First Days in Tel Aviv

First Days in Tel Aviv – Tia Di Salvo, CLIP Onward Israel, Tel Aviv

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since we’ve arrived in Tel Aviv! Time seems to fly when you’re having fun, which is exactly what we’ve been doing. After settling into our apartments, we began to explore the area outside of our new, central TLV homes. Dizengoff street and Sarona market are just two of the many walkable places for us to hangout. Not only did we get to know the area, but we got to know each other. Although we may all have ties to New York (which by the way, doesn’t mean we’re all close to one another) we’re all from different parts of the country. From Boston to Colorado to Miami, our group is demographically spread out and it’s interesting to learn about everyone’s personal neck of the woods.

Tuesday morning, we spent the day at our orientation where we got to really know our madrichas: May and Smadar (who by the way are super awesome). After a tiring day of team bonding and going over program details, we went home to rest for our first day of work Wednesday morning. Because we’re living on our own, it’s up to each individual to figure out how he or she will get to work. Some of us chose to walk, while others ventured to take on the Tel Aviv bus system. The day was filled with a lot of wrong turns, Google maps, and sweaty interns, but at the end of the day we all figured out where we’ll be working for the next two months.

On Wednesday afternoon we left the city for an overnight camping trip up north. After a few too many hours of driving (gotta love Israeli traffic), we made it to the campsite just in time for dinner. This is the first time we got to meet the CLIP Jerusalem group, so it was exciting to once again, meet new people. While we were enjoying our evening together, we received news that a terror attack occurred very close to our apartments in TLV. The shooting took place a Sarona market: a market filled with restaurants ad bars. One of the interns on our program even works in the exact building where the shooting occurred. After assuring our families that we were safe and nowhere near the city, we played ice breakers and sports while remaining thankful to be with one another and have this amazing opportunity. 

While the lack of sleep may have seemed torturous in the moment, it was worth it in the end. We had a jam-packed day full of hiking, rafting, and finally the beach! Living in Tel Aviv definitely has many perks, however it’s always nice to get away and explore everything else that Israel has to offer.

After an exhausting day in the sun on Thursday, it was nice to sleep in Friday morning. Because of Shabbat, we don’t work Fridays or Saturdays. Our first Shabbat in the Holy Land was definitely a special one. Some people went out of the city to spend dinner with friends and family while others organized a potluck style dinner at home. Regardless of what we did for the holiday, we enjoyed each others’ company and had lots of laughs and good food along the way.

This weekend brought an extra special treat because it was also the holiday of Shavuot. Sunday night May and Smadar organized a picnic for us centered around dairy products. The picnic took place in a park overlooking the beach. Our view featured the beach at sunset which was truly breathtaking. It was just another reminder of how lucky we are to be here.

After a very eventful first week, we began to take to a routine going into Week 2. Our mornings and early afternoons were filled with interning while our late afternoons and nights were spent exploring our new home. With Tel Aviv beach being less than a five-minute walk for most of us, we’ve been spending a healthy amount of time catching waves, getting tan, and figuring out every clever way possible to not drag sand into our apartments (where are our moms when we need them). We’ve gotten a look at the cafes, restaurants, and nightlife that Tel Aviv has to offer and I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be getting bored anytime soon!

As you can see, our first few days in Tel Aviv have been nothing less than amazing. We’ve had the opportunity to learn, explore, and begin to create memories along the way. I’m very excited to see what else Tel Aviv and the CLIP program has in store for us. 

Greetings from the Holy Land!

Greetings from the Holy Land! - Andrew Goldstein, CLIP: Onward Israel, Jerusalem

 

I’m currently sitting in an Aroma Espresso Bar in Jerusalem with an Israeli Iced Coffee (the most similar drink I can think of in America would be a mocha Frappuccino) and staring out as the light rail glides past the window. It’s day two of my internship at Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus and I’ve already edited a paper three times in preparation to submit it to a medical journal for publication.

I’m in love with Jerusalem.

The City of Gold sparkles as the sun chariots its way across the sky. While the heat can get stifling as the day wears on, morning and evening bring with themselves cool breezes and an almost tangible iridescence.

