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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 4 - Shabbat

Right before Shabbat, we took a bus to the Old City and walked to the home of Aba and Pamela Clayman and went up to their terrace that has front row seats to Har Habayit. As we took in the breathtaking view, we sang songs with Israeli soldiers to welcome in Shabbat. Then we went down to the Kotel for Arbit and Kabalat Shabbat. There we started a huge circle with people that were praying at the Kotel. We then walked back to the hotel where we were joined for Seudat Shabbat by a group of lone soldiers and alumni from Flatbush learning in Israel for the year. 
On Shabbat day during lunch we heard from a couple of our alumni about their experiences. We then walked to the Old City for Seuda Shlishit with soldiers from Thank Israeli Soldiers. We ended Shabbat with a musical havdalah, singing and dancing, and gifts for the soldiers.
After Shabbat we went to Pantry Packers to help pack food for the needy. We packed hundreds of portions of peas, couscous, and barley. We then ended the night with a late dinner on Ben Yehuda!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 3

On the 3rd day of Chesed Mission we visited the Michael and Lola Goldstein Emunah Day Care Center located in Neve Yaakov. The school serves poor families by offering free day care and therapy for parents in order to build healthy family lives. All of us had a great time blowing bubbles and playing with all the children. No one wanted to leave!

After that, we went to Machane Yehuda to have lunch and buy awesome gifts and food for Shabbat. We’re also looking forward to going to the program from Todah L’Tzahal at the house of Abba and Pamela Claman. After that, we plan on praying Friday night prayers by the Kotel. Following this, we will be going back to the Inbal for dinner with Lone Soldiers and Flatbush Alumni learning in Israel for the year!
We are looking forward to spending Shabbat in Jerusalem. Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Chesed Mission 2010/5780: Day 2

After a delicious breakfast, we kick started our first full day of Chesed at Meshi, a center for children with disabilities. We split up into rooms and were able to have one on one time to connect with a child. We participated in many different activities with the children. Immediately after walking into the room, we felt the energy and happiness of the children and teachers. Everyone was so excited that we came all the way from America. After creating a bond with the children, it was difficult to say goodbye.
We then distributed toys to sick patients at the Hadassah Hospital. We tried to uplift the families in the hospital with small acts of kindness.  Next, we visited the cemetery of many heroes and soldiers of our homeland at Har Herzel. There, we also gathered to hear some more about the heroism of two soldiers: Yonatan Netanyahu and Dvir Emanueloff. We heard the personal story from one of our tour guides as well as an injured soldier from Tikvot. We ended by saying a perek of Tehillim and then united by singing “Acheinu” with hope for our brothers in the army and pride in our nation.
We then continued our day with rikkudim at Shalva, an organization which supports families and children with disabilities. The site was huge and filled with an abundance of volunteers and children who were smiling from ear to ear. We learned about the background of how Shalva started. Kalman Samuels, the man who started Shalva, had a child who became blind, deaf, and mute. After his child learned to communicate, the Kalman's dedicated time to help children in a similar situation. He used a hardship to grow instead of an excuse which was an inspiration to us all. We were in awe to see what one man could do to the world. We ended off our second day in Israel by rock climbing with Tikvot.
~Vivian Cohen, Class of 2021

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Chesed Mission 2020/5780: Day 1


We started off our 18th annual Chesed Mission to Israel at JFK airport. A group of 74 students - our largest ever - along with Rabbi Naftali Besser, Mrs. Susan Franco, Rabbi David Galpert, Ms. Tziri Lamm, and Ms. Samantha Chabot decided to spend their winter break in Israel visiting the sick, meeting with soldiers, volunteering in soup kitchens, interacting with special children, and so much more.  
On the plane we took advantage of the long flight ahead with an early shachrit at the break of dawn, which was my first time praying vatikin, along with many others. From the airport we went straight to set the mood as we prayed Arbit by the Kotel. I got the chance to spend my first ever moments in Israel praying in the most holy place in the world, an experience I’ll never forget. 
We then had dinner at Emek Refaim, where we got to taste a little of Jerusalem - food was incredible. To end the night with Chesed, we packed bags for soldier that we will meet through out the week.  
~Etty Jajati, Class of 2021

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Heritage Trip to Poland 2019/5779: Day 4

This morning we visited Auschwitz I, the most visited site in all of Poland. What was once the center of the massive three-camp Auschwitz complex was reclaimed by the Polish government and turned into a museum in 1947, just two years after Russian soldiers liberated the camp. We began by walking through the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" entry gate, yet another example of the Nazis' use of deception to keep prisoners in line. The museum's strict rules dictated that, for the first time all week, Rabbi Lubner would not be our tour guide. Instead we were led through the camp by a non-Jewish, Polish guide, and it was fascinating to hear tales of the Holocaust from his perspective. He even talked about which exhibits were most memorable to him when he first visited Auschwitz on a school trip as a boy. This part of Auschwitz mainly housed non-Jewish Polish prisoners, but many of the museum's exhibits are dedicated to telling the story of the 1.1 million Jews murdered at Auschwitz. We were moved by displays of personal items confiscated from Jews upon arrival - thousands of eyeglasses, hairbrushes, and even prosthetic limbs. The most disturbing was a massive display case of 2 tons of human hair collected from approximately 40,000 of the hundreds of thousands of women who were shaved upon arrival.
The rest of the day was spent traveling back to New York. We are all glad to be back home and reunited with our families and our beds, but every one of us was moved and changed by the many things we have seen, learned, and experienced over the past few days.

