Sunday, August 4, 2013
North American Kennes
North American Kennes by Hannah Elbaum Welcome to North American Kennes! (Actually it was a few days ago, but that's ok!) We left Haifa on Tuesday morning with lots of "see you later's" to the Israelis for Kennes, a two day seminar with all the North American cohorts before being joined by the Israeli cohorts for Congress. When we arrived it was slightly chaotic, but in a totally good way! The other North American cohorts were arriving at the same time, and we had previously met a few of them on Ben Yehuda Street, so we tried to find familiar faces. After finding out our roommates and settling in a little, we met in the auditorium for the official opening ceremony! There was so much yelling and screaming and cheering for respective cities that it took the JCs a while to quiet everyone down. When they finally did, they began a skit of an airplane trip to Israel that managed to stop at every N.A. Diller city along the way. That must have been an awfully long trip, and I thought JFK to Ben Gurion was long! As they reached each city, the cohort came up on stage for a ninety second skit/song/intro to who they are. If you are interested, our skit is posted on the JCC Boston Diller Teen Fellows page on Facebook! The rest of the day was pretty low key, mostly about rules and finding our way around Givat Haviva, and doing a program to preface our learning for the next day. All the programs are done in our tribe groups, each named for one of the tribes of Israel. I'm in the Reuben tribe, and I have to say, I think I have the best N.A. JC ever--Liat! Each of the tribes is also led by a coordinator, an Israeli JC, and another member of the Junior Staff. In our first program we talked about the history of the Jewish people over time. Three thousand years ago we were One Nation, but over time have divided and moved until there are Jewish communities all over the world. The patterns of exiles and expulsions left us wondering what's next for the Jews. My coordinator, Daniel from the Toronto cohort told us some other scary news. On July 18, the day we all landed in Israel, Poland passed a law deeming it illegal for kosher meat to be produced, or distributed in the country. It was a huge shock for all of us and most of my tribe had a really hard time comprehending why a country whose main economic income is Holocaust survivor tourism would take this action. Seeing as it is an incredibly recent issue, and we have limited access to the outside world, I do not know the progression of this law since it passed, and do not know what actions are being taken. After the tough topics we had dinner, and then the night became more relaxed and chill. That night we had our first White Tent! I would like to now fix the picture you have in your mind of this white tent. It is simply a white sheet stretched over a few poles and tied to nearby trees. It is also too small for all 360 of us to fit under it. But, the fun of White Tent isn't the tent itself. Usually, White Tent is a hang out time with snacks and music, but as it was the first night, we did things a little differently. There was a competition between cohorts to prove once and for all which was the best. I am proud to say that although Boston came in second place, we were the only cohort with full representation and we all had a great time dancing and laughing with each other. (But really, who are we kidding, we know we are the best cohort. We don't need a competition for that assurance :D) The next day we began to look more at where these Jewish communities are, and how large they are. Not surprisingly, Israel has the largest population, with the US following close behind, but after that, the numbers drop significantly until we reached the last on our list, with only 21,000 Jews in the entirety of Chile. We continued to learn about the Jewish communities, focusing in on North America. It is shocking to hear that in most of these cities, the population of Jews is falling. We discussed possible reasons for the drops. Our generation is fighting apathy, the struggles of technology, and assimilation in ways that our parents are grandparents never saw. Later that day we heard from Avraham Infeld. Since our first meeting we have heard about Avraham Infeld and his idea of Jewish Peoplehood in a Five-Legged Table, so I have been looking forward to this for quite some time. His speech outlined three stories about his life, four reactions and the five legs. the concept is one that changed the way I think about Judaism. Infeld told us, vehemently, that Judaism is not a religion. He did not say what it was, but the idea that we discussed is Peoplehood. Later, in my tribe, we decided that Judaism is not only a religion, but rather, a people that encompasses a religion. I don't think there is any way for me to do justice to his speech, so here are the legs and my understanding of them. 1. Memory- The Jewish People share a collective and individual memory that is different than history. Infeld said that "history is his story and memory is my story." The experiences of the Jewish People and the way we remember that, even that we remember them, defines us differently than other people in the world. 2. Covenant- At Mount Sinai we received the covenant from G-d that we would fulfill his commandments and in exchange "he shall never sleep, he shall never slumber, the protector of Israel" (That's from somewhere in the Tanakh, but I do not remember where. Probably Exodus.) This covenant defined us as the chosen people and we agreed to be witnesses to the fact that there is one G-d and he is our G-d. 3. Family- Every Jew is connected to each other. A Jew who has converted to become a Jew is a Jew, and a Jew who has converted away from Judaism is still a Jew. We argue and disagree with each other, but Jews stand by each other. 4. The Land of Israel/The State of Israel- This one made the least sense to me, but the difference is that the Land is the historical land given to us by G-d in biblical times, and the State is the Jewish Nation that exists here today. They are connected, but also different, so it is possible to believe in one part, but not the other. 5. Language (Hebrew)- This is the language of our forefathers. It has been passed down and connects us back to the time of Moshe. It is the language that we pray in, but (for those who speak Hebrew) it is also part of life as a Jew. The final idea behind the table is that a table does not need all five legs. If each Jew finds three of the five that he connects to in some way, the individual table will stand. Also, as long as each person connects to three of the legs, there is a guarantee that there will always be at least one in common on which to build a relationship. The entire concept of the table has continued in our programming throughout Congress. In my tribe at least, the discussions we have held have changed our views on ourselves, on Judaism and on life. I have struggled, been confused, angry, confident and realized a lot about myself. But, that's what this Diller experience is all about. We are all learning and growing together. That's all for now! Sorry it's so long, it is truly amazing the amount you can learn in a 36-hour time period! Until next time, Hannah P.S. Hi, Mom and Dad! Love you! Also, I know I didn't do the best job explaining the 5-legged table, so if you want to learn more, check out 5-Legged-Table.org!