Thursday, January 23, 2014

Power of One: How can One person can make a difference!

 Sunday February 2,  at Lakeside congregation for grades 5th - Confirmation from10:00 am-12 noon we will have a Family Education Program: Power of One.  There will be 5 speakers who have made a change in the world by becoming involved in projects which they are very passionate about.  You will be able to pick 4 of the 5 speakers to hear on Sunday morning. We are privileged to have these speakers come and speak to us:

Benjamin Horwitz

Our own youth group director and congregant has been working on political campaigns for the past 2 years.  Ben has moved from local volunteer to paid political director in Wisconsin.  Ben is committed to working for Tikkun Olam whether here at Lakeside Congregation working with our students in grades 7-10 or helping to organize political campaigns here, in Washington DC or in Wisconsin.  

Gail Cutler (for Adults, 7th and 8th grades only)

Gail Cutler founded Rebecca’s Dream, an organization devoted to changing the face of depression. Rebecca’s Dream is named after Gail’s daughter who suffered from depression and died when she was thirty. The organization has funded an educational video about depression, a theatrical production sharing true stories of people impacted by depression and bipolar disorder, and a program that focuses on how depressive diseases affect families. Gail is a very positive woman, stating that it’s important “to count your blessings…not your losses.”

Patricia Fragen
Parents with very ill children needs lots of help - from support in the hospital to help at home with daily tasks like walking the dogs and feeding the rest of the family. Normal Moments, started by Patricia, makes it possible for these families to share time together, just like every other family. Come hear her unique story and find out why she was inspired to start Normal Moments. 
Jonny Imerman
Jonny Imerman started Imerman Angels, which connects a person fighting cancer today with someone who has beaten the same type of cancer. The relationship gives the person with cancer the opportunity to ask personal questions and receive encouragement from someone who is uniquely familiar with the situation. The survivor receives the opportunity to personally help others who are battling the disease. 
Pete Kalenik
Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), a non-profit organization which through college loans debt relief, community service, employment training, and job placement programs, LNVB invests in heroes who have honorably served our nation and seek to continue their service as productive citizens in their communities. Check out their Facebook page.  

Amanda Weaver  has been organizing with IIRON for approximately two years. She is responsible for organizing IIRON North which is currently organized in Evanston, Skokie, Rogers Park, West Ridge, Northbrook, and expanding into other Northshore communities.IIRON  is a charitable organization devoted to training ordinary people to create public lives, to understand, build and exercise power through collective action and to address the issues facing our families and communities. Every day, decisions are made by elected officials, government bodies and corporations that affect the lives of ordinary people. Without a clear understanding of these decisions, the power behind them, and an ability to mobilize people power, ordinary people have no chance to have their voices heard. IIRON is currently working on four issue areas: worker justice, mass incarceration reform, corporate tax accountability, and environmental issues, specifically fracking.

There is also a give away for all of our participants which I know you will enjoy it.  We ask all of our B'nai Mitzvah students to do 13 hours of Mitzvot and I hope that our Power of One will kick start your own personal projects.   On Sunday February 2 we will also have some of our current mitzvah project participants hosting a bake sale by Madison Jaffe-Richter as she is sending funds for park for children who were affected by the terrible shootings at the Sandy Hook school.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

An Aspergers' Eye View of Israel Part 2

The second part of our trip included the usual sites of Yad V'shem, the Holocaust memorial, the archeological excevations at the Kotel, walking on Ben Yehudah
View from Yad V'Shem at the end of the tour

Street and buying souvenirs, visiting Tzfat and the ancient synagogues, a jeep ride in the Golan Heights.

Goat Farmers
Some unusual sites that other trips do not typically visit included a Goat farm outside of Jerusalem that makes fresh cheese, uses a wind mill for all of their energy and has a well for their water.  They put new meaning into living "off" the grid.

We also visited an IDF base which sends first responders to crisis areas in Israel and throughout the world.  They have been to Haiti and more recently to the Philippines.  They showed us the machines they take with them when they go to help people in need.