Special thanks to Mrs. Winkler for coordinating, to Mr. Hofstetter and Ms. Dweck for chaperoning, and of course to Rabbi Lubner for everything he did to make this such an extraordinary and meaningful experience.

New Orleans Chesed Trip 2019/5779: Day 4

We began our fourth and last day in New Orleans at Green Light New Orleans, an environmentally friendly non-profit organization, that began updating the light bulbs in the city to more efficient, energy saving bulbs. Once they completed that project, they started a project to try to save the city from flooding. We painted water barrels that release water slowly so the ground can absorb it in a way that it won’t flood. We painted barrels so that it’s a pretty fixture that people would want to display in their yards. We also cleaned up a local vegetable garden to help people access fresh produce.
After Green Light, we went to the Giving Hope Food Pantry. People come once a month to fill their houses with food. We helped unload the truck and organize the produce. We then handed out food to all the people that needed. We were able to meet them and greet them with smiles, hopefully making their day a little better. 
Afterwards, we went to Waffle on Maple and enjoyed a great final meal together. The New Orleans Chesed Trip was an amazing experience filled with Chesed and Fun! 
~Betty Greenberg, Class of 2019

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Heritage Trip to Poland 2019/5779: Day 3

Day three of the Heritage Trip to Poland began with a short bus ride to visit four synagogues in the Kazimierz section of Krakow. Each synagogue differed in its founder and style. The first was the Rema’s shul, which is located right near his grave, which we also visited. The next shul, the Isaac Synagogue, was founded and sponsored by wealthy philanthropist Rabbi Isaac. After that we saw a completely different shul which is formalized known as the Kupa Synagogue but is nicknamed “Poor Man’s Synagogue.” This shul was not sponsored by a wealthy figure, rather the entire community collected money for it. All three shuls were built in the 1600s. The last shul, built in 1821, was called The Temple Synagogue and was very left wing compared to the others, and was thus controversial in its time. When we arrived there were already two other tour groups inside, and when one of them started singing and dancing near the bima, some of our students immediately joined in. Soon all three groups were singing and dancing together, a joyous moment that was a needed respite from the somber nature of many of the other destinations on this trip.

The next location we visited was the Plac Zgody, the big square where Jews were rounded up before being sent into the Krakow Ghetto. A few blocks away we stopped at a remaining piece of the actual wall of the ghetto and learned about the history of the Jews who lived there. This place was where many of the scenes in Schindler's List, the movie we watched yesterday on the bus, took place.

Our next (and highly anticipated) stop was Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau. Upon our entrance, we all noticed the long train tracks that extended throughout the entire field. We later learned that as a result of these train tracks, Jews from all over Europe were sent to this camp. We learned about the process that arriving Jews went through. We visited the Quarantine Barrack, which was used to isolate Jews to ensure disease wouldn’t spread. Next we stopped alongside the section of the camp where Hungarian Jews were imprisoned. It was especially emotional for a few of us, as two students and one teacher had family members who were imprisoned there. Next we walked further into the camp to the remains of one of its gas chambers and crematoria, and read poems and first-hand accounts about the horrifying actions that were performed in there. After that we saw the Sauna, a building where arriving Jews were stripped of their clothing, had their heads shaved, had their belongings taken, and were tattooed with numbers. All these sites showed the dehumanization that occurred as the Nazis stripped the Jews of every aspect of their humanity.
Lastly, after leaving Birkenau, we went to our fifth shul of the day, Auschwitz Jewish Center, to sing, pray mincha, and engage in some group learning about the actions of a variety of individuals in the Holocaust and the choices they all made in their various roles.
~Terri Franco, Class of 2019

New Orleans Chesed Trip 2019/5779: Day 3

On the third day of the New Orleans Chesed Trip, the students helped Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds affordable houses for low income families. With the help of volunteers, the organization is able to sell the house at the lowest price available. We started out the day with cleaning up the area around the houses and split into groups to complete the houses. We put up siding, insulated panels, Tyvek, and more. It was a grueling day of work, but very rewarding when we saw how much we accomplished.
After a long day building, we returned to the hotel to get ready for the New Orleans Pelicans VS. the Golden State Warriors basketball game. Agtsr dinner we headed to Smoothie King Stadium (next to the Superdome). We even met another Jewish group from Los Angles and we shared some stories with them. Yeshivah of Flatbush got a shout out on the big screen and some of us were featured on the big screen as well. After a long day, we were able to have bonding time with our friends in the lobby. ~Chen Menashe, Class of 2019