Two years ago, I went on the most amazing journey of my entire life. I went on Nativ Leadership Program in Israel where I spent an entire school year living between Jerusalem and a small town deep in the Negev Desert called Yerucham. I studied half the year at Hebrew University on top of Mount Scopus and volunteered the other half of the year teaching English to underprivileged and misbehaved middle school and high school students in this small town in the desert. I traveled every weekend and experienced new things each day, one of these being a whole lot of services, religious events, holidays I had honestly never heard of, and prayer. Like many of you, I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago in a super reformed Jewish home. I went to Hebrew school and Sunday school and cannot recall learning anything in either other than making friends and eating lots of lox and bagels. I got Bat Mitzvahed but only cared about my party and giveaways. Judaism and being Jewish was something I knew was important to me; my grandparents let me know from day 1 I was to marry a nice Jewish boy and I loved being surrounded by Jewish friends, but at the end of the day I had no clue what this all meant.
Fast forward to my first night on Nativ. I was still in denial about being away from home for a year and extremely stressed about not knowing anyone in a country I had never been to. We had just finished dinner in the dining hall for my program, and all of the sudden they pass out these books. Everyone picks them up and as if they had been practicing for months and years, starting singing on cue. When I say everyone, I mean everyone other than me and two other people out of a group of seventy, those other two people people I had yet to meet. I sat there silently, immediately feeling out of place and not knowing what this song was that everyone seemed to live. Little did I know it was not a song but the prayers after a meal, or the Birkat Hamazon, something I had never heard of before. No, I had not gone to Ramah or Chi or any other Jewish camp and I did not participate in my local chapter of USY, so all of this was foreign to me. In the days that followed, lots of services with prayers followed. After an entire year of this, I would like to say that all of them are permanently plastered into my memory, but it sure did not start this way. In the beginning I felt completely lost and out of place.
This is exactly why I decided to create this program, because I do not want anyone else to ever feel like they don’t belong or feel out of place if they don’t know all of the words to a prayer or what it is called. During these workshops each week we will look at a different prayer, starting with the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers, those which we say during the Friday Night Shabbat service. We will go over the deep meaning and origins of each of them, story behind each one and relate it to our own lives through games, interactive activities, and other modes of idea sharing, and learn how to read them! We encourage active participation throughout, sharing any thoughts, ideas, feelings- anything at all you would like to contribute so that we can learn and grow from each other! So if you were someone like me who came from very little background, or if you attended Jewish school through high school, I am happy you are here and to learn, grow, and laugh with us!
Danah's Kabalat Shabbat Workshop series will take place every Wednesday evening from 7-8. Everyone is invited to join.