Rabbi Deborah Bravo, senior rabbi of North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, and Sherry Gutes, Director of Congregational Learning, recently traveled to Israel for two weeks with a group of 35 congregants from the synagogue.
Both Rabbi Bravo and Mrs. Gutes have been to Israel many times – both as tourists and as leaders, but this experience was unique.
“Each trip is special in its own way, and always, always wonderful,” said Gutes.
They were a diverse group, ranging in age from 7 to 82, comprised of younger children, B’nai Mitzvah students, teens, college and post-college young people, parents and grandparents. Of the families, couples, singles and seniors, many were first-timers in Israel and others had not been to Israel in several or many years.
“Watching young men and women embrace their Jewish heritage and accept their place in the Jewish community, while standing at a Wall that has been visited by Jews throughout the centuries is priceless,” said Bravo.
The educational, spiritual and fun-filled itinerary included a trip up to Masada, through the Kotel tunnels, down into the caves of Beit Guvrin, up North to the Golan Heights and the Lebanese border, cruising on the Red Sea, jeep and camel rides in the desert, floating in the Dead Sea, visiting Yad Vashem and eating lunch at the mall with young soldiers.
Their first Shabbat was spent on Kibbutz Nof Ginosaur. Welcoming Shabbat in Israel was emotional and uplifting. Their second Shabbat was spent overlooking the Western Wall, which was simply a magical setting in which to celebrate Shabbat.
There is no question that one experience that stood out above all others was when five of the young congregants, Jamie Geen, Paige Kahn, Isabel and Devin Schneider and Joseph Wild, became B’nai Mitzvah in Jerusalem, in the presence of their families and the rest of the group.
It was a meaningful culmination to an exhilarating, fun and emotional trip. The many profound shared experiences had a deep emotional impact on participants, and has created a very special and lasting bond among the travelers.
The broader North Shore Synagogue community enjoyed daily “blogging” from both children and adults, reporting on a variety of adventures and experiences from Israel.
Congregants and Clergy are already anticipating the next North Shore Synagogue trip to Israel.