by the Chalutzim Unit Staff
Throughout the session, Chalutzim has explored one central question: What does it mean to be Jewish?
It might have to do with cultural unity, giving back to the community, and, in the case of this unit’s trip, learning opportunities. On a four day trek throughout Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, Chalutzim learned about Jewish history, identity, and values in past, present, and future.
The trip kicked off in Ocoee, Tennessee, for a couple of hours of white water rafting before departing for Whitwell, TN to visit the Whitwell Middle School’s Children’s Holocaust Memorial. Known for the documentary “Paper Clips,” a school project that evolved into movement by collecting symbols of Nazi resistance to recognize millions of lives lost, the monument houses about 11 million paper clips; it had a powerful impact on the campers. It used an authentic German rail car, which measures 7.73 x 3 meters and transported 100 Jews at a time during the Holocaust, to represent the hardship.
On Day 2, Chalutzim continued their journey in learning about the effects of discrimination in black history. Prejudice is not limited to religion, and unfortunately, it still exists today. But by visiting the Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the campers are more aware of the issues humankind has overcome and have the power of knowledge to prevent a mass persecution from ever occurring again. Whether seeing the world divided by black and white, like at the Human Rights Gallery, or in full color, like at the one-week-old modern and interactive Civil Rights Museum Chalutzim visited the next day in Downtown Atlanta, campers discussed ethically gray areas in nighttime debriefs.
In Birmingham and Marietta, the group ooohed and ahhhed upon entering Roman Catholic style synagogues bathed in gold as rich as its history.
The agenda also included Six Flags Amusement Park, arcade games, bowling, and a classic Braves vs. Mets. Tasty food was a highlight too.
The Chalutzim First Session trip spread across three U.S. states, but the unit’s journey reached further than hilly terrain and rocky rivers. In both internal and indirect ways, Chalutzim can harness this trip as a last memory as a camper. And above all, when they look back, they can continue to ponder. What does it mean to be Jewish?