Israel Trip 2013

Israel Pictures 2022

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Day 5 Part 3: Dead Sea Scrolls

In the afternoon we went to the famous Israel museum and my grandpa was there too. First we took a picture in front of the place where the dead sea scrolls is. It is shaped like the lid of the jars where the scrolls were found. Then we saw a giant model of the old city and we were trying to find where we ate lunch for fun. Last we went to look at the dead sea scrolls and our guide Dikla told us a story about how they were found. Leading up to the scrolls were things that were found with it. When you get to the scrolls the first thing you see is it displayed in a torah handle. a

      Below it was the Aleppo Codex. In the book Adams brothers Haftorah were on the same page as one he recently recited.  

     Last we walked to dinner at Kinor Bakikar which means violin, and on the way we ran into two ladies that  31 years ago were at cantors congregation in Connecticut. Overall it was a very awesome experience.

Maya Markham

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Day 6: Journey From Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley

   This morning we drove away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem and headed north to the Galilee through the Jordan Valley along the Jordan River. Little did we realize that we were actually traveling back in time. It was kind of like Back to the Future, but a lot further back!
   Our first stop was Beit She’an, an ancient Roman city. There was a man-made large hill/mountain that Daniel desperately wanted to climb (since he didn’t get to climb Masada – closed due to heat), but due to time constraints he stuck with the group.
    Every group that came to this area to establish themselves destroyed the city that was already there and built a new one for themselves. Beit She’an was a prime location because water was plentiful and it was a nice-sized area that accommodated people amongst its streets.
   We noticed ruins of white stones which are limestone and others of black rocks which are volcanic rock. As we stood in the theater, we learned that our very own Yuval, Maya’s sabba, still conducts orchestras here. We were disappointed that we weren’t there for one of his concerts, but we could surely imagine how magnificent it must be!
    Kids tried carob
    We saw many arcs and pillars which we learned knocked down due to an earthquake in year 836. It was then that we learned that Dikla bought the discounted tickets for us to enter. In order for us not to have to pay full price, she informed us that we were required to lift a pillar back onto its base. We’re unable to board the plane home until we finish the job! 😉
    The main street running through the center of the city is called Cardo, like cardio, the heart that keeps the city (or Polis) going.

   Our next stop on our ancient tour was Kfar Kedem where we were each transported back to biblical times and we were dressed as people did during the time of the Torah. Our guide explained that history came orally, but when the Jews dispersed, the information needed to be written in order to be transferred to future generations. This led to the Talmud and other compilations. We’ve had the opportunity to see writings that describe life in the earlier years.
   Before beginning our journey, we had to give up our “cooking pots” (hats) and wear the garb of the time. (please check out the photos with our ancient dress uniforms (same for men and women), along with the white headdresses.
   The differences of goats and sheep were explained and the used of the hair that gets cut off of each. (No electric razors at that time!) Hair of goats get put on Bedowin tents, while wool from sheep is spun and made into yarn for clothes. Or, if someone pressed a bunch of the wool together with cold water, then dropped it into hot water, it would stick together and bags, etc. could be created. There was no waste of anything back then! All parts of the sheep are used. Horns are put into ground until the stuff inside disintegrates, then they become shofars.
  Adam and I were fortunate (?) to milk a sheep! Interesting experience, but not ready to quit my day job!
   The people at Kfar Kedem milked the goat before we got there, but we still watched how fresh goat cheese was made. After the milk was cooled, Aidan stirred it with fig tree leaf stems which also contains milk.  After stirring for a bit, Aaron and Maya held the cheesecloth while Daniel drained the mixture. Voile! It can be kept for months. If it dries up, put a little water on it and it will be fresh. I think we found a congregational activity! 😁
   Wheat was the basis of ancient existence. The technology to collect wheat was a flat board with holes on the bottom stuffed with rocks and attached to donkeys. Someone would “surf” on the board being pulled by the donkeys collecting wheat. Then, the bulgar would be ground on volcanic rock. The wheat was turned into flour and mixed with water until it became doughy. It was stretched and placed over a fire until cooked. That whole process from start to finish took no more than 18 minutes. This would be another great congregational activity!
   Just as Shabbat is a day of rest after 6 days of work, workers back then would tend land and plant for 6 years and rest on the 7th year (Shmitah). They would just live off the land during that year and would share the crops with others.
  While tending the land, we learned that bulls and donkeys could not be used to tend land at the same time. First of all, species were not mixed because of their strengths. Only one at a time were used. The bulls were used for strength and donkeys were used for long, slow walks.
   One other thing or guide mentioned was that we rely on G-d for rain. While we may say things that are true, such as a person is wearing a gold necklace, it’s what is lingering in our minds that may hinder the rain to help crops grow.
   The last piece of advice that was given to us was to use what we have from the past to help guide us in the future.
   After eating a nice meal of pita, hummus, vegetables, kabobs, chicken, rice and baklava, we admired asses. Each one of us got to ride a donkey and we each got a kick out of telling each other who had the nicest ass!
   On our way to the Kineret, we stopped to attach a thank you note to a pigeon for the people at Kfar Kedem. Dikla received a pigeon from them prior to leaving the grounds. She told us that pigeons used to be used as food. They’re kosher, common and easy to catch. Also (on a special note), pigeon pop was used as frolics in the fields. Offerings are a monogamous couple for their entire lives. Every year they lay new eggs and the pigeons always go back to where it was born. So, by attaching a note to the pigeon, we expect that it will make its way back to Kfar Kedem.
   As we were arriving at our hotel which is set overlooking the Kineret, we learned that this body of water is the lowest  freshwater lake on earth. Our hotel also overlooks the Golan Heights which was conquered from Syria in 1967 due to excessive fighting. The lower Galilee mountains aren’t high and in between are large vallies where many olives are grown.
   Our brains are working overtime, but we’ve learned a ton and experienced even more! As Adam has already shared, we have stayed full of energy with the incredible new tastes we’ve encountered! Love it!
   We finished the day on a beach by the Kineret, roasting mallows and potatoes in a bonfire, listening to chill, Hebrew music and enjoying each other’s company.


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Day 5 Part 2: Mount Herzl

Following Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, we went to Theodore Hertzl’s grave. While at the grave, we had a little mini service where we heard Cantor’s story about his family during the Holocaust and then sang Hatikva. Singing Hatikva while overlooking Hertzl’s grave (The founder of modern Zionism and the visionary behind the state of Israel) and Jerusalem in the background was one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced. Coming straight from learning about all of our peoples hurdles, it was the most amazing thing to see that we overcame! We are here! Despite all the challenges to take us down, we are here! Of all the hate in the world towards us, I am able to wear a kippah on my head in public and feel safe! WE ARE HERE! 

After that, on our bus ride back to the hotel, I noticed the shuk right outside and I wanted to go so I asked to be dropped off and the Cantor and Dikla said yes! Mom came with me and we had so much fun taking in all the scents and culture! We ate most of the same foods we ate the other day which were absolutely delicious. The most amazing thing happened, though, as we were walking down one of the aisles! We ran into one of my old camp tzevet sitting at one of the booths drinking coffee! It was so exciting to see her and I learned that the saying is right! “If you know one person in Israel, you will run into them when you’re here” – learned from Dikla, our tour guide. This was really so much fun and a great way to close our day before dinner! 

Written by: Adam Davis

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Day 5 Part 1: Holocaust Museum

After arriving at Yad Vashem we first took at look at all the trees planted for those who were deemed righteous gentiles. Righteous of the nations means they helped Jews escape from everywhere with risk of their lives with no personal gain in return. One of the most notable names was Oscar Schindler where his tree were spilt in a double tree.(They were not Jewish). 

When you enter Yad Vashem it looks like it is a short museum, but that is where an optical illusion is played showing the light at the end of the tunnel is farther than expected. You also can’t skip any rooms as they are designed in a zig zag pattern to show the progression of the holocaust as each stage got worse.

To start off we saw all the propaganda that kicked off changing the opinions of the Jews in the public eye. When we got through more rooms they described how the ghettos and the concentration camps got worse and worse, whether it was a list with everyone who is Jewish to the highly detailed creation of the gas chambers. They also had survivors telling of how they were treated and the terror of that experience.  The very last room before leaving was an archive of every name currently discovered of who died in the holocaust with 1.5 million names currently missing, with names being added every day.

After exiting the main building, we decided to pay a visit to the children’s memorial. When walking in they had a pictures of a few children on display. The room was very dark and when you walked throughout the memorial only 5 candles were lit while mirrors reflected 1.5 million candles to represent the children who died. They also had the names of the children, their age and the native country playing in several languages including English and Yiddish. It was a very sad experience to witness.

