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Yom Sheini, 4 Adar 5778
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11 September 2016

Temple Student Experiences First Shabbat in Israel

By Rabbi Ethan Prosnit

We are so excited to introduce our guest blogger Marissa Steiner. Marissa was confirmed this past year and she has chosen to spend her first semester in Israel with the Reform Movement's EIE program. http://nftyeie.org/. Throughout the semester Marissa will be sharing some of her experiences and reflections on the program!

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“Shalom from Jerusalem!  My name is Marissa Steiner and I am an 11th grader from Springfield, and the PVP of TEWTY this year. I am so appreciative of our Temple's support of my semester in Israel (4 months) with NFTY-EIE!

Last week I spent my first Shabbat in Israel at the Kotel. Arriving at the wall, my EIE friends and I participated in our group T'filah while admiring the wall. Later, we had the opportunity to go up to the Western Wall and pray, and put in our notes. Seeing all the people pray differently and fill the wall with notes of their prayers as we walked away with our backs never facing the wall, I felt a part of a bigger community. Dressing in long skirts and conservative clothing isn't really my forte, but experiencing Shabbat at the Kotel made it all worth it. As the day grew darker and it became time to return back home, my friends and I stood in pure admiration as the whole city stopped to pray together for Shabbat. It was something I had never seen before, and truly special. The more time I spend here in Israel at Kibbutz Tzuba, the more it feels like home. With that being said, Shabbat ShaHome!”

18 March 2016

5th Grade Retreat Focuses on God

By Rabbi Sarah Smiley, Shari Rothstein, and Madricha Brooke Tepper

5th Grade Retreat

On Friday night, March 11, 18 excited 5th graders arrived at Camp Harlam.

We started by picking beds and learning names. Then we had a yummy Shabbat dinner together and Rabbi Smiley along with our song leader, Jason Flatt led Shabbat services. We learned a song called B'tzelem Elohim, about being created in God's image, which we sang throughout the whole trip. Next we played ice breaker games using different types of candy to get to know each other and find our commonalities. To end the night we made s'mores.

After an early wake up on Saturday morning we had an engaging and thoughtful Shabbat morning service. We were so impressed with the 5th graders who led V'ahavtah and chanted their prayers loudly. Throughout the day, we learned about God. We had a scavenger hunt in our prayer book to find all of the different names for God. One of the things we discussed was the gender of God and whether God is even a person. We decorated mirrors to remind us that when we see ourselves we should always remember that we are created in the image of God. We went God shopping and had to "buy" concepts of God. We had to decide if we saw God as a creator, a ruler, our conscience, a protector or our partner. Then we had some free time during our busy day and had lots of fun playing gaga and basketball.  Some of us rolled down chapel on the hill and others walked around the whole camp! Everyone made some new friends. We closed the weekend with havdalah and some reflection. Overall, this weekend was filled with lots of fun, friends and learning.

04 March 2016

It’s Like Riding a Bike: Returning Home to Israel

By Rabbi Sarah Smiley

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Central Conference of American Rabbis Convention in Israel. This was my first time retuning to Israel since I began working at Temple Emanu-El. Five years away from our homeland was way too long. Before traveling, I was nervous about how I would feel once I arrived and if I would have the same connection while walking the land that I once did when I was there more often. I quickly learned that it was like riding a bike; everything came back to me; my connection, my feelings, my love/hate relationship with a place that is my home. This trip, however, was not like any other I had taken. The opportunities I had with the CCAR were awe inspiring.  

I journeyed into the West Bank and visited both the first Palestinian planned city of Rawabi and a Jewish settlement near the ancient town of Shiloh. I learned about how Israel is one of the premier start up nations. I studied text with colleagues. I soaked up every bit of knowledge that I could during my short trip.

Kotel picAlthough I might not remember every text I learned or every company I visited, I do know that I will remember my visit to the Kotel. One of the mornings, I chose to wake up before the sun and journey with other reform rabbis to the Kotel. This visit to the Kotel, however, was different. Instead of walking by myself in the women’s section up to the wall, we prayed as a coed collective group at the place that will hopefully one day become the egalitarian section. I raised my voice together with men and women as we sang the morning prayers and read Torah. The collective prayer, however, was not the moment that I will remember forever. I will always remember the moment when Rabbi Josh (my husband) and I, sharing his tallit, silently prayed our individual prayers while touching the wall together. I can’t even describe in words what this moment was like for me. The first time I visited the Kotel, when I was 16, it was nothing more than a pile of bricks. This visit, however, I embraced the wall and my husband at the same time. I can only hope that the progressive movement in Israel is able to bring this dream into a reality in the future for anyone who wants to have this same experience. 

This trip home was way too short, but the memories and learning I will carry with me forever. 

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