I’m Andrew, by the way. I’m a student at Stony Brook University studying journalism and pre-med. I’ve been living in Woodmere on Long Island since I was five, excluding a gap year program I took in Israel between high school and college.

I got to Israel a few weeks ago at five in the morning and after spending the day with my cousins and surprising my brother I was driven to the apartment off of Derech Chevron. The location is perfect. We’re around the corner from Tachana Rishona which has restaurants, clothing and game shops, and festival style events.

There are six other participants living in this apartment and everyone seems super chill. We’re not even a week in and I’m pretty sure I’ve had a deep meaningful conversation with each of them. Also it’s super cool living with six guys in another country and working together to keep the place clean and have a regularly stocked fridge. It’s like we’re adults!

As a cohort, we’ve already spent meaningful time together—something I was not expecting to happen so soon.

During our full day of orientation we met Tzlil--our head coordinator; more like a friend who’s more familiar with the terrain and is a bit more official. And she’s fluent in Hebrew. Over the course of the orientation we played 5 or 6 ice-breaker style games which helped us all get more comfortable with each other. At night we even packed into one of the girls’ apartments and watched the most recent episode of Game of Thrones #WinterIsComing.

We then proceeded to meet with our supervisors for our summer internships. I’m interning with a PhD in occupational therapy. I love the work culture: in Israel, it’s step up or step out. Besides, who doesn’t love a view of Mt. Scopus from their desk?

We also spent a few days up North with the other CLIP Onward Israel cohort in Tel Aviv. About 60 of us ate together, played games acquainted and reacquainted through all hours of the night, finally falling asleep under the starry skies of northern Israel.

We continued our northern adventure by taking a beautiful hike through the Hatzbani River.

On Thursday we went on an absolutely beautiful hike (I have the selfies to prove it) near the Hasbani River, a tributary to the Jordan River. I don’t think anyone got through the whole hike without getting wet. The water was frigid. After our hike, we went kayaking in the Jordan River—which was more throw your friend in the water than kayak!

To be honest, I was nervous before the program about our differences but even with all of our different backgrounds, identities on the religious spectrum, or political opinions, we’re all really getting along; almost to the point where I feel more comfortable with these “strangers” I’ve just met than with some people I’ve lived a lifetime with.

I’ve already written twice as much as I expected I’d write so I’ll pause this story here. Tzlil said we’re meeting at 7 at Zion Square tonight. I wonder what we’re gonna do. I’m sure it’ll be great.

Onward and upwards!

Andrew

The Real World

The Real World - Elyssa Diamond, CLIP: New York 2016

It is not easy for me to reflect on my first week of work right now because I am currently struggling to keep my eyes open, but I think my overwhelming desire to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. actually sums up the working world pretty well.

I am not used to this life of waking up early every morning. In theory, the last time I had to wake up before 7 a.m. consistently was in high school, but in practice, the only consistent part of my morning routine was running into my first period class two minutes late. I’m learning that in the real world, however, I don’t have the luxury of running late and getting away with it. If I miss my train and show up in the office at 10 instead of 9:30, I am responsible for making up for the lost time.

A prominent theme of CLIP is professionalism. Over the last two weeks, not only have I learned a lot about my specific job and placement, but I am discovering what it means to work in a professional environment. Questions that I didn’t even know I had are constantly being answered, from whether showing my shoulders is considered “business casual” to what exactly am I supposed to do with my cellphone during a meeting?

I am lucky in the sense that I love my placement with the Youth Communications branch of the Union for Reform Judaism, but even if I hated it, I think that I would still get more out of CLIP than I would out of many other internships.

Even if you were to remove the office element of CLIP altogether, I would still end this summer with a greater understanding of the working world. The settings in which the CLIP cohort meets outside of the office emulates professional life in several ways. Being a professional means working effectively with people who have different opinions and beliefs than you do. It means talking to and making relationships with as many people as possible. It means listening to the person standing up at the front of the room because, no matter how smart and adult you think you are, there is always more to learn.