(no photos will be posted at the current moment) -Aaron Smith

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Day 3 Part 3/ Day 4: Shabbat

This Shabbat was an experience like no other! We started out eating dinner at the hotel. Hold on, I am mistaken. We actually started out waiting for mom to get down so that we could start kiddush. She must have missed the memo to turn her clock off of Jewish Standard Time (being late to everything). No worries though, we still had a very lovely Shabbat dinner as one nice kfutsa, group. We then moved upstairs to the chapel where we sang some of our favorite kabbalat Shabbat tunes and did some of Maariv.

 Following that, cantor took those that wanted to, to the Kotel so that we could experience Shabbat there. This was such an amazing experience. One of the most memorable things for me was the walk to get there! It was truly fascinating to see all the shops closed and pretty much the whole country shut down. It was such a peaceful walk, along the streets of Jerusalem. It was incredible to see all the thousands of people walking back from the Kotel and all the thousands still praying at the Kotel. It was also amazing to see all the different sects of Jews and their customs and variations in clothing. We even got to walk down the middle of the road! It was an all-around unique and amazing feeling to see a whole country shut down for the Jewish day of rest! Once we arrived at the Kotel, it was so amazing. We were able to go all the way up to the wall and daven. Afterwards we went to the back common area where we sang some nice Jewish melodies about Jerusalem! This was such a beautiful experience! 

Moving onto today! We had the amazing experience of visiting a couple synagogues here in Jerusalem. Both of the synagogues were vastly different and it really surprised me to see how different they were. The first one was a very small Sephardic synagogue. I was in absolute awe over how beautiful the arc was! It was so lovely to hear all the different tunes! The whole congregation seemed very tight knit which was so special! As we were on our way out, the congregation was in the Torah service! What happened next was unbelievable! It was time for the Levi Aliyah, but they had nobody for that Aliyah so they were asking around if there were any Levi’s. Before I had a chance to say anything, Cantor was pushing me up on the bimah. This was such a special moment and had we left 30 seconds earlier, this would not have happened. What makes it even better is that the same exact thing happened to my brother, Jeremy, six years ago on his confirmation trip. This was an experience which I will never forget.  

Moving onto to the next synagogue, The Great Synagogue! I think there could not be a more perfect name for the synagogue! It was beautiful and enormous! There were three major highlights from the synagogue which will be memories we will carry with us for a long time. The first was getting to listen to the chief Sephardic Rabbi of Jerusalem recite haftorah! The second was just happening to sit in front of us – one of Cantor’s brother’s congregants and choir members! The third was viewing their spectacular mezuzah collection! The collection included historical mezuzahs and mezuzahs from famous artists. Every mezuzah in the collection was unique and beautiful with its own story. It has inspired me to create a mezuzah of my own out of clay once I get home. One of the most famous mezuzahs in the collection ironically was probably the least sophisticated one. It was literally just a small wooden box. It was made from a tiny piece of wood from the chair of the saintly great grandson of the founder of Hasidism,  the Baal Shem Tov whose name was Reb Nachman of Breslav. The magnificent chair made by one of his admirers was passed on from generation to generation and then brought to Israel after being disassembled. It was then expertly recreated, but a small remnant was saved to make that plain but so important mezuzah! 

After our visits to the synagogues, we leisurely walked to a nearby park for a nice, enjoyable picnic lunch and then retreated back to the hotel for a nice shabbos nap/free time. Following that, we met up for dinner in the hotel. We then held a lovely havdallah outside. It was such an amazing feeling to be outside in a public area doing havdallah. 

Following our havdallah, everyone else went back inside to gather their belongings so we could wander to Ben Yehudah street, but my mom and I stayed back and, from a distance watched another group do havdallah. They eventually saw us swaying to Eliyahu Hanavi and invited us over to join their circle! It was such an amazing feeling seeing others doing the same prayers as us and then inviting us over and making us feel included. There is truly nowhere else in the world where something like this can happen. To me, this is simply mind blowing! 

After this beautiful experience, we headed over to the shuk, which ended up being a bust as it was still closed due to Shabbat. We then headed over to Ben Yehudah street for some shopping! I was lucky and found an American University kippah (Go Eagles!) and decided to start a shofar collection because I find them so fascinating! I have one that my grandparents got me, one that I made at summer camp, one that I got our first day here, and then one that I got last night! I have decided that every time I visit Eretz Yisrael, I will add one shofar to my collection and hopefully one day I will have a collection like the mezuzah collection we saw at The Great Synagogue! After shopping we headed back to the hotel to say lilah tov for the night. Overall, an amazing, unforgettable Shabbat experience!!!

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Day 3 Part 2: The Dead Sea

After traveling on the bus, we arrived to the Dead Sea and ate lunch at The Lowest Bar In The World where I tried Schnitzel for the first time! I do have to say I thoroughly enjoy Israeli food, and I can’t wait to try more of it! 

As we entered the Dead Sea we noticed how slippery it was and that Hope Davis was already floating and enjoying herself by covering herself in mud. Soon after we all joined in and shared laughs and a few squeals when we almost tipped over while floating because it is dangerous to get the salt in your mouth and eyes. Overall the Dead Sea was a laughable, exciting, and thrilling experience I will never forget!

Haley Smith

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Day 3 Part 1: Massada

For the first part of day 3 we left the hotel at 8am traveling 2 hours by bus to go to Massada National Park, a large plateau, in east israel next to the dead sea. To get to the top we took at cable car. There is a path to the top that I wanted to walk but we did not get there early enough and it was too hot.
On top of Massada there is a fortess that had been excavated and partially restored to give a more clear idea of the buildings atop the platuea. The fortress were really 2 palaces the crazy King Herid had built and fortified around 30 BCE. Around 70 CE the plateau was occupied by Jews, they fled to Massada after the destruction of The Second Temple. The Romans came to take it from the Jews. The Jews knew there was no way to beat the Romans so in the night the all committed suicide. We as group put on tefelin and prayed on top of Massada before taking the cable car back down. Although historians arent 100% if the jews committing suicide is a true story it is seen mainly as the symbol for Jewish people to never give up and that Israel wont be defeated. Overall it was an extremely fun and interesting part of the day.

-Daniel Mahoney

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Day 2 Part 2: Synagogues and The Market

Shavuah Tov from Yerushalayim! Thursday was beyond amazing! First, it is just so amazing to be here in the holy land and I could not be more excited. I will only be writing about certain parts from this day as Aidan and I split the responsibilities. 

I will start with a part of our tour of the old city of Jerusalem! After our DELICIOUS falafel and prayers at the kotel, we roamed the streets of the old city which was just so amazing! As we roamed, we came across four attached, traditional, Sephardic synagogues which we got to tour! They were such beautiful synagogues! After about ten minutes, we heard a loud musical processional approaching for a bar mitzvah which was an experience filled with so much ruach and fun! They had some very fun tunes and musical instruments. One thing that really stuck out to me was their Torah, which had a silver, cylinder-shaped case around it. It was a traditional Sephardic Torah and It was stunning! 

As we continued into the next synagogue, we ran into the most amazing thing! A Sofer, a Torah scribe! It was such an experience to see him working on a Torah! It was incredible, too, to hear him talk about his process and the time it takes to finish a whole Torah (1 year)! As we continued to ask questions, he showed us some of his other work which which was also amazing. It was incredible how he wrote in such a beautiful font with such consistency! He was selling some of his work and how could I pass up an opportunity like that! I choose out a hamza-shaped writing with the a priestly benediction from the Book of Numbers on it. Even better…he scribed my Hebrew name on it! 

Let’s move onto later in the afternoon – the shuk!!! Our amazing tour guide, Dikla, brought us around so that we could taste some of Israel’s finest foods, and in my opinion, some of the world’s finest foods. We started with a refreshing fresh fruit drink which was without a doubt, the best drink that has ever entered my body! We then moved onto taste melawa which was spectacular. The name comes from the Hebrew word melach which means salty, soft pizza. It was served like a pizza but millions of times better! I really have no idea what he put on it but it was delicious! All the flavors were indescribable! My mouth waters just writing about it! It does not stop there, though! As the chef was making the melawa, he was showing off his skills by flipping the pancake, pita, super high! He then asked our group who wanted to try and thinking that he was joking, said “I will”! Turns out, he was not joking and he invited me behind the counter to flip it! That was surely my highlight of the shuk! 

After that, we got to taste some kanafeh, which is a cheese dessert with ice cream on top! This is one of my favorite desserts and a must have when you come to Israel! After that, we got to go to the world’s best rugalach place! I do not think words can even describe how good this rugalach is. They give it to you nice and warm and it is gooey and just feels like your taste buds are in heaven! As a result of all the spectacular food Israel has and all the boring food the states have, (other than grandma’s strawberry pie, bubbies cheesecake, and mom’s matzah ball soup, of course) I feel that I am left with no other choice other than to make Aliyah! 