IDF 1st Responder Base 

Artist David Friedman in Tzfat
We also visited the Israeli Children's Museum which has a special exhibit where you experience everything with sound blocking headphones on and you are required to communicate with no words.  Our participants for the most part do not find it easy to read facial expressions or communicate especially without words.  It was a fascinating experience and our participants tried doubly hard to work at communicating.  We then continued up north and stayed 2 nights at Kibbutz Gonen.  We visited Tzfat and our participants enjoyed Kabalistic artist David Friedman.  They readily were able to see patterns and relate to numbers and concepts presented by the artist.  

Our last day we spent a long day touring in Jerusalem and our last stop was Har Herzl, the national cemetery. Our solider/participants once again donned their uniforms as they had at Yad V'shem.  Visiting an army cemetery with soldiers and seeing the graves of Golda Meir, Yitzhak and Leah Rabin made  a lasting impression on all of us.

Our Soldiers and Guide at Har Herzl

I think though my favorite part of the trip was on the last evening before heading to the airport.  We had a closing program where we reflected together about our trip.  Everyone went around the circle and told one another what the trip had meant. I know that I am a cryer and I was crying about 2 people into the circle.  Many participants stated that they felt part of a community for the first time.  They expressed how close they felt to one another and I can tell you that I was not the only one crying by the end of the circle.  Some participants reflected that they could have seen Israel with a "regular" Birthright but had elected to go on this trip because they knew they would feel more comfortable, enjoy themselves and be a real part of the group.

I loved every minute of the trip, ok, not the 12 hour layover when we got back to JFK airpot but I applaud all of the participants for coming on this trip.  They were forced to move out of their comfort zones at every turn and they experienced Israel for 10 days.  They became a group of friends who like any other Taglit/Birthright saw Israel with their peers and learned the lessons of Jewish history.  In the case of Shorashim Taglit Birthright Bus #287 they also had the experience of traveling, learning and touring with friends, real friends.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An Aspergers' Eye View of Israel Part 1

Neve Ilan
The statistics are the easy part: 24 Participants, 3 Israeli soldiers, 6 Madrichim, 1 Israeli tour guide, 1 Israeli Ethiopian Bus Driver and 1 Israeli medic, 10 days touring in Israel, two 11+ hour El Al airplane flights and one  wonderful and amazing experience for all of us.  On our birthright trip we visited all of the important Israel touch stones with just a few changes from other Birthright trips.  We stay  at only two different Kibbutzim first at the lovely Neve Ilan  and 2 nights up in the Galilee at Kibbutz Gonen.

Kibbutz Gonen
I think that on many birthright trips the participants become friends and bond in a significant way as they visit important historical sites in Israel.  This trip is designed to pull at your heart strings and to rejuvenate an interest not only in Israel but in Judaism.  Our participants worked very hard to learn one another's names, bond together as a group and keep up with the very busy schedule.  This trip is sponsored by Shorashim and United Synagogue and we began each day with T'fillot, services.  On our first day besides getting over our jet lag we visited Independence Hall where the state of Israel was declared by David Ben Gurion, Rabin's Square and then to a volunteer project where we picked sweet potatoes for Leket, Israel's national food bank.  That evening like other evenings we had a fun program and rested at the end of the day.
Picking sweet potatoes at Leket

Camels before the ride
Tuesday we visited the Jewish quarter of the Old City and certainly a highlight was visiting the Kotel, the western wall.  That afternoon we visited Shekel, which provides community services for people with disabilities.  Our participants appreciated not just visiting the center but meeting Israelis with Aspergers as well.  My group in particular had a very intense conversation about the struggles they have all faced having Aspergers especially interacting with peers at school or in the workplace.

Wednesday we had a wonderful day in the Darom, or South.  After the long ride We began with a visit with the Bedouins lunch and camel rides.  The food was tasty and the camel rides were fun.  We forged on to Masada and climbed to the top by the way of the Roman ramp, which is easier to climb than the snake path which is on the other side.  It was a beautiful day and we all made it up to the top and came back down by way of the cable car.

As I start preparing for Shabbat I can't believe that just yesterday I was in Jerusalem and last week celebrating Shabbat on Neve Ilan with group of extraordinary Taglit Birthright Shorashim Bus #287 participants.  After Shabbat more on our trip and the wonderful end to our trip.  Shabbat Shalom.