CLIP ensures that every Monday through Friday, I am learning and growing. I am growing my skill set, my professional and social networks, and my worldview.  Every day, I am learning what it means to be professional, both inside my office and out. 

Of Hugs and Vigils

Of Hugs and Vigils: NYU Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life Stands with Orlando - Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi, Bronfman Center Staff Member

The Orlando International Airport bustles with excited children hugging their favorite characters to their hearts; it’s surrounded by palm trees and a sunny, humid atmosphere. Where were the signs that this city that had just days before experienced the worst mass shooting in U.S. history? As we left the airport we saw them: an American flag and a rainbow flag flying half-mast. Barber shops, law offices, highway billboards, theaters--these places displayed rainbow hearts and #OrlandoStrong signs publicly and proudly.

In the wee hours of June 12, forty-nine lives were taken and fifty-three people injured when a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire inside Pulse, a nightclub serving the Latinx and LGBTQ community. A safe haven was targeted, decimated. Its owners and workers--more a family than a business--mourn and suffer. They have no jobs; they feel--though not at all deserved--guilt and worry.

In New York, we heard the news. We were shocked. The worst mass shooting in U.S. history carried out in a place that had been both a safe haven and a beacon of freedom for so many who are marginalized, dehumanized, ostracized, and targeted with discrimination and violence. We mourned.

And I wasn’t sure what to do next. As a queer woman and as a rabbi--and simply as an empathic person--I felt both called and hesitant. I wanted to jump on that plane to Orlando, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I arrived.

The short version is: the Bronfman Center went to Orlando. We hugged folks. We listened to their stories.

A delegation of two staff members and three students traveled on Wednesday. What we discovered is this: Orlando is a beautiful city that has pulled together to show support, solidarity, and unity. Churches and counseling centers have opened their doors nearly around the clock to offer free trauma counseling in Spanish and in English. Thousands of people attended a vigil on Monday night in front of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center; its lawn has become a memorial, with flowers, messages, cards, mementos, and images of the slain laid out on the ground. People gather, add their condolences, pray, and weep.

A beacon of giving has been the Center, Orlando’s LGBTQ Center. Mountains of water bottles, granola bars, non-perishable food, toiletries, and other much-needed supplies are pouring into this hub of direct service and community support. The moment a volunteer posts to social media that an item is needed, a car pulls up behind the modest building to deliver it. We encountered dozens of volunteers, some of them staff members like Ben who direct the activities, some regular volunteers like Laura who simply take charge when they see a lull, and some first-time volunteers who came with hands ready and hearts open. The outpouring of support was staggering. And, yes, we helped: we sorted supplies, assembled boxes, stood at the ready.

But there was more important work to be done: asking questions, listening, and hugging. Each person we met that day had a story: “My girlfriend and I had our first kiss at Pulse; we could easily have been there that night.” “I don’t feel safe anymore.” “If I slow down and stop, I don’t know what I will do.” “It’s so hard to hold up for our students when the staff are also mourning.” In some ways, what we did that day was nothing: we offered an ear, a shoulder to cry on, a hug. But in other ways, it was everything: we traveled from afar because we cared enough to listen. We told people they are valuable and showed that love conquers hate.

And of course there is more to do, and the Bronfman Center will be keeping in touch with Orlando’s LGBTQ Center to ensure that we provide help when and how we can, and in ways that are most needed. If you are able to travel to Orlando, you will be needed to help form a human chain to protect families of those slain from hateful protesters who plan to attend the funerals happening throughout the coming week. If you can donate money, you can help support families of the murdered and the injured who are living in hotels in Orlando and are in need of meals and supplies. We will keep you informed as best we can.

Our day in Orlando ended at Valencia College, the alma mater of Amanda Alvear, Oscar A. Arancena-Montero, Cory James Connell, Mercedes Marisol Flores, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, and Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo; these seven young people were killed that night at the Pulse. Their college community--four hundred strong, and more watching via closed-circuit television--gathered to honor them and celebrate their lives, to mourn, and to unite against homophobia, transphobia, racism and islamophobia. I was honored to speak some words of (I hope) comfort at the vigil, sharing the stage with student leaders like Krystal Pherai, LGBTQ community leaders, college administrators, and a local imam. Krystal urged us all to remember that acting as an ally is not easy and it requires us to move well beyond our comfort zones: “Talk to those you see as the ‘other.’ Learn from each other. Have difficult, crucial conversations. Speak your truth.”