That night, we had the amazing privilege of seeing a light and sound show inside the old city! It contained beautiful projections and music on the walls of the old city right inside of Jaffa gate! It was a truly spectacular show and a lovely experience to end our day! 

Written by: Adam Davis

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Day 2 Part 1: Old City

On day two, we woke up and went to old Jerusalem. We went through the Dung gate and headed to the Kotel. We all took a tour of the Kotel tunnels, which were excavated after the Six Day War. In the tunnels, we got to see the vaults used to raise the level of Jerusalem and also the stones that make up temple mount. It was cool to see the monumental effort done by hand to build it.

After the tour, we wrote notes to put in the Western Wall. We recited the Shema at the wall. We left the Kotel and toured the old city. One of the places we stopped was four connected Sephardic synagogues. Just after we after we made it to the first one, a Bar Mitzah began. The next synagogue over had a sofer who was working on a Torah. One of the other two synagogues was mostly empty and the last one was a museum. Which had a collection of yads and a couple of Sephardic style Torahs. Which are in a hinged, cylindrical case instead in a soft cover.

We then got food from a small restaurant were everyone got either falafel or schnitzel; it was very tasty. The meal was finished with juicy watermelon as dessert. We also met a birthright group and one of the girls was from Miami University in Ohio. Two other girls in that group were from Livingston, New Jersey, where the Cantor’s wife is from. We finished up lunch early, meaning we had time to kill, so we checked out the Cardo. A Cardo is the main street running north to south in ancient Roman cities. Which was cool because we got to walk on the same street that people walked on two thousand years ago.

We had an appointment to go into an old synagogue called the Hurva (meaning destroyed in Hebrew) that was destroyed multiple times and was rebuilt recently. When we made it to the Hurva, we learned how it played a major roll in the war for independence as a headquarters for the predecessor to the Israeli Defense Force, causing it to be destroyed a second time. It was rebuilt to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary. The view off the balcony was truly spectacular. It allowed us to see most of the old city, since it went all the way around the Hurva.

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Day 1: Exploration

After our two long flights we finally made it in Eretz Yisrael and we met up with our wonderful tour guide Dikla. When we got on the bus we went to Mount Scopus that looked over the new and old Jerusalem and it was a fantastic sight. While at Mount Scopus we sang Shehchiyanu and we did the blessing for the grape juice. After we relaxed for a while most of us went to Israel’s famous Aroma coffee house of which there are so many all over the country.
       In the evening we went to the Land of Genesis, Eretz Bereshet.  Abraham’s servant Eliezer give us instructions to get to ride camels. Adam and Aiden’s camel had to  go to the bathroom REALLY BAD! Hope tried to get on the camel, but the camel stood up when Hope was trying to get on. One of the workers tried to help but the camel absolutely refused to lay back down. When we got to Abraham’s tent Abraham was there to greet us. Once we got in his tent we sat at this low table as it was in those days. We also were given tunix to wear, that was period clothing. Once dinner was over we all took a pretty picture of the Judean mountians on top of Abraham’s cliff. It was a wonderful evening but we were glad to finally get to sleep.

Andy Davis and Caleb Smith

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Excerpts from Congregation B’nai Israel, Sylvania Ohio’s historic 150th anniversary concert:

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Cantor Jakub Lichterman Recordings

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B’nai Israel Confirmation Israel trip 2016

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Day 1

Good morning!! After a long flight and seeing the gorgeous view of the city of Jerusalem we have a 6:30 am wake up call. Come get ready and eat your delicious breakfast, or in my case, some cereal and bread. Then it’s off to the old city. First stop: the western wall tunnels. It was amazing to learn the history behind the western wall and the landscape and geography of the holy city of Jerusalem. Afterwards, off to the western wall! It was such an emotional and amazing experience. I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to be on this wonderful trip. And the fun didn’t stop there, afterwards it was off to the City of David.

We changed into swimsuits and headed for the aqueduct and learned about the history of the old City of David, which was VERY interesting. Next up: water tunnels. The water tunnels were so exciting and such a great adventure. Walking through the aqueduct tunnels with the water was an amazing experience. At first the water immediately went up to our lower backs, or at least it did for me because everyone else is taller, and then it lowered to just above our ankles. The water may have been freezing but it felt so nice and refreshing after a long couple hours in the sun. Seeing the differences in how the tunnels were put together was mind blowing to see another form of architecture that’s different than our modern architecture back home. This trip is definitely everything I imagined it would be and its only Day 1. Oh, and my new favorite word thanks to our tour guide and Ben Yaffe: SABABA!! I’m so excited for the rest of this trip and to explore Israel. Masada, we’re coming for you next!!!

Submitted by,
Madison Smith
Oh, and I had my first successful conversation in Hebrew today!!!!
Now, some helpful and funny phrases from Lexi Hendel:

-“What’s a kaba?”-tour guide
-“Uh it’s obviously corn on the kaba!!!”-Lexi Hendel

-“What language do munks speak out of curiousity?”
-“Don’t they speak Munkian?”-Lexi Hendel

Day 1 Part 2

As an added surprise our tour guide, Yair, along with Cantor Lichterman and bus driver, Alex, brought us to an Arab market. The market reminded me of a flee market, it had many products, and lots of food. The first thing I bought at the market was an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) sweatshirt. I also got one for my brother, Josh. Soon after that we went to the shuk. The shuk is a Jewish market. At the shuk we had falafel for lunch, which everyone else said was amazing. Then after lunch, more shopping!! There was such a wide variety of products to choose from! I got a new case for my phone that looks like a bird with little ears or feathers at the top. After the shuk, it’s back to the Rabin Hostel for down time. During the down time everyone just hung out together. After our down time it’s off to dinner! For dinner we got to choose from a variety of foods such as: spaghetti, hot dogs, a salad bar, chicken schnitzel, rice, and rotisserie chicken. The dinner was very filling and delicious.

After dinner there was a meeting with Cantor Lichterman about the plans for tomorrow!! We have to get up at 2:00am to go to Masada!! So far Israel is all I thought it would be, plus more!! Well, I’m off to bed!! See you at 2:00am Masada!!! Good night!!

Submitted by,
Jamie Sherman

Some notes about our tour guide Yair:

-he plays guitar
-he’s 31 years old
-he was born in Israel but his mother was born in Chicago, Illinois and is of Italian and Libyan origin!!
-he loves to surf
-he was in the Israeli army
-but most importantly he knows so much and has so much to teach us about Israel!!

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Day 2

Day 2 started with a bang. We woke up at 2am to travel 2 hours to Masada. After climbing the short side of the fortress behind the crowds, we watched the sunrise and davened shachrit and put on tefilin. As a group we learned about the history of Masada and its present-day significance. Breakfast followed the cable car ride down Masada. We then traveled to En Gedi. We climbed the rocks to reach the waterfalls which we soaked in for about 2 hours. We were told the story of David and Saul in the caves as a young David destined to bee king fled from the jealous King Saul. as it happens this was the scene of Quinn’s bar mitzvah haftorah.
-Jeremy Davis

Next in our itinerary was something extraordinary we had all been looking forward to since we arrived in Israel. The Dead Sea was just a short drive away, and had an extremely scenic route with the beautiful blue water. After eating a delicious lunch overlooking the sea, we finally swam. We had fun floating on our backs and putting mud all over our bodies, and having to switch to a pool if it started to hurt. We left after 3 hours to go to our last stop of the day, Abrahams tent. We rode magical camels to travel back in time and ate a dinner in Abrahams tent, where he told us his story and provided us with delicious food. Exhausted after such a long day, the ride home was quiet, and all of us will have a great night’s sleep tonight.
-Sam Richards

Extra information: Quinn found inner peace in En Gedi. We met an old friend of my dads (Greg Davis) from USY and Ramah at Abrahams tent. His name was Josh but I forgot his last name. The final bus ride to the hostel was fun because Lila and I were the only ones awake while everyone else was sound asleep.
-Jeremy davis
The Dead Sea was hilarious, everyone fell into deep pits of soft clay and the girls screamed almost every time. We now have a ton of inside jokes that will probably make their way onto the blog pretty soon. Emmie showed her managing skills as she oversaw strangers trying to recover her shoe, that she lost in a Dead Sea mud pit. She had to wait for her hero Brian to come to her rescue and easily pull out her shoe.
-Sam Richards

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Day 3 Part 1

We started off the day by going to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.  Before we entered the museum, we went down a ramp that led us down to the museum doors, which represented to me that we were going to a dark time in history.  The hallways in the museum zig zagged at an incline.  There were pictures of before, during, and after the Holocaust. Many artifacts were behind enclosed glass cases, such as the pajamas they wore in the concentration camps.  Videos were shown throughout each section about survivors telling about their personal story.

