HAZZAN IVOR LICHTERMAN
A DREAM COME TRUE
By the time you read this, it will be a few weeks since our group of 19 returned from our Israel Confirmation trip. We spent 8 days plus 2 days traveling from June 6 – 16. This is the 4th CBI Confirmation Israel trip to date, from which 54 students and several adults have benefitted.
Many of you have undoubtedly heard about the trip, read my blog which each participant contributed towards, and seen photos which fortunately in today’s cyber and digital world are so easy to share. Needless to say it was an amazing adventure! I am sure it has inspired all participants as it has in the past, and we shall have the opportunity in the near future to hear from them first hand as they report back to you.
We traversed Israel at a frenzied pace, keeping the students stimulated and ceasingly occupied from dawn till late at night. Not surprising they had no time to get into any trouble! They are doubtless catching up on some much needed and deserved sleep as I write this now.
We traversed the heights of the Golan at the north-east Syrian border, to the hostile north-western Lebanese border, where we observed Hezbollah encampments up the hill literally less than a mile away. There we were hosted by a group of handsome Israeli soldiers not much older than our students, whose families originated from all over the world. They protect Israel 24/7, and we gave them gifts donated by our Federation and snacks.
To the south we muddied ourselves and floated in the depths of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. We ascended Masada at 5:30 AM before daybreak while it was cool enough, and observed the sun rise to a typically hot over 100 degree Israeli summer’s day. But Josh Sherman’s record 19 minute climb up the snake path to the crest of Masada, remains intact from our trip 3 years ago, as we took the easy way up. Cowards! Even I was not huffing and puffing up the gradual (as opposed to steep) ascent, despite daily falafel and chicken schnitzel consumption, with a comfortable cable car descent!
We bussed, hiked, crawled, dug, climbed, schlepped, waded, swam and davened our way all over Israel, often filling our days with 4 or 5 different and contrasting activities and adventures.
We walked the ancient excavations of the old city of Jerusalem, placed prayers in the Kotel and davened there several times. On the subject of davening, we visited 3 different shuls in Jerusalem that I had selected for contrasting Shabbat and Shavuot services, somewhat different from what we do at B’nai. The highlight may well have been the 400 year old Italian shul where Jeremy Davis belted out the Levi Aliyah in a manner that made us all proud, the echoes of which are still reverberating in our ears!
There is story attached to the Aliyah that is notable: Asher Kripke (also a Levi) mistook the gabbai’s mixed-accented ‘are you a Levi’ question for ‘are you leaving?’ and answering ‘no’ Jeremy got it by default! Jeremy you owe Asher! On Friday night we attended the only Orthodox synagogue in the world that has a woman Cantor who chants from behind the mechitza – the women’s section, the bimah being half in the mens and half in the women’s section with a curtain splitting it.
We put on tefilin at 3 incredible destinations – the Kotel, Masada, and Lake Kineret at the Sea of Galilee, where we also incidentally observed many Christian groups pilgrimaging in Israel. At our hotel at the Kineret was a large Menonite Amish contingent.
Many coincidences occurred in Israel during our trip, from which our students experienced an ever shrinking world and just how small Israel actually is. For example, Miranda Hupp, wearing a Miami of Ohio University shirt on one of our plane rides, met a Miami U student on the plane who knew her brother Noah (who was on our previous CBI trip) from the Glee Club and remarked to her on his beautiful voice. Another example, at a gas station outside our archeological dig, while eating lunch we ran into a couple from my previous synagogue in Arizona, whom I haven’t seen in many years as they had moved away. Seeing them and their now adult children was a joy. Or at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem where there were perhaps some 1000 people for Shavuot services, we sat right next to the Cantor who succeeded me in Stamford, Ct. 25 years ago…Israel is indeed a small country!
A highlight of the trip (of which there were many) was when I invited Yaakov Friedman (formerly Zhiang of China then Toledo) who made Aliyah to Israel a year ago, to visit with us and speak to our students. He drove with his lovely wife and 3 beautiful young daughters for an hour and a half to meet with us. At first he was hesitant, saying he had no idea what to say. But once he began, he had me in tears, and our students, as tired as they all were from a full day of activities and travel, were mesmerized by his family’s on going Jewish journey, what they have gone through to become Jewish, live in Israel and gain acceptance.
This dream come true trip has without doubt enhanced our students’ positive view of Israel, and their understanding of Judaism, as well as their knowledge of the centrality of Israel and Jerusalem in our lives. Our amazing guide Yair (whom some wanted to put in a suitcase and smuggle to Toledo) did much for our appreciation of Israel today, as well as throughout Jewish history.
The memories will be with us forever! I am deeply appreciative to all who made this trip possible. It is truly a beracha that we at CBI are one of very few synagogues in the world that are able to provide an almost free trip to so many of our students as a benefit of membership. I am truly grateful to the 2 wonderful chaperones Matt Kripke and Alison Sherman who were right there beside me at all times, to keep our students safe and ensure the best possible experience!
Hazzan Ivor Lichterman