The City of Orlando sits shiva. For forty-nine souls. It already rebuilds its sense of security and unity. It refuses to blame an entire religion for one man’s horrific actions. It acknowledges that homophobia and transphobia come in many forms, and that our individual communities must examine our actions. Do you want to know whether you are ensuring that the LGBTQ folks in your community or family feel safe? Then don’t wait for them to come out to you or reach out for help: Tell them and show them that you value all lives.

Eager Young Leader

Eager Young Leader - Charlotte Frischman, CLIP: New York 2016

 

Entering a new place or activity is never an easy task. It’s a tad unsettling or even nerve-racking (at the very least.) As a non-New Yorker, I gave myself an hour to make a fifteen minute walk to the Bronfman Center for CLIP orientation, failing to realize that NO ONE in the city wears their heels while traveling to work. Finally wobbling into the historic building, I found that about 1/3 of the interns also gave themselves far too long for a far too short commute. I knew in the back of my mind that my nerves were not because I was scared of CLIP orientation, they were because I was thrilled to be in a room full of thriving young leaders who strive to make a positive impact on the Jewish community in every which way.

As more and more interns started to funnel into the room, I felt a sense of eagerness. Everyone was chatting and playing Jewish geography, proving that almost every single person found something or someone in common. I quickly felt that these strangers would become familiar faces and people that I knew would truly make an impact on me as a person, as a leader, and as a Jew.

I could go on and on about how amazing Julie, Dana, the numerous speakers and the activities we participated in were during orientation. However, I want to focus on how amazing CLIP really is. We are being challenged to make an impact. We are being challenged to learn not only about our community and our peers, but to learn about ourselves. In college, it is very common to feel lost. I’m at a point in my life where I do not fully know what direction I’m going to take next. This summer, I’m not only working alongside Elizabeth David-Dembrowsky, one of the most amazing non-profit executives in the industry, but I am also growing alongside my CLIP cohort.

I cannot wait to see where this summer takes me and how it impacts the path of my future. I truly thank the CLIP cohort for making me feel a home at the Bronfman Center, and the CLIP staff and guests for being an inspiration to us eager young leaders. More updates to come on my journey with CLIP and my placement, Keren Or!


It’s also really important for me to say that the bagels and pizza here are amazing….

Productive Discomfort

Productive Discomfort - Esti Lodge, CLIP: New York, 2016

CLIP 2016 has already set the stage for an amazing experience. We started our summers with three days of orientation which included icebreakers, discussions, talking, and listening. We heard from Sarah Gass at PresenTense, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Jay Herman, Esther Ann-Asch, our respective supervisors, and each other (just to name a few).

One term that kept being thrown around was “Productive Discomfort.” This idea that, with a little nudging and some uncomfortable conversations, we can more deeply understand and respect each other’s ideas. Pluralism, a semi confusing topic, is something that CLIP stresses. How do people of such seemingly different backgrounds, with varying levels of religiosity and interpretations on Jewish identity, come together and speak openly. Productive Discomfort tackles this head on. While I have been in pluralistic environments before, I have never been “forced” (in the best way possible) to probe others about their religious, activist, professional, and personal identities.

With this, comes a level of respect. As a member of CLIP 2016, I am a part of a cohort. We are not simply called “CLIP” or “interns”, we are a group of Jewish students who are looking to make some sort of difference in the world. However, what’s amazing about CLIP, is that this seemingly small unifier brings us together even when our ideas, opinions, and beliefs can be so different.
 

As I sit on the train going to the first day of my internship, I am excited for the summer that lies ahead. I know it will be filled with learning and growing on the individual and collective levels, through both comfortable and uncomfortable conversations.