Going to Yad Vashem was emotional for me as it was for all of us because my great grandparents perished in the Holocaust, but my grandparents were Holocaust survivors.  Before we went out of the museum,  I saw a picture that caught my eye.  It showed survivors standing together in Israel in their concentration camp clothes holding the Israeli flag.  Cantor Lichterman told us a story about how he found out about his sister that he never knew about. Once we reached the end of the museum, we went up a ramp and it was a great relief for me as a Jew to see the beautiful scenery of modern rebuilt Jerusalem as our Jewish capital.

Lila Goldman

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Day 3 Part 2

After a long, scenic drive after the museum, we arrived at a gas station. We all had a healthy, if bad, lunch. There we met our archelogical guide, after a shot drive to the site we climbed off the buss into the blazing sun. Our sweaty exhausting walk ended at a cover where a cool breeze was coming from the ground. The guide then took us down into the ancient man made cave system to a breath of relief from all the hot kids. When we stopped in a spacious room in the cave the guide explained that this room was used to raise pigeons. After claiming out our eyes were met with the scorching sun after a dark cave, with the sun glancing off Mr. Kripeis head. We then walked to a different site where the guide explained that we would be digging for artifacts, at which point Ian’s eyes lit up. We spent a good thirty minuets scraping at the ground, pulling out pottery, charcoal, and even some bones. Then we carried buckets of dirt up to the surface where we sifted for smaller things at which point we found even more bones. Our day ended with us getting to pick out pieces of pottery that they didn’t need and each one of us getting a acheological dig certificate.

-Margaret Roberts

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Day 4 Part 1

On shabbat morning, we walked to the Italian Synagogue which was right down the street. The synagogue was gorgeous. It was originally built in Italy in the 17th century. It stayed as a functioning synagogue until about 1900 when it was closed but was maintained in Italy until it was moved to Jerusalem in the early 1950s. It is the same way as it was when it was built. My favorite part is the ark, which was intricate and painted gold. It is a Orthodox synagogue so the women had to go high up on the balcony so they were separated from the men, and had to peer out from shutters like 400 years ago.

The tunes used at the service were very different from the tunes all of us are used to. For most of the service, we all just listened. Jeremy had the opportunity to do the Levi Aliyah after I passed it up because I thought the gabbai was asking “Are you leaving?” rather than “Are you Levi?” We left the service and were very moved by the experience.

-Asher Kripke

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Day 4 Part 2

Following our service at the Italian synagogue, we went to eat a picnic lunch in the Garden of Liberty (which happens to have a replica of the Liberty Bell). On the menu for this meal was a delicious box lunch featuring Cantor Lichterman’s favorite food, chicken schnitzel. In the park, we also played soccer and climbed dragon sculptures — “traditional” Israeli activities. There were lots of other people in the park; we met Israeli families and even witnessed pictures before an Ethiopian wedding.

After the park, we began a journey through thousands of years of history.  Our tour guide Yair explained how, through five thousand years of history, there has only been two times (before 1948) that an autonomous Jewish state existed in the land of Israel. This occurred under the dynasties of King David and the Maccabbees. Otherwise, Yair explained, Israel was under the control of various empires. This was a great history lesson because it demonstrated how amazing it is that we live in a time where an independent Israel exists that Jews can visit and live in. It was a powerful reminder of how lucky we are.

Then, on the walk back to the hotel, we passed by — but did not enter — the historic King David Hotel. Previously, it was the home of the British police headquarters and the recipient of Israeli resistance fighter bombs in the short period between the end of World War 2 and 1948. Tragically, over a hundred people were killed, British and Israeli soldiers alike. Today, it is now a five star hotel. It also happens to be where chaperone Matt stayed when he visited Israel decades ago (its biggest accomplishment).

After a few hours of rest at the hotel, we went to the Kotel to celebrate Shavuot. There, we encountered a very crowded area with Jews from all over the country and all over the world. There were people from all different sects of Judaism, whether ultra orthodox or teenagers from Toledo. We held a short service outside the wall, then split into men and women and visited the wall itself. We were able to touch the wall and make a personal prayer, which was an incredible experience. We ended the day on this holy note, having had a once in a lifetime experience celebrating a holiday at the holiest place in Judaism.

– Nathan Podolsky

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Day 5 Part 1

Day five started out with another relieving late wake-up. At 8:00, Jeremy, Sam, and I got out of bed ready to start the day. We went down to the lobby and met outside to get ready to walk to Shavuot services. When we arrived to the Great Synagogue, it was modern and beautiful! When we walked into services, a young boy was at the bimah! It was interesting to see a child leading services, even though it was only for a little while. After that, the, Megillah of Ruth was read. However, it was fairly inaudible due to the fact that it was an Orthodox synagogue, in which case there was no microphone despite the large size of the sanctuary. Further on in the service, we read the Ten Commandments. We stood up for this, which was interesting. Being in this shul was quite different than the Italian shul we had gone to yesterday. This shul was much larger, they had an amazing cantor, (not as good as Cantor Lichterman of course), and a choir supplemented the cantor during most of the prayers. As a music lover, I enjoyed listening to that. After services were over, we looked at one of the largest mezuzah collections in the world, of which one of the most famous is the mezuzah of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav, which was carved from a remnant of wood from the original magnificent chair he sat in more than 200 years ago in his synagogue around 1800, which was dismantled and sent to Israel to be preserved. Rabbi Nachman was one of the greatest Chasidic rabbis and also the great grandson of the founder of the Chasidic movement. This mezuzah was particularly simple compared to the others.

Changing topic now, when we left the shul, we headed back to the hotel. We had previously been informed that the day was far too hot for a long hike, and we ended up getting about 5 hours of free time, the largest chunk of the day we have gotten for free time so far! To fill the time, everybody came together to either play card games such as euchere, ERS, and BS, which was tons of fun. It was wonderful to have this much free time before our evening activities.

-Quinn Murphy

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Day 5: Part 2

In the evening, we left for a walk. We walked through the Armenian, Christian and Muslim quarters on our winding way through the old city. We passed many other Jews walking throughout the city. We eventually made our way to the tomb of King David  in the Jewish quarter. This spot is extremely holy for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews. There were many Chasidim celebrating Shavuot around the building that stands above the tomb. We then made our way to an outdoor mall not too far from our hotel. On our way throughout the mall, we passed buildings that were made of old stone bricks. Each brick was labeled. We then found out that these buildings, which predate modern Israel, were disassembled, piece by piece, labeled, then reassembled a few years ago within the mall. We spent about an hour and a half in the mall. We got ice cream, and shopped. The confirmation class found the gift that will be presented to the congregation upon our return.  It was very interesting to see shops that we recognized from the U.S., such as Nike and american Eagle, right next to stores that sold judaica.

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Day 6

Hello, and welcome back to the next edition of your favorite blog brought to you by your favorite duo, Miranda Hupp and Lexi Hendel. (Please hold your applause until the end) We would like to start from the beginning… We are not talking Adam and Eve but like 12:01AM, June 13, 2016. It all started in the Jersulem Tower hotel, we were all snuggled up in our comfy crusty bed when we were very rudely awoken by drunk partying Israelis just outside our hotel windows. You could only imagine how salty and frustrated we were because we were obviously trying to get a “good nights rest.” Eventually we fell back asleep in our nice crusty beds and were soon awoken once again by the obnoxious loud wake up call. Even though Lexi and I were not in the same room, we both answered the same way, with a spot on Indian accent and then promptly hanging up the phone and going back to bed. We all got up out of bed eventually and made our way downstairs for the… Interesting…. Breakfast choices.

After our breakfast we waddled out to the bus, never been happier to see it considering we have been walking everywhere since Friday. On our way to the aqueducts we made a stop to a historical statue of  the famous menorah infront of the Knesset, Israels parliament,   which held a myriad of different meanings and inscriptions including a famous sentence from the prophet Zachariah which amazingly is from my bat mitzvah. (Shoutout to Lexi’s Bat Mitzvah.)

Then we got on the bus again and drove to the ancient Roman aqueducts. Depending on your height, the aqueduct reached different points on ones body. For example if you are short like Miranda, Maddie, Carolyn, and the Shermans then the water went all the way up to mid stomach and we were swimming. However if you are tall like Sam or Alexa, then the water went up to the knees. One of the best memories at the aqueduct was Emmie screaming because a crab almost touched her, then Carolyn slipped and the crab fell on Asher’s foot. Overall the aqueduct was a blast.

