by Baruch Kraus, NFTY-EIE Principal
This past Monday we hosted 3 speakers representing Ultra Orthodoxy, Conservative and Modern Orthodoxy. We heard a presentation from Rabbi Weinberg on the Ultra-Orthodox and their belief system of absolute truths. We also heard from Rabbi Michael Swartz about Conservative Judaism, followed by Rabbi Gabe Reiss about modern Orthodoxy in Israel. Rabbi Rich Kirschen will come to speak to the students on Reform philosophy and practice after we return from Poland.
The following day we had a mock Zionist Congress, circa 1895, representing the major groupings of Zionist thought prevalent at that time. We had 5 guests join us in this activity including Beth Rodin with the NFTY delegation to Woman of the Wall.
On Wednesday we reviewed the early Zionist thinkers and the ramifications of the development of Zionist political parties at the turn of the 20th century. We studied the First Aliyah pioneers and their contribution to agricultural and rural life in Israel. To prepare us for our Thursday field trip to the area of Lake Kinneret, the group learned about the lives of the early pioneers who “conquered” the land. Their story unfolded throughout the day, starting with a panoramic view from the Galilean hills offering a magnificent view of the cultivated fields stretching as far as the eye could see, and then to Kvutzat Kinneret, a teaching farm set up to prepare the early pioneers for rural life, and finally to the cemetery on the banks of the Kinneret. Here, with the setting sun and the waves of the Sea of Galilee lapping the shore only yards away, the students heard the personal stories of some of the pioneers of the time, the most famous being that of Rachel the Poetess, whose life was typical of the young people who came to build the land.
Friday morning the group left for Tel Aviv to examine the phenomena of “urban Zionism” – the development of the city starting in the 1880’s, with the founding of the historic neighborhoods of Neve Tzedek and Neve Shalom, to the rise of Tel Aviv about 100 years ago.
Shabbat morning we had 3 guests leading tfillot and Torah study — Rabbi Josh Weinberg (an alum, former madrich and Jewish History teacher who was recently appointed President of ARZA, the Zionist arm of the URJ), his father Rabbi Michael Weinberg and the Chairman of ARZA, Rabbi Bennet Miller. It was a pleasure to host their visit.
Preceding our pilgrimage to Poland this weekend, the students visited Yad Vashem as part of helping to prepare for the trip. We had preparation on many levels, from making sure the students have everything they need for the trip: appropriate clothing, preparatory discussions, and preparing the ceremonies which the students will lead in Poland. Shabbat afternoon I will be telling the students my story having been born in a Displayed Persons (Refugee) camp just after the war in Germany and my family’s experiences during the Holocaust.
Check back here in the coming days for an update on our trip to Poland. You can read about the Fall 2012 Pilgrimage here.