10 Days Later

10 Days Later - David Hackel, Bronfman Center Student

Reluctantly, I filed an application for Birthright through NYU’s Bronfman Center. My peers suggested I go; it was a life changing experience, they asserted. My siblings reiterated those sentiments. I was hesitant because I was certain it would not—it could not—live up to my expectations. How could a mere ten day trip, with a collection of complete strangers nonetheless, alter my outlook on life? How could it change my Jewish identity? Perhaps the trip would force me to ponder my connection with Judaism, but would it really do much else?

10 days later…

I am humbled and proud—honored—to have been lucky enough to take part in the wonderful journey called Birthright. During a ten day span in late May, I formed genuine relationships with hopeful lifelong friends; I underwent spiritual epiphany; I studied the history of the state of Israel as well as its contemporary political and social developments…and the list, if I were to catalog each event, would fill pages. But let me just say this: Subsequent to the trip, I feel closer to Judaism. I don’t feel closer because of force fed propaganda. Or because “I have to.” Through traversing the ancient lands, meandering narrow alleyways and the city streets, and analyzing my personal religious views—I conclude autonomously a desire and urgency to fight for the Jewish cause. 

Prior to Birthright, Israel was much more of an unrealized hope that I had learned about only through texts. But the trip reaffirmed, in a very concrete way, my love for Judaism and for the Jewish people.

There are several moments of the trip worth highlighting here, in order to demonstrate how expansive the experience was. 

The first is a testament to the beautiful friendships formed. On day two, while still recovering from an insufficient seven hours of sleep throughout the past two days, a group of five of us was sent adrift in a raft down the Jordan River. We were given two long wooden paddles, informed the current would take us to the destination point in about an hour and a half, and wished a parting “good luck.” Roughly five seconds into our adventure, we had lost one of our two paddles; three seconds later, while still trying to recover the lost oar, one member of the group lost her hat. After fifteen or so minutes attempting to reclaim the paddle and the hat, we finally did it…only ten feet downriver and already fifteen minutes behind schedule! There were no other members of our group in sight. We laughed off our struggles—and continued, in isolation, down the remainder of the river path. Following a minute or so of awkward silence waiting for one person to break the ice—we burst into conversation, laughter, and joy. From then onward, there was not one dull moment. I had not had a personal conversation with three of the five individuals in the raft prior to commencement down the river, yet forty-five minutes into the trip, I could consider them all close acquaintances as each of us professed personal secrets and our life stories. And by the end of the rafting journey, I considered each of them a dear friend. Although the rafting adventure occurred with only five of us, similar bonding experiences occurred between myself and every member of the group at some point during Birthright. Until this instance, I had never made such close friendships over an obscenely a short period. However, I can assert with certainty that these friendships will last throughout the years. I am excited to watch these relationships blossom, just as the state of Israel has blossomed throughout the past half-century.

A second moment worth emphasizing was the group’s tour of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Shoah Memorial. We studied the historical reasons for the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries—and, in particular, how the Holocaust was a trigger for Israel’s founding. As a group, we listened to and observed each member’s association with the Holocaust—ultimately realizing that we, the Jewish people, have a largely common history and ancestry.

Overall, there were myriad notable events during the trip. The hour long, hectic, bus rides—music blasting, speakers vibrating—and all participants singing along. Rising at 4:30 AM to climb Masada for perhaps the most beautiful sunrise I have yet to witness. Bargaining with local vendors in the Tel Aviv markets, floating in the salt-infused Dead Sea…the list is ceaseless. 

It was a beautiful trip. Israel is a wondrous place—rich in history, culture, and lovely people. I am thoroughly grateful to have experienced it through the Birthright program; and through NYU’s Bronfman Center in particular. I will certainly cherish the friends I made for life.

One Israeli man approached our group on the beach in Tel Aviv, asked us simple, introductory questions, and informed us of his time living in America. Towards the end of our conversation he made one profound statement that has affected me immensely. 

He said, “You live in America, but Israel is your home.” 

I am still pondering and constantly questioning my Jewish identity—so I do not accept his contention as a given—but, it has a ring of truth…to me, at least.

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