We then got on the bus again and went to the ride donkeys and make our own pita in a replica of an ancient Israeli village. I would just like to add that Alexa and Miranda’s donkey named Vanilla was a mile behind the group the entire time… And Lexi and Maddie’s was always in first. (Lexi and Maddie are going to the national donkey competition!…)

Then we went shopping in the accent holy city of Tsfat way in the North of Israel in the Galilee and bought some souvenirs to take home with us. Upon arrival an old lady came up to Miranda and slapped her on the arm for an unknown reason. Most the girls bought jewelry and shirts and the boys bought gifts for their mothers or in Asher and Nathan’s case, Star of David underpants. We then made our way out of the twisty ally’s and the same angry old lady started cursing at Lexi, again for an unknown reasons. We then got back on the bus and drove to the Kibbutz. Maddie and Miranda came up with a new system called pre sleep because Emmie has a differing opinion on bedtime. At the Kibbutz we ate a delicious meal and enjoyed some quality time with our friends. A gorgeous location on beautiful Lake Kineret.

We would like to leave you with some memories and inside jokes we have made throughout the trip, most in which you will not understand until we come back.. But that’s okay..

1. Jewsus Christ whatta doin!?

2. Haha shut up margie its not funny..

3. More or less…

4. Wait, July’s a month??


6. I would like file a complaint

7. “Psst Miranda why is there two pumpkins behind us”

8. *leaves the apple juice in the room* *happy dance*

9. That nose blow sounded like a machine gun


Much love, lexi and miranda

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Day 7/8 last day!!

To celebrate our last full night, we had a huge bonfire with s’mores, an accordion player, birthday cake for Asher (the actual day) and Emmie (last week), and guitar playing by our tour guide. It was a great night, except it’s already hot in Israel. Therefore, you could not get within 4 feet of the fire without feeling extreme heat. Overall, it was a great night and a great ending to our stay at the kibbutz.
The next morning, we woke up early and packed our bag for the last time on this trip. Then, we traveled to a school in the Partnership region with Toledo, where we met with kids just like us. It was extremely fun to hang out with them and learn about their daily life. Brian and Nathan’s speech about being Jewish in America and Toledo was pretty great too. Later, we made pita and sang songs together. We ended the visit with a beautiful group picture, where we all “dabbed.”

Submitted by: Alexa Bader

Day 8

In the afternoon, we went to the Ayalon Institute (Kibbutzim Hill) where between 1945 and 1948, 40 plus members joined for protection and establish d a kibbutz after the Holocaust in Europe. To protect Israel and to help it become a state, the Haganah became the core of the Israeli Defense Force. Britain controlled the area at the time, but the members of the Ha’Tzofim Aleph group and Ta’as corps had other ideas. The main reason for creating the Kibbutz was to educate the kibbutz children enough so they could go to university and succeed after their ancestors were bogged down by the Holocaust.

But the underground was much more important to the members of the Kibbutz, even though some giraffes (kibbutz members that weren’t involved in producing bullets) were unaware of the secret. The Haganah needed ammunition and Ha’Tzofim Aleph and Ta’as could help the cause. Both groups built an illegal underground bullet factory, the size of an underground tennis court, to aid in the production of bullets for the Haganah. There was one entrance to the underground under the bakery and another under the laundry, both used to disguise the noise of the bullet production. The most impressive part was that the Kibbutz gave every impression of a regular kibbutz with regular communal meetings and practices, while still running an underground factory. Not to mention the factory produced 2,250,000 bullets with 0 casualties and 0 discoveries. There was one close call with a British train crashing 100 meters away from the Kibbutz, putting the members under the microscope. However, they were let off the hook because of their extreme helpfulness and willingness to help British victims. Also, the kibbutz had a special visitor, a Holocaust survivor who as slave labor for Nazis was forced to manufacture bullets for them in a similar facility and she remarked on the contrast in the work they did – she to destroy (Jewish) legend, they to defend and build Jewish life. She recalled the significance of that specific factory we visited. “Without this factory, we may not have won our independence”, which delineates the significance of our visit perfectly.

Next we went to the markets of Jaffa to go power shopping for the final time. Included was a nice view on the beach of Tel-Aviv overlooking the sky view of the city and the magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea. I bought a nice $13 shirt from an Israeli chain, Castro, while other peers bought local T-shirts and apparel.

Next we had a fancy dinner at Maganda, a famous Yemenite restaurant where we toasted to a wonderful trip and reminisced about our best memories on the trip. Yair, our guide, even pitched into the conversation by saying his favorite thing about each of us and received a well deserved standing ovation. Cantor thanked all of us for being such a wonderful group and thawed Alison and Matt our chaperones for their great help while Matt thanked the Cantor for all his work in making the trip so great. We finished saying our highlights of the trip and headed to Ben Gurion airport in Tel-Aviv, where we said an emotional goodbye to Yair and Israel while hoping to return again soon.

Submitted by Brian Glasser

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Chaperone thoughts on the trip

I was extremely excited about this trip, but was a bit nervous not knowing most of the kids very well.    I truly came to love them all during this experience.  Watching them experience Israel and learn her history and beauty was awe inspiring.  One of my jobs was to bring up the rear when we walked anywhere to make sure we did not lose anyone.   I am blessed to have these memories which I will always treasure:

– Alexa Bader had such a positive attitude, even on the days we were exhausted.  I must have heard her say, “this is fun!” at least 5 times during different activities.  Her positivity was contagious!!!!

-Emmie Brody was always smiling and she gave me plenty of hugs.  She was often slightly over-caffeinated according to her roommates.  I think she surprised herself with how much walking she did.

– Jeremy Davis was one of the most engaged kids in participating with the tour guide.  He could one day be a history professor.  He also enjoys talking smack when he beats me at euchre.  But who won the last game 10-1?

– Lexy Hendel was very funny.  She entertained the girls a lot with her accents and humor.  Because the Hendels live in Findlay, she probably had the least interaction with the others prior to this trip.  It was moving to see the kids relationship with her fully blossom.

– Brian Glasser had a constant smile on his face that made me think he was up to something.  He is extremely smart, well-spoken and a great big brother.  He spoke beautifully to the school kids in our partnership region.

– Carolyn Glasser is so sweet to all of the kids.  Her relationship with Brian reminds me of my sister’s relationship with me when we were that age.  She would often drop back to the back of the group to talk with me when walking places.   I love her independence!!

– Miranda Hupp is a fairly picky eater who did not really love the Israeli food options.  Therefore, she was the most appreciative when we received special pizza meals.  She is a magnet to the other kids, they all love her.  She also conquered her fear of cable cars.

–  Nathan Podolsky wins the award for best sense of humor.  He always made sure our guide equated all distances in terms of football fields so we could understand better.  He taught the Israeli kids how to dab.  Kol ha kavod!

– Lila Goldman had never flown on a plane before and I am sure was nervous about being that far from home.  She not only survived, but thrived.  She loved being with the kids and I am so glad she was part of this trip.  She even sang for all of us at the bonfire by the beach.

-Sam Richards always had a smile on his face and could be one of the nicest kids I have ever met.  He was our tech guru helping out with blog posts and never complaining.  He probably had the toughest time in the tunnels because of his height, but I know of no head injuries.

– Margaret Roberts and I had a chance to bond on this trip.  She loves to share her interests in comics, music, and television.  She loved the stray cats in Israel and I had to keep her from bringing one home to her mom.

– Maddie Smith also had never flown before.  She is so sweet and always smiling even when she was dead tired.  She really bonded with the other girls. She admitted to me she missed her dad’s cooking.

– Quinn Murphy is so expressive and was one of the most enthusiastic kids when he found an activity or food he liked.  He loved the waterfall at Ein Gedi.  He loved the food at our final night dinner and was a joy to have on the trip.

– Ian Mahoney was enthralled by the art, architecture, archaeology, and history.  He was so interesting to talk to and get his take on what moved him.  He was blown away by the ark at the Italian Synagogue.  He is an excellent euchre player too.

– Jamie (Lizzy) Sherman was a joy to have with us.  She sat up front on the bus and participated with Yair, our tour guide.  She did everything and was so emotional leaving Israel.  It showed me how much she must have loved the entire experience.

– Asher Kripke.  Getting to go to Israel with my son was emotional, and I often found myself tearing up.  At the top of Masada, we davened as we both wore talit given to us by our grandparents.  Alison captured a picture of him showing me how to wrap tefelim.  He is mensch who I am proud to call my son.

– chaperoning with Alison and Ivor was a pleasure.  Ivor has such passion for music, for Israel, for the Jewish people and for these kids.  He helped plan a great trip, along with our travel agent Michelle, and Kim Brody.  He infused stories to make the history relatable while knowing when to pull back and let the kids chill out.  Alison was a calming and motherly figure to the kids.  It was not easy for her to make the sacrifice to be away from her family, we were so lucky she made the tough decision to come with us.

