The Journey Begins…
By Hope Chernak and Emma Osborn, Temple Shaaray Tefila staff
Shalom Parents, Friends and Members of Shaaray Tefila! We are incredibly honored and excited to have started our journey to Israel as part of our Gateways and Tents partnership with Ohel Avraham-Leo Baeck Education Center! This evening, the families of the students from Shaaray Tefila gathered for a tekes (ceremony) in the Davis Auditorium. We received a special blessing and opening message from Rabbi Deborah Hirsch, followed by prayers led by Hope Chernak and Emma Osborn using the Reform Movement’s Birkon Artzi. During our tekes, parents were asked to give a special private blessing to their students and before we ended with singing Oseh Shalom together, we heard final advice and thoughts from five alum of our teen exchange program that represented cohorts 1, 2, and 3. It was a beautiful addition to our program to have students join us from the past years to be part of tonight’s special moment as we embark on another journey.
Our big adventure started shortly after as we headed to JFK. Then after our flight, we landed safely in Israel!! We were greeted with warm smiles and huge hugs from members of our Israeli cohort! All of us are all overjoyed to be here together, in Israel.
Here are some words from our participants regarding the start to our journey: “I spent so much time thinking about this trip and preparing for it. I spent the week packing and with every meeting we had at temple over the last week, I got more and more excited. Now I have landed in Israel waiting to meet the Israeli teens and I’m super excited, and also a little bit nervous. I can’t believe that I’m really here and it’s amazing that in just a little while I will be with my host family and will finally get to meet my teen.”-Sara B “We just got here after the flight, and the first thing that I have to say, is that the ice coffee is great. I’m not really sure if it should be called iced coffee because in reality it’s just a milkshake. Going forward, I’m really excited for having more coffee, trying new things, and meeting and learning all about the Israelis over the next 10 days. I know I will have a lot more to say about this group, but for now- the coffee rocks!” -Josh D
“It’s crazy for me to think about the fact that we are finally in Israel after so many months of preparation and excitement. I can’t wait to meet my Israeli and finally get to see Israel. I’ve been hearing about this place since I was born and I can’t believe that I’m finally here.” -Elena M
“Day one- WE JUST LANDED IN TEL AVIV!!! I keep asking myself “is this even real?” “Am I actually here?” We are currently waiting for the Israelis to pick us up from the airport. My Israeli is Gal! She’s so nice and so sweet I can’t wait to give her a big hug and get to know her even better! I’ve pictured this day in my head since the day I knew I would be a part of the teen exchange this year. I can’t express how excited I am to make such great memories with such amazing people, learn amazing new things, and discover who I am! I’m so grateful to be here with Shaaray Tefila and thankful to my parents and for Shaaray Tefila for this opportunity be part of this special program -Hannah S