By Hannah Gilfix
As we spent our final Shabbaton together, we spent a lot of time relaxing, bonding, hiking, and reflecting on our semester together. Amongst the time we spent in the waves in the Kinneret, we had a number of programs to help us reflect on what we’re taking away from this semester. We all came from different backgrounds, experienced many things together but interpreted them differently this semester, and have different futures. Because of this, I was wondering what it would be like for all of us to come together to share what we’re taking home with us as our time in Israel comes to a close.
Since we were all aware of how vastly different our experiences this semester were, the rabbis began the program by acknowledging that and by explaining how it’s not only okay, but actually good, that we’re all walking away with different take-aways. Earlier in the weekend Rabbi Zeff led a program about reverse culture shock, where we discussed how it may be hard to go home and reunite with people we haven’t seen in five months; how somethings may be the same and how others will have changed; how some people will want to hear all about our experiences and how others won’t. Connecting the two programs together, we were all asked to share what our “elevator pitch” will be when we share what we’re taking away from this semester to our families and friends at home.
There was a wide range of ideas and take-aways shared, as expected. The elevator pitches ranged from a new understanding and capability of reading Jewish text, to a new desire to become a Jewish professional, to feeling that we have a new network of 41 passionate and understanding people. While the answers varied, we were all able to relate to at least one part of every person’s answer. I felt like this was a perfect way to reflect on our semester together and showed how truly incredible this semester has been, and how truly different it has also been for each one of us.
Not one person had the exact same take-aways as someone else, but each of us took away something truly meaningful and something that will stick with us for a very long time. As a group of people who all started the semester in incredibly different places, it’s amazing to see how we all were able to come together for the betterment of the group and to help each other grow in so many ways. It is also amazing to see what a special bond we’ve all formed as a group and how although we are all about to continue down our separate paths, we’ll always have this experience and each other to rely on, and this activity proved just that.
By Max Silverstone
For our final Shabbaton, we stayed at a lakeside resort in Ein Gev, on the Eastern side of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). In addition to hiking together, swimming together, learning together and spending shabbat together, this weekend was defined for me by our bonfires on the beach. On Thursday night, after we all got to tie dye our own Nachshon shirts, we gathered at the smooth and serene shores of the Kinneret to spend time together as a cohort laughing, eating, singing, and bonding.
Running this bonfire was a great way for many of us to use the same skills we use at our various camps. The fire was prepared by fellows who also do that very same job over the summer. We enjoyed s’mores and banana boats (bananas filled with chocolate and marshmallows, wrapped in tinfoil and put over a fire). This got to run smoothly because a few fellows took initiative to organize the food and help distribute it in an orderly manner, something every camp counselor knows all too well. Most importantly to me, we sang many songs together, in English and Hebrew, familiar and new. We were led by Leah Sherin, Hannah Taylor, and myself singing and playing guitar, and Adina Samuels accompanying on the violin. I also brought some basic percussion instruments, and got to pass them around to fellows who wanted to use them to add to our beautiful sound. The four of who lead the singing all had combined experience in the four major denominations of American Judaism, and this added priceless value to our making music together. The cohort sang together on the beach while the fire burned, learning each others’ music, while we watched the still waters of the Kinneret, with the holy city of Tiberias on the other side.
While planning music for the bonfire, I talked to fellows and other friends about what songs to use. Along with breaking out some classics I’ve known for years, I also learned a few new songs, that I heard other people in the cohort might be familiar with, even if I did not grow up singing them at camp. It was incredible to see other people knowing and getting into the music they had known for years, but I had only known for a few days. It really made me feel the beauty of participating in a program that brings together Jews from all backgrounds. Music breaks down the barriers between denominations, between political differences, and between the towns, synagogues, youth groups, schools, and camps we come from.
By Leah Sherin
Although the semester is not yet over, we already experienced one of our closing programs as we spent Shabbat together in Ein Gev on the beautiful Kinneret. This Shabbaton was a really special culminating experience, from a meaningful community Kabbalat Shabbat on the beach, to spending Shabbat afternoon swimming in the Kinneret, the weekend was an amazing experience to bond as a cohort before the end of the semester. In addition, the programming and experiences throughout the weekend brought together many of my experiences from the semester. One particular program that felt especially full-circle for me was Rabbi Cohen’s discussion and text study on community building.
In this program, Rabbi Cohen opened with a short discussion about community. He framed how we wanted to use this program to reflect on how we built a community, almost from scratch, this semester. He wanted us to consider what elements were necessary to build our community, what all of us had to bring in order to build community, and how our community can continue after we leave. We were then given a source sheet that included many different short texts related to community building. We broke in to groups and spent some time working with one or two others to study this text in terms of how we built community and investigate what answers the text could provide for us.
If I had been given a sheet that looked like this at the beginning of the semester, I would have reacted differently. Before coming on Nachshon, I had very little exposure to any kind of text study and very hesitant whenever presented with it. I thought of text study as a major area of Judaism in which I was lacking knowledge, so much so that I couldn’t even approach it. Of course, I am not a scholar after one semester. But one of the most important takeaways from this semester has been knowing that I can approach a text without being nervous about it, and that I can find a takeaway even if I haven’t previously studied it. When this page was passed out, I found a surprising feeling of not being too nervous, and I felt comfortable reading this short paragraph with my group and trying to understand how it might influence my understanding about the community we built. Continue reading
By Shira Forester
“Even in complete darkness, a single light is enough to illuminate an entire room. Just one spark, one flame, has the power to transform total darkness and to allow us to see what we might not have been able to see before.”
These are the words that another fellow from my cohort, Jenna, spoke as she taught us our power as individuals who make up an entire cohort. She guided us through a reflective ceremony that both acknowledged how influential we all are as individuals, but also showed us how much light we can bring to a space when we are a group.
With complete darkness in the room, she began by lighting a single candle. One small candle instantly brought light and comfort to all of us. She then lit another fellow’s candle, and told her to light the candle in the hands of the fellow beside her. “The unique thing about light,” she explained, “is that when we share it, it doesn’t take away from our own original light. Instead, we can share with others and burn even brighter together.”
As the flames continued to ignite around the circle, we could all feel the warmth and see the brightness that was growing. Jenna encouraged us to watch as our flames were burning upwards, towards the sky. Even if we tried to rotate the candle, the flame continued upward. Jenna reminded us that, like the flames, we are always striving to go up and work to become the best version of ourselves.
Just prior to this program that inspired us to use the lights within us to bring more brightness into the world, we had another wonderful fellow-led program. Two other members of cohort, Mady and Elana, taught us more about each one of our unique contributions we bring to the world. They did this by giving us each a small journal, and asking us to write our names on the first page. We then passed each journal around the room, signing each of our peers’ journals with a short, anonymous message. This gave us the opportunity to reflect on how each member of the cohort has impacted us, and letting them know how much we appreciate them. At the end of the activity, our journals returned to us, filled with forty notes to make us smile. Continue reading