– Thank you to everyone who played a part in making this trip possible including my grandparents, of blessed memory.   I went to Israel 35 years ago for the first time as a Bar Mitzvah present from my grandparents.  I am so thankful to have the honor and pleasure of chaperoning a trip named for them and to experience many of the same things 35 years later with kids from B’nai Israel.  Both Israel and B’nai Israel were special to Sherwin and Naomi and to me as well.
Matt Kripke

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Concluding Thoughts



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


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Day 3 part 2

After a long, scenic drive after the museum, we arrived at a gas station. We all had a healthy, if bad, lunch. There we met our archelogical guide, after a shot drive to the site we climbed off the buss into the blazing sun. Our sweaty exhausting walk ended at a cover where a cool breeze was coming from the ground. The guide then took us down into the ancient man made cave system to a breath of relief from all the hot kids. When we stopped in a spacious room in the cave the guide explained that this room was used to raise pigeons. After claiming out our eyes were met with the scorching sun after a dark cave, with the sun glancing off Mr. Kripeis head. We then walked to a different site where the guide explained that we would be digging for artifacts, at which point Ian’s eyes lit up. We spent a good thirty minuets scraping at the ground, pulling out pottery, charcoal, and even some bones. Then we carried buckets of dirt up to the surface where we sifted for smaller things at which point we found even more bones. Our day ended with us getting to pick out pieces of pottery that they didn’t need and each one of us getting a acheological dig certificate.

-Margaret Roberts

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CBI Toledo Europe Mission 2015


I have been working with Lee and Gail Kwait for over a year now to put together this eagerly anticipated Jewish heritage mission to Europe. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and time and making connections to pull something like this off and trying to satisfy a divergent group each of whom has different needs and interests is complicated to say the least. But the Kwaits and I led a mission to South Africa recently which was fantastically successful so on request from people who heard about the South African tour we decided to offer this followup. There are several repeat participants on this mission from our last trip.

It’s been a few days already since we departed Toledo for Europe. Except for a little free time here & there it’s been exhausting so I have had no time to blog unfortunately. When we finally check in at night from long days, as exhausted as I am I work on planning the next day and researching the Jewish components so often I don’t get to sleep till late at night, then the next day I am usually first so I can make sure along with our other tour leaders that everyone is where they are supposed to be…

As a fan of architecture and history Prague in the Czech Republic is a dream. Unscathed and not bombed during World War II everything is intact though over 40 years of Communist rule brought some neglect but it’s been restored to its former glory as one of the most beautiful and great cities of the world with intact buildings dating back as much as 800 years.

Similarly much of the Jewish heritage is also intact making it a great treasure though the reason is sinister and chilling as the Nazis planned Prague’s Jewish area as ‘The Museum To The Extinct Jewish Race!’ Consequently they have the largest Judaica collection in the world and many magnificent synagogues within close proximity to each other. This is very different to for example Poland particularly Warsaw which was a Jewish community many times larger than Prague (350,000 vs 58000 Jews) and Germany where almost everything was destroyed and obliterated.

The 3 experiences that stand out most in my mind are our visit to Terezin Ghetto/Concentration Camp, the many shuls we visited and Friday night shabbat service followed by dinner which I will now describe in more detail. I have visited Auschwitz Birkenau twice for missions so when I mentioned to my mother we were going to Terezin she said compared to the death camps where she and my father were interred in the war, “Terezin was a picnic!”

Although this jarring remark by mother is very realistic I would say that going to any place where our People were concentrated for the eventual purpose of destruction, is an equally sickening and sobering experience. I actually was not planning to go to Terezin and thought I would stay with those of our group who did not want to go and we’d do some fun sightseeing. But when 18 of 19 members of our group signed up to go, I wasn’t go to leave them as I am the spiritual leader of our group so I prepared an appropriate service to conclude our visit, as one cannot leave a place like Terezin without some “separation” and spiritual upliftment.

The sick thing about this sad place is that it’s an old Czech fortress town from which the local general population was expelled to create a “holding” place, a temporary transit point for Jews from the area till its inmates could be transferred to their next “destination” often Auschwitz or other such places, most resulting in death.

I will not report any more on this visit except to say that after 5 grueling hours there, the climax occurred at the end. This was due to careful planning by our excellent guide Luba, a young Jew from the Ukraine who heads Precious Legacy Tours, and myself. I asked her for an appropriate place where we could do our short ceremony I planned for the conclusion and she said she had the perfect place.

About 20 years ago a tiny hidden secret synagogue was found there with beautiful painted biblical quotes of inspiration such as beseeching God to hear our prayers, and Stars of David painted on the walls. It was a secret shul. So we did our readings and chants there including Kaddish, poems by the children of Terezin, and concluding with Hatikvah. I was impressed everyone remembered to bring the service I had Includes in the packs each person had received from me for the trip with all kinds of pertinent materials and articles on all the places on our itinerary etc.

I had texted my wife Jan to tell her we were going to Terezin. Jan who was supposed to go on the trip but had to cancel due to family emergency, texted me an inspirational note I shared with our group during the service, which mentioned that our son Mayron who is a surgical resident in Michigan had just received some prestigious medical awards, and she added, ” they tried to kill your lineage…so as much as they tried to get rid of us we are excelling and achieving!”

Everyone in our group cheered and clapped, it was a deeply emotional moment for us all, specially for me who lost 100s of relatives in the war and a half sister aged 4. As Lee Kwait read the poem I Never Saw Another Butterfly written by a young boy in Terezin who perished, he could hardly finish reading, we were all choked up…but left with the words ringing in our ears of Hatikvah “lih’yot am chofshi b’artseinu….to be a free people in our land…”

PS we have just crossed the border by bus from the Czech Republic into Germany as I write this!!

Concentrated in one small area of Prague where the Jewish ghetto once was, are an ancient Jewish cemetery as well as 6 impressive synagogues and a beautiful building of the Chevrah Kadisha – the Jewish Burial Society which played a vital social services and Tsedaka role in the community. In addition a little further away is the magnificent Jerusalem Synagogue which was not on our tour as its too far but I went there in the morning during free time and am sure glad as its magnificent. It is still in use as are several others although the community is tiny compared to pre-war, a few 1000.

Described in local literature as ‘the most beautiful synagogue in Europe’ is the Spanish Synagogue so called because of its magnificent Moorish architecture. It is very reminiscent of Florence Italy’s synagogue though much smaller but both rank amongst the most beautiful in the world without question. We took lots of photos outside too by the weird statue of Franzen Kafka, the famed Jewish writer about whom Prague jokes ‘everyone’s heard of him no one has read him.’ This saying we learnt from our tour guide from Precious Legacy Tours Luba who was outstanding and deserves special mention as having a good make makes a huge difference on tour.

Also awe inspiring is the Alt-Neu Shul, the oldest in the world in constant use (except during the Second World War) dating from 1270, yes just imagine standing in this holy space where over 750 years our People have continuously davened to Hashem!! By the ark is the 400 year old seat of the great legendary saintly tsadik Rabbi Judah Loew known as The Maharal, So integral is he to Prague history that a statue attributed to him stands in front of city hall. Next to the Altneu Shul is the Jewish town hall with its famous Hebrew clock.

The cemetery close by has 1000s of graves on top of each other as they ran out of room, including the Maharal’s grave.

On all the walls of this Shul are inscribed the names of every Jew from Czechoslovakia who perished in the Shoah some 78000 names filling every corner of every wall including lobby, corridors etc. Other than names the building is deliberately and starkly bare except for an outline of ark & is as powerful as visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I am so glad our group had the following experience described in my next paragraphs after exiting this memorial…

We concluded our Jewish experience here with an amazing coincidental climax by returning to the Spanish Shul for Friday night service followed by kosher shabbat dinner at the Solomon Restaurant. We had no idea what to expect at the service ~ I had contacted them and they said they were expecting 1 other group but when we arrived there weren’t many seats. I asked if they could bring out more and they said they thought it would be enough as at that point there were some 50 people which was all they were expecting but the crowd just kept growing with mostly young people and growing till there were some 150 or so packed in and they ran out of chairs and siddurim. We started 20 minutes late. It was a typical Conservative service very similar to Reform so our group were familiar with and able to follow the service and sing along and men and women sat together.

I introduced my group to the service leader who was a regular congregant from Ukraine (I don’t know if they have a Rabbi or Hazzan) and he asked me to sing the various Kaddish prayers which I was glad to oblige as singing there is a hugely emotional experience and honor.

The acoustics were fantastic and I could hear my voice reverberating off the arches of the magnificent structure. When the leader asked people where they were from we were happily amazed to find some young Jews knowledgeable of the service singing at the tops of their voices filling this great Shul with davening from all over Eastern Europe including Warsaw Poland where my family is from, Rumania etc.

Keeping the flame of Judaism alive in these places where it almost disappeared is a real kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of God’s name. What a contrast to the ghostly walls of the bare Pinkas Shul we had beheld a mere hour before..the young people’s voices still ringing in my ears Lecha Dodi – Come my beloved…let us greet the shabbat queen…and these young people live where? In Israel? No! In America? No! In Poland, in Rumania, Hungary, Czech…Ezekiel’s dry bones coming to life vision!

