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.
In our little text study, my group and I discussed a text that described what an individual must contribute to a community based on how long they have lived there. Based on the source, one should contribute more and more as they live there longer. This made sense to us—as you take more from a community you should give more, and as you become more established in a community you should give more. But how does this apply to our Nachshon Project community? We built a community from scratch, with all of us joining at the same time, getting to know each other and our community. Yet somehow, although we were new, we all contributed to the community right away and we were able to build a community from scratch. This study highlighted the unique ability of our cohort to come together, and brought the semester full circle for me—using text to remind me how lucky I am to be a part of a community like this.