Avram Mlotek recently staffed an Israel Outdoors trip in partnership with City University of New York (CUNY) Hillel. The following excerpt, reflecting on Avram’s group’s experience in a Moishe House in Jerusalem was published in the Jewish Week.
It’s Friday evening. The sun has set and the streets are empty. “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Judah, one of my students, mentions.
As the rabbinic intern at the Hunter College Hillel, I had the opportunity to lead my first Birthright Israel trip over winter break. Together with our Israeli tour guide and my co-staff, I walk with our 40 college-age students through Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Nachlaot.
The energy in the streets is tangible.
“Where are we?” another student wonders, as we wander through alleys passing chasidim.
Most of my students attend CUNY schools while others are from Cornell, Wesleyan, Brandeis, Middlebury, Florida State and Universities of Colorado and Missouri. They come from a variety of backgrounds, religiously and politically. None has been to Israel on an educational program and all identify as Jewish, even as they continue to learn what that means to each of them personally.
Our week has been full. Students felt the waters of the Mediterranean in Caesarea, learned of the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism in Safed, heard live music overlooking the Galilee at the start of the new month of Shvat. And today marked our entry into the ancient city of Jerusalem, where we visited the Old City, the Kotel and the shuk, the city’s colorful and bustling market place. READ MORE