Dinner at the Solomon was delicious – traditional Jewish chicken soup, beef over cholent etc but more inviting than heimishe cousine was joining with the group next to us of French Jews as we sang together with great ruach zemirot and Israeli songs and I grabbed one of them & we danced ecstatically at the joy of bringing together Jews with from all over the world in this great place once called by some ‘the museum of the extinct Jewish race…!!

First stop here was Regensburg, a beautiful historical college town well preserved of centuries of history dating back to Rome. I only felt it worthwhile to do these countries so associated with Jewish suffering if we were going to do experience something positively Jewish so I set out during free time to find the Shul which I did with no problem, bumping into Joanne Rubin and Leah Connor exploring the town, whom I took along to find the Shul that was nearby.

It was locked of course, no security. There were 4 call buttons on the gate. I pressed them continually never being one to give up quickly. As Joanne and Leah began to leave a woman’s voice answered. I identified ourselves and our mission and soon the front door opened and a custodian opened for us. We explored the whole Jewish center and took photos. It is in the building that before the War housed the community offices. This survived though the Shul part of the complex burnt down on Kristalnacht. There is a new center which they are going to enlarge as it is too small to accommodate the reemergent community now numbering 1000 with the influx of Russian Jews as all over Germany.

Later as our whole group toured the town, we saw 2 sights of Jewish interest – Oskar Schindler’s home and a Holocaust memorial on the sight of a former ancient synagogue which was revealed recently through excavations. The memorial is by an Israeli sculptor and in the place where the ark stood is a stone with the Hebrew word mizrach – meaning ‘east’ carved, symbolizing the direction of Jerusalem but also meaning to shine as in light shining, the intent being for people to dwell in harmony. It was Sunday, the weather was perfect and the memorial was filled with many young people relaxing and enjoying the bright sunshine…I wonder if they grasp the significance of that once holy place or the word mizrach?.

When I told our group about the Shul some wanted to see it so I took them before retiring to the boat to depart Regensburg.

Two amazing coincidences – in Prague we stopped in the old town for lunch at a small local cafe when a woman jumped up and yelled ‘IVOR’ – it was Judy Gatchell from my former synagogue in Tucson whom I met 15 years ago when she needed a mohel for her grandson. We had reconnected last year when she attended a concert and scholar in residence program I did there. It was emotional to see her here in the middle of Prague – I told her we were going to the Conservative synagogue Friday night so she came too and said how much she enjoyed hearing me singing there…a long way from Arizona…

Second small world coincidence – the manager of our boat which by the way is gorgeous, brand new one month old – is a Hungarian who spent 14 years in Cape Town and married a South African and lived about 12 blocks from my mother in a city of 4 million!

On the boat you dare not miss a meal –
it’s a religious ritual –
Shouldn’t be a problem – I am religious and I know ritual, right?
Wrong – these buffets are chaos –
you can’t find an entrance to the line –
have to push your way in –
like they’re going to run out of food?
It extends round and round – like a wedding ring – no beginning no end
Like a merrygoround.
All 181 people on board attack simultaneously…
my African background should come in handy, that animal instinct of the jungle –
see a target? See food. Haven’t eaten in an hour. Attack! attack! Claw your way Cantor
come on don’t be shy…
thought I’d go in the reverse order but even starting with dessert doesn’t help –
the line extends beyond that too.
Might as well just wait it out
but by then everyone at your table’s all done and you’re left holding the bag…
Tomorrow morning there will be breakfast, won’t there?


Vienna is an incredible city! I think it would be appropriate to say though, that it has lost its heart as a result of the events of the Holocaust. Before World War II, almost 10 percent of Vienna was Jewish, approximately 180,000 Jews: half of the doctors were Jewish, three-quarters of the banks, two-thirds of the movie houses, 85 percent of the lawyers, and 100 percent of the scrap metal dealers just for example. Many famous Jews came from or were active in Vienna, like Theodore Herzel, author Stefan Zweig, Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schonberg, Johann Strauss, Josef Schmidt[famous tenor/my father visited him in his home in Vienna in 1938 together with Cantor Moshe Koussevitsky] and Gustav Mahler. Jews made an extraordinary contribution to Vienna’s cultural and intellectual life. The Jewish writer Sweig said that 90 percent of what Viennese are proud of, is attributable to Jews. Today, there is a strong resurgence, perhaps as many as 20,000 Jews with more than 10 synagogues.

Our bus entered the Ringstrasse, which incorporates within it many of Vienna’s famous and historical buildings. Before the war, many Jews lived on the Ringstrasse. In fact, there is currently an exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Vienna called Ringstrasse-A Jewish Boulevard.

We passed the magnificent opera house, to which I went back later in the day during our free time, but unfortunately, I missed the tours. I was in awe of the many magnificent buildings that we saw. I am a postcard collector, and although I am a good photographer, I still collect postcards of significant architectural. I bought several dozen postcards of magnificent Viennese buildings, which I a gleefully adding to my collection as prized acquisitions.


We visited the one remaining synagogue from the pre-Holocaust period- the almost two-hundred year old orthodox Seitenstettengasse Temple. It is beautiful, round, with two galleries for women. The roof is painted blue like the sky with stars, giving it an awry and eternal sense. For me, this synagogue filled me with a sense of awe: it is where one of the greatest cantors of all time served for 56 years- Salamon Sulzer, much of whose music influenced heavily the Ashkenazi synagogue. I stood with awe at the Bima, where Sulzer helped shape synagogue music for half a century and where today, I am glad to report the style of services led by their Israeli Hazzan, choir and Rabbi, helping to perpetuate this grand tradition.


The are three major Jewish landmarks besides the synagogue that I visited: In the Juadenpaltz is a stock Holocaust memorial in the shape of books of a library that have been turned inside out. Behind this memorial is one of two Jewish museums in Vienna. I visited both. In this museum, underground, there are excavations of an ancient synagogue that once stood in this Jewish area. At the other Jewish museum, among many interesting artifacts, is Theodore Herzel’s bicycle.


Having gotten tired of pasta and grilled salmon on our boat nightly, I decided to skip boat dinner and go to a nearby Israeli-style Viennese restaurant called Bahur-Tov, which means in Hebrew “good boy”. I had a nice chat with owner who is from Eastern Russia, but spent a lot of time in Israel. I ordered Schnitzel. I must say, it was possibly the best I have ever had in recent memory- certainly the largest- the portion was massive. As the owner brought me my order, he said “I doubt you will be able to finish this”. He also pilled on as many french fries as would fit without falling off the side of the plate. It was also garnished with salad. I did not see any point in leaving half of it when I was already full and taking the rest to go for the boat. What would I do with it then? Eat it cold? So I finished it. It was worth it!


This city, also known as Pressburg, has always been of interest to me, ever since I was a young lad. One of the Rabbis who served with my father in his synagogue in Cape Town, Eugene Duschinsky, one of the most impressive Rabbis I have ever met- brilliant erudite, intellectual, learnered in Talmud and seemingly everything else, had studied at the famous Yeshiva of Pressburg to which Rabbinic students all over the world used to flock before the War. The buildings that housed the Yeshiva are no longer standing. We visited the one remaining synagogue, which has upstairs in the women’s balcony a museum almost single handedly created by an impressive young man, Dr. Maros Borsky who has great passion for his community. The synagogue is well maintained, but not used during the winter months, as it is too expensive and too large. It actually officially opens after the date of our visit, but Dr. Borsky kindly obliged us by opening up and spending a huge amount of time with us.


Later that day, our cruise had arranged home hospitality with Slovakians in the area. I opted instead to visit one of Jewish Europes most famous landmarks- the burial site and remnant of an ancient Jewish cemetery, which contains the sanitarian tomb of the great Rabbi Moshe Schrbier, known as the Chatam Sofer. It is remarkable how this enclosed cemetery was created during the communist era with the help of large donations from Jews in New York and other places. It was done as a result of urban renewal, and was necessary to preserve this deteriorating Jewish site. Architects and engineers from all over the world come to see this impressive preservation site. The Jewish community employs a full-time person who oversees the cemetery and opens up for visitors and pilgrims. Dr. Borsky arranged for my visit, and within a 15 minute, simple, short, ten dollar taxi ride, I was there. Since it is very near the Denube embankment, I took a brisk walk along the water back to our boat which was conveniently docked a mere twenty minutes away.


Ever since I was a child and was raised with a deep appreciation for classical music, I became aware of Mozart. Therefore, Salzburg was always on my consciousness as the city most associated with Mozart. So when our tour offered the opportunity as an add-on, I was first online to sign up. Of course, Salzburg is also associated with the Sound of Music. Salzburg is considered one of the most beautiful places in Austria and was recently included in the official list of 100 places to visit before you die.

