Blog  Continuing Through Our Studies of the History of the Jewish People

Continuing Through Our Studies of the History of the Jewish People

Baruch KrausBaruch Kraus is the Principal of the NFTY-EIE High School in Israel. In these weekly postings, he gives a description and rundown of what the group is doing day to day, which he hopes sheds some light on what the EIE experience is like.

It has been a very eventful two weeks since I last posted. We had parents and relatives for ten days; not only did we move the clock back last week, but the weather changed as well. An interesting trend: as the weather is getting colder and rainy, less students are getting ill. We all hope this continues.

Yesterday was Rabbi Loren Sykes’ first official day at EIE, Loren already knows the names of the students and it was wonderful to see how quickly he is accepted by all. Next Sunday, we depart for Poland and everyone is involved with preparations both in and out of class.

Security is still an issue that we are looking at closely and thus we are making minor changes to the itinerary. Last Thursday, the group went to the Malcha Mall as we did not feel that Ben Yehuda St is appropriate at this time. This week, we had tiyulim to the Kinneret and to Tel Aviv, and we have not made any changes.

Since my last posting, we started to study the rise, development and fall of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewry in preparation for our next tiyulim. Two days after the parents arrived, we visited the Israel Museum, with our focus on the Jewish ethnography section, seeing the clothes, ritual items and synagogues from around the world representing the diaspora communities. Synagogues from Italy, Cochin India, Curaco, and Germany that have been brought to Israel are on display.

IMG_20151022_155033The next day was a very full day trip to the north. Our destination: a fascinating Crusader castle located on a precipice overlooking the Jordan River Valley — truly a belle voir (good view). The castle is located about 20 kilometers south of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Here we read Pope Urban IV’s speech that launched the Crusades, explored the castle, and discussed the effects of the Crusades on Ashkenazi Judaism and the resultant effects on the medieval period.

In the afternoon, we continued on to Safed in the center of the Galilee. We started our tour by asking why it became the center of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). For the answer, we walked around the town visiting two different synagogues: one named after the Ari Hakadosh (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria HaAshkenazi) and the other after Rabbi Yoseph Karo. Through this, we discussed a mixture of philosophy and halakha (law) and learned that the proper direction of one’s heart in all our deeds leads to the perfect life and truth. Of course, we also had time for shopping.

The following week, we visited Nachlaot, the Jerusalem neighborhood built at the end of the 19th century, occupied today by Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) as it was over a century ago. Here we saw how a Shtetl community organized their lives around Tzdakah and Torah institutions. We saw Free Loan societies, Synagogues, Batei Midrash, Mikvaot and Tzdakah boxes throughout the neighborhood. All green grocers had signs of having tithed the produce according to Torah. A life lived in a totally Jewish context. In addition we had a speaker representing the movement so that we could gain a better understanding and insights to their way of life and thought. This trip was the impetus for entering into the period of the Haskalah (Enlightenment). This era saw the development of Hasidut, Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements.

IMG_0060 ResizedAfter study of these emerging modern movements, we went to HUC (Hebrew Union College) the rabbinical school of the Reform movement Jerusalem campus. Here we had representatives of the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox speak to the students. In addition, we had a tour of the beautiful HUC campus and met several of the students.

This past Shabbat was very restful with students studying for upcoming tests. Teachers will be handing in grades by the end of this week and the students should have them by the latest next Sunday and all of you will get the midterm grades shortly afterwards.

Wishing all a Shavua Tov