It’s been a jam-packed two weeks on Midwest TJJ, with 40 teens on the Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation Bus traveling across the country, experiencing the Jewish past and present – and thinking about their own Jewish futures.
After spending the first week of TJJ in Israel’s north, the teens headed south to Eilat, and from there to the Dead Sea and Masada. They also spent a day in Sderot, learning about the challenges of living less than a mile from Gaza.
From there it was on to Tel Aviv and finally, Jerusalem, where they explored the Old City, toured Yad Vashem and, of course, made a memorable visit to the Kotel.
How have these experiences – and so many others – impacted our teens?
Read on to find out…
In One Word, Our Teens Are…
Emma (second from l.) says a recent visit to Dialogue in the Dark/The Blind Museum has really made her stop and think.
“We were put into pitch black rooms and had to rely on all our other senses besides sight,” she says. “A big takeaway I had was that I’m really grateful for my sight – and anything else I may have that other people may not have.”
Before coming on this trip, I had a lot of Jewish pride, and I was really comfortable with my Jewish identity,” says Rebecca. “But I always kind of felt a stubbornness and a closed off feeling when it came to certain things with [Judaism.]”
Rebecca attributes this new feeling of openness to the TJJ staff’s efforts to put “purpose and meaning into every program.” And she says she felt this most when visiting the Kotel.
“Rabbi Jeremy told us a story and made the experience so meaningful, and really prepped us for when we went to the Wall,” says Rebecca. “I was so present. I just felt myself open up.”
For Nathan, physically being in Israel has helped him connect to Jewish community.
“[It] just helps me connect spiritually because it’s a whole land of all Jews,” he says.
At the same time, being surrounded by Jews has made him think about his own Jewish connection.
“It’s just bought me to a better place, spiritually, closer to G-d,” says Nathan. “And I just feel better here.”
Ilana found that inspiration on a recent visit to Me’arat Hamachpeila, the Tomb of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs in Hebron.
“It inspired me as a Jew because I was inspired by their characteristics, and I feel they paved the way for my Judaism,” she says.
After hearing the stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, Ilana says she felt a special kinship to Rachel, though she isn’t buried at Me’arat Hamachpeila.
“I feel connected to her, and I find her very interesting and want to learn more about her,” says Ilana. “[This trip] really helped shine a light on me wanting to learn more as a Jew.”