We went on a walking tour of the old historical part of the city, including the magnificent Mirabell Gardens from which there is a magnificent view of the great Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Crossing the famous Salzach River over one of Salzburg’s beautiful bridges, we walked the bustling streets to Mozart’s birthplace.

While everyone was enjoying lunch and some free time, I snuck out and went on one of my typical long hikes to the other side of town to find the one small Shul that still exists for the very small Jewish community that is left in Salzburg. It was about a half hour brisk walk but well worth it, because as I mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I do not visit Europe unless I find something Jewish to do there. The Shul is a reconstruction of the modest Shul that existed there before the War when it was destroyed.

Although Salzburg never had a big Jewish community like Vienna, Budapest, and some of the other places we visited, I should point out that while hiking the narrow streets of the old town to Mozart’s birthplace, we passed Judengasse where the original Jewish ghetto once existed.

For those who have an interest in Hollywood, no visit to Salzburg is complete without seeing some of the sites associated with the movie The Sound of Music. While we did not have time to see most of them, we did see the Pavilion in Hellbrunn where Von Trapp proposed to Maria.


Budapest the capital of Hungary is also one of the great Jewish communities of Jewish history. Today, the Jewish community numbers close to 100,000 despite the events of World War II and is one of the largest in Europe. Arriving on boat by the Denube, everyone gathered on the open upper deck of the boat to zoom in on taking photos of the magnificent parliament building, perhaps the most significant architectural landmark of Budapest, visible from miles away.

As we went on a bus tour of some of the best sites of Budapest, we passed the beautiful Opera House, and I resolved to return as soon as I had free time to try to take a tour, and not to make the same mistake as happened in Vienna, where by the time I got to Vienna’s famous Opera House, I missed the last tour. Free time is often spent spontaneously as one tries to find your way around, often winging it, hiking, or grabbing public transportation of taxies, whatever works. I returned to the parliament to try to take a tour, but it was closed for a NATO conference, and security barred my entry.

On Friday night, I invited members of our group to join me for services at Budapest’s Great Synagogue known as the Dohany Street Synagogue. It is the largest in Europe, and the second largest in the world. Its two onion domes are a landmark of Budapest, visible from far away. For those who like synagogues, visiting this Shul is an experience like no other. For those who have visited great churches and cathedrals around the world, you might say that this Synagogue is Cathedral-like. While Judaism has many significant synagogue structures, there are few of this grandeur or majesty. I have been privileged to visit synagogues in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Florence, Italy, which are compatible in majesty, but this one is much larger. For example, there are two balconies for women, so that it accommodates almost as many women as men. Most of the year, they do not use it because it is too big. They use the smaller but still beautiful Hereos Temple, on the grounds right next to it. I was gratified to notice that included in the plethora or tourist memorabilia that one sees all over Budapest, anything architectural- including great buildings of Budapest, also depicts the Great Synagogue amongst Budapest’s other great buildings like the Opera House, St. Stephen’s Basilica, many Art Nouveau buildings.

Members of our group were exhausted, as we were nearing the end of our tour, and they were worried that by the time we returned from services, dinner would be over. So I went alone, and I am thrilled that I did. The synagogue is neither Orthodox nor Conservative nor Reform, it is a unique Hungarian variation called Neolog. It is somewhere between Conservative and Orthodox- men and women are separated but there is no partition (the balconies are only used when there are very large crowds); only men sing in the choir, and an organ is used on Shabbat and holidays, but it is played by a non-Jew.

There were only about 75 people there on Friday night, in a sanctuary that seats over 3,000. Sitting across the aisle from me was a lovely, attractive young French Jewish lady from Paris. I noticed she was crying, I asked her if I could help. She told me she was there to say Kaddish for her father, whose Yahrzeit it was. She had recently lost her husband, and I felt badly that I could invite her to join us for Friday night dinner on the boat, so that she would not have to be alone on Shabbat. One cannot bring guests onto the boat as the boat was full. This lady was a senator in the European Parliament.

I asked someone why there was such a small crowd, and they answered that there are over 20 active synagogues all over Budapest, and people have many choices where to attend services. Some prefer smaller, more intimate places.

The service was very traditional with many familiar melodies. As in several other European countries, the Nusach (traditional melody motifs) included more major keys than East-European synagogues use under the influence of central-European synagogues (German, Austrian, etc.). Having grown up Orthodox, I thought the grand organ would bother me and be church-like; but frankly, it fit in and blended with the cantor and the choir. The combination of the organ, the acoustics, and the placement of the choir above the arch, below the curved ceiling, compounded together to make the choir sound like there were at least thirty voices. In actuality, there probably were ten or less singers. I left before Kiddush to get back the the boat in time for dinner, but pledged to return for Shabbat morning. At dinner, I regaled members of our group with stories of this most unique experience I would not want to miss for anything. I teased Jerry Russell who is our Synagogue Gabbi, that I had signed him up to be Gabbi next morning, and that he needed to be fit, because traversing the 3,000 seat sanctuary to hand out honors on Shabbat morning, would probably cause him to cover a mile or two in so doing. We still joke about this.

On Shabbat morning, there were about 50 people present. It was somewhat depressing. I am not sure why they use this building when such a small crowd gets obviously lost. The service was similar to Friday night, very traditional, some familiar melodies etc. Again I did not stay for Kiddush as much as I wanted to, as I had to many places I wanted to go on my agenda, and since it was Shabbat, I preferred to walk. The rest of that afternoon, which was free time for our group, I walked many miles following my map and saw fascinating places such as the Opera House, Gresham Palace, which is now the Four Seasons Hotel, with its magnificent lobby and stunning wroth-iron and stain-glass decorations and ceiling, and the amazing Museum of Applied Arts designed by the architect Lechner, the founder of Hungarian Art Nouveau.

In our hotel lobby, I noticed amongst tourist brochures that there was an interesting concert taking place in a palatial theatre. A few members of our group immediately signed up, and we were treated to a fabulous concert by the Danube Symphony, including a special instrument called a Cimbalom. It looks a bit like a console panel, with exposed strings like a harp, played with drum sticks covered with what looked like hair or string. The concert was a real treat. The orchestra was surprisingly large, maybe 40-50 players, including music associated with the area with composers like Berlioz, Bartok, Haydn, Lehar, Liszt, Kodaly, and of course Strauss. This is the first time I had seen or heard the Cimbalom.

In front of the parliament is one of the most moving memorials for Jews and all people, The Shoes On The Danube Memorial. It is dedicated to the thousands of Jews who were murdered right there, fell into the bloody river and froze. There are 60 pairs of rusted shoes sculpted of iron including children’s shoes. It is jarring. It cannot be missed as it is right in front of Parliament. Both the Hebrew and Hungarian plaques refer only to victims and not Jews.

On Sunday, we did our Jewish tour. Fortunately, most sites are in one area, beginning with the Great Synagogue, the beautiful restored Orthodox Kazinczy Synagogue which was one of the first heated buildings in the world, the ducts still visible from the floor, and the Rumbach Moorish Octagonal Synagogue, which tragically is not restored and is not used as a Synagogue any more.

On the grounds of the Great Synagogue are the Jewish Museum, the emotive Tree of Life, the Hereos Temple, and the Raoul Wallenberg Park, even though everything was closed together, we did a huge amount of walking and standing, and I was gratified by our group enduring this marathon as I was throughout our entire hour and entire trip, which was ambitious, extensive, and exhausting.

A fitting climax and conclusion to this amazing trip was our closing Kosher dinner at the lovely Carmel Restaurant in the Jewish area. I highlight of the dinner, besides the food was a guest appearance by Karyn Posner-Mullen who is the counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Budapest. She is an avid activist on behalf of Judaism and does incredible work both as a representative of the US, and as a Jew. Her stories of being a Jew in this part of the world were riveting. I urged her if she had the inclination to come to our Synagogue as a guest speaker, and I believe this would be an amazing program if she is ever able to come.

This was a highlight of an amazing two-week adventure into thousands of years of Euopean-Jewish history, and a fitting conclusion. Next morning, we all returned worn-out to Toledo with stories, anecdotes, pictures, memorabilia, videos, which we hope to share at a reunion at the end of the summer of 2015. We all returned enriched and inspired by what we observed- from a Jewish perspective, the resilience of our People, who time and again have bounced back and rebuilt lives and communities in the direst circumstances as observed in the above communities.


Prague ancient Jewish Cemetery


Cantor Lichterman at the grave of the Great Rabbi of Prague known as the Maharal from 1600


Salzburg, Austria, birthplace of Mozart


Mozart’s birthplace


Mozart’s birthplace


Synagogue in Salzburg, Austria


The Maizel Synagogue Prague, Czech Republic


The oldest synagogue in the world in constant use The Altneu Synagogue in Prague, Czech Republic

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