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CJDS Israel Trip!
Esther Solooki


Dear CJDS Community, 

As we welcome in the first Shabbat in March, our Grade Eight students are returning from their amazing trip to Israel. “Tzaytchem L’shalom U’ Voachem L’shalom” – Our students went in peace, and our students are coming home in peace. These words are traditionally offered to travelers who are going on a trip to Israel.

Why do we use that language? After all if family or friends were travelling to Italy, we might say, “Travel safe” and recite the traveler’s prayer, we might say, “Have a great time,” or we might say, “I wish I was going with you, but go in peace and come back in peace” giving the traveler a clue that this place, this vacation, this trip will be different from all other trips. “Ma nishtana” . . . . what makes this trip so different?

The language of the salutation conveys an underlying message that throughout the trip, the place you are going, you may see some unrest, that peace isn’t a given, it’s something to wish for, something for which to hope and pray.

Our students at CJDS have embraced our Mission and Vision, and we have taught about Israel, its history, its meaning to us as Jews and our identity. They've learned about Israeli culture, songs, dances, and food. They've learned about the diversity of people who live in Israel, including all people who live in Israel and its surrounding borders, including but not limited to: Israeli Jews, Israeli Arab Christians, Israeli Muslim Arabs, Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Jews from Morroco, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union along with olim (new immigrants ) from the USA, Canada, England, France and South Africa. Students have also learned about Israel’s neighbors and about the Palestinians and the complexity of their situation. The diversity of Israel, even without the layer of politics, has baked in tension, which is natural in an environment where immigrants and diverse traditions and practices are part of the fabric of the place.

On a micro level, we always say to prospective parents, at CJDS, you must be open to the idea that you will not see yourself in the mirror every day, we just hope you will see yourself in the mirror some days. In the context of “diversity,” our school is no match for the State of Israel.

Think about how hard it is sometimes navigating our school, and the diversity of Jewish identification and practice, and then imagine the challenges in Israel. Over the next few months, you will hear from our students, parents, and alumni and hear how this trip affected their lives. Just to give you a glimpse, we’ve included pictures that will give you a snapshot of the trip. We know this trip serves as a gem in the crown of our students Jewish Day School education. Research tell us that “contact time” is an important element in how people develop relationships to and with one another, places and knowledge. The amount of contact time with Hebrew language, Sacred texts, Jewish practice, Shabbat and holidays, customs, traditions, and culture all point to a strong indicator of why Jewish Day Schools are successful purveyors of Jewish education. “Contact time” with the State of Israel serves, as research has uncovered, to foster a deeper identity and connection with, not only the land of Israel, but the Jewish people in general.

It is our hope that our students will take this experience and use it at a catalyst to learning more and visiting often, the homeland of the Jewish People. It is with great appreciation that we thank:

  • Rich Moline, Director of the Ta’am Yisrael portion of the trip
  • Our circle of Israel supporters who help us defray some of the costs of that portion of the Ta'am trip: Cortney Stark Cope and Jonathan Cope; Kathy and Steven Feiger; David Harris; and Susan and Chezi Rafaeli
  • JUF, who organize and subsidize the Ta’am trip
  • Our own staff members and CJDS family members who served in professional capacities with Ta’am Yisrael: Debbie Barack, Nina Harris, and Ann Luban.
  • We also extend our thanks and appreciation to Israel Extension Funder, Betsy Gidwitz, who makes an even deeper experience possible for our students along with Extension Coordinator, Tamar Cytryn, and Extension Staff, Nina Harris and in Israel, Ariel Keren.
  • Last but certainly not least, we thank our Grade Eight parentsfor their confidence and support of the program.
  • To our extended CJDS family living or studying in Israel who always take time to visit with our students while they are on the trip and giving them a taste of home across the miles.

Please enjoy the Israel blog!

Shabbat Shalom,

Ms. J (Judy)