Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My life-changing journey to JNF's women's leadership circle

Author Civia Caroline has been involved 
with JNF since 2014.

By Civia Caroline

My Jewish National Fund story began with a sheet of paper and a pen. It was 2014, and my first time participating on the JNFuture Leadership Institute Mission, an educational retreat in Israel to learn about JNF's work. JNF CEO Russell Robinson asked us to draw "our story." I had been involved with Jewish National Fund on a local level in Los Angeles, but it was the first time I had to ask myself, "Why am I here? Why is this important to me?"

The answer came to me quickly. I grew up with the strong values of tikkun olam and Zionism instilled in me by my parents, and Israel was always part of my DNA. I was raised in an observant household, Israel is where we pray toward, it’s the Promised Land, and it’s also where my extended family lives. It was never something I had to think hard about or work hard for.

As I started to forge my own path and a career in the music industry, I found myself surrounded by people from very different backgrounds. Most in my social and work circles were either not Jewish or completely disconnected. I felt something was missing, so I began to really search for it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The unforgettable night in Israel I prayed with every Jew in the world

The author (third from left) and his classmates from AMHSI at the Kotel.

This summer, Mason Solomon of Weston, Florida, attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel, a study-abroad program that turns Israel into a classroom. Here are his reflections on a life-changing Shabbat the students spent in Jerusalem.

On our overnight in Jerusalem, we got to experience the beauty of Shabbat in the holiest place on Earth for the Jewish people. That night was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. We started off on a long walk in the sunset to the Kotel. The streets of Jerusalem Shel Zahav, the city of gold, shimmered brightly. The roofs of the old stone buildings reflected the light of the desert sun onto the people walking in the street. It was a beautiful walk through the quiet streets of Jerusalem. We had seen those streets before so vibrant and busy, but now they were completely closed down for Shabbat.

We arrived at the wall to see masses of people in white clothes and black hats all coming together to celebrate. We walked down the stairs that connect the Old City to the wall and joined the hundreds of people there to celebrate Shabbat. Right away, my friends and I jumped right in. We went straight to the wall and got through masses of men with long beards and huge hats. It was surreal how they were all praying so deeply and intently. We found a space on the wall and we took a moment to pray and take in this Shabbat at such a holy place. I pushed my head up against the wall and held my hands flat against it. As I began to pray, I noticed each crevice in the wall. I felt myself connecting to the wall as I had a long, meaningful moment that felt like an eternity.