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Services at the Opening Conference

By Shoshana Maniscalco

By the time the sun began setting on our first Friday together as a cohort, I could already feel our group was getting close. Shabbat gave us a time to reflect on the few days we had spent together so far and the months we still have to come.

For Kabbalat Shabbat, a group of us decided to host our own camp-style service. In a room of the hotel, we sat in a circle and sang, laughed, reflected, and talked. Guitar filled the space with so much joy as we bonded over shared memories and songs from our homes. One of us led a meditation, allowing us all to reflect on the impact the last few days had on us as well as what we hope to gain from the rest of the opening conference and the semester. As soon as we ran out of songs we all knew, we took turns teaching each other our favorite Kabbalat Shabbat melodies.

As the sun continued to sink in the sky, we transitioned from celebrating Shabbat as a group to celebrating with the community in Zichron Ya'akov. We walked down the street to a Reform shul to join them for Ma’ariv. As we walked in, we were invited into a circle very similar to the one we had just made. The melodies we sang together were almost exactly the same as the ones I am used to, which made me immediately feel so much more at home here in Israel. This was the first synagogue that I have ever been to in Israel and I was filled with an unparalleled sense of joy. It was a warm welcome that made me realize that no matter where in the world I am, I will always be able to find a home within the Jewish community.