then on Saturday we had a belated Christmas activity where we all baked and decorated cookies and then watched "Love, Actually" while drinking hot chocolate. On Saturday night, we got the news that a few members of the communa had to go back home to quarantine, AND that after spending time in temporary apartments, we would be moving to our permanent home. From then we spent most of our time packing up the apartment. When we had some extra time we enjoyed fun activities together, like having a pizza-making night.
Then on Tuesday, we moved! It’s taken us a few days to unpack and while it’s snug with the whole group home, but it’s so nice to finally be able to settle in, and the apartment is right by the beach!
Of course with the announcement of Seger and three communa members in quarantine things began to look a little different. Maddy and I were still able to do some of our work for Kuchinate from home on our computers, but none of us went to our menashes until the end of the week. However, Thursday morning, we had the opportunity to package winter clothes and blankets for Holocaust survivors and families in need. In the midst of all of this, my birthday was this past Thursday. Right as the clock struck midnight, my roommates ran into my room to sing me happy birthday. In the morning I woke up to surprise pancakes and chocolate for breakfast, and then we all headed out to volunteer.
After this, we had a little bit of free time, so we had a picnic on the beach in Yaffo.
In the afternoon I zoomed into my Hebrew class with Maddy and Ruth from their menash and helped out there for a few hours. Later that night we all got dressed up and celebrated New Years’ Eve together and had a dance party late into the night. We ended the night all watching one of my favorite movies on my computer on the floor. Even though I was away from all my family and friends back home, my communa made my birthday so special and I felt so lucky to be able to spend it with them.
GAP Shnat Sherut