It seems as if we have known each other for years and not just a couple of days! Sunday was another beautiful day in New York City. We had one last Israeli-American breakfast, packed up and spent the morning in the Lower East Side of New York where we visited the Tenement Museum.
While we were there we discussed the lives of Jewish immigrants to the US who made their lives in the crowded Lower East Side of New York over the course of several decades — particularly between 1880-1920. The Tenement Museum is not a “museum” at all actually, it is a living memorial to the real people who lived in the small and overcrowded conditions – but who nevertheless began to learn English and became familiar with American culture there.
In the two exhibits we visited we heard specific stories about specific individuals, while seating in their replicated apartment flats and garment factories. We focused on daily life of Jewish immigrants in the turn of the century, as well as the major roles immigrant women played over the years. We learned about gentrification and the many waves of immigrants who also made their home on the Lower East Side even until today.
The Tenement museum was our very last stop in the city, before jumping on the bus with Douglas, our driver, and embarking on the drive north-east towards Sudbury. For proportions – if we were to start a similar drive from Haifa, we would end up somewhere near Aleppo, after crossing the entire country of Lebanon. Luckily, crossing from Connecticut to Massachusetts is a little easier. With each mile we covered, excitement – and some anxiety – grew as we were about to meet our host families for the first time.
When we arrived at Beth El, we were embraced with warmth, joy, laughter, and lots and lots of delicious home made food, which made all the worries go away almost instantly. Even though the dinner itself would have justified it, the real reason for our visit to Beth El was to celebrate Simchat Torah together – one of the most joyful Jewish holidays, which also marks the transition between an ending and beginning – a very appropriate theme to end our joint weekend with.
We danced, and danced, and danced (seven times, to be specific), held the Torah close, unrolled it, and were honored to have four of our HiBuR students – Shani, Naomi, Caleb and Zoe read from Torah, including the last verses of Devarim. For the Israeli students, this was the first time reading from Torah, and the emotions this experience has evoked could be felt throughout the entire sanctuary.
And there was evening, and there was Monday morning. As the Israelis came in glowing from their first night with their hosts, we hopped on the school bus (another Israeli goal checked), and drove into Boston – which was farther away from Sudbury than what some have anticipated. Our first encounter in Boston was with the highly energetic Representative Adrian Madaro of East Boston, who took no less than two hours off his busy schedule to walk us through the chambers and halls of the beautiful Massachusetts State House, slowly and patiently teaching us about his work, and even drawing comparisons to Israeli politics.
We left the State House inspired by the real change that determined and hard working individuals can make. On our way to Quincy Market, we paid a visit to the New England Holocaust Memorial, and spoke about the meaning of it’s location, in the very heart of the historic district. Coming from a country where the holocaust is omnipresent, the Israelis were intrigued to find such a strong representation of it, so far away from home.
Our last three events of the day were about as Boston as one can get: good food and a bit of shopping at Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall – check. Our very own educational and hilarious Duck Tour, – check. Getting completely drenched by a sudden rain shower – check!
Tomorrow we will be visiting Plimoth Patuxet to immerse ourselves deeper in the rich and complex history of this region.
Come meet our Israeli and American teens IN PERSON this Thursday night at
Pop Up Israel!
From our students:
The experience today at the museum was very eye opening. It was really cool to hear about specific stories of real people that lived there in a movie and in a walking tour. It was fun spending time on the bus with both the Americans and the Israelis for the last time before going back to MA. – Abby and Naomi
I touched a sewing machine – Joey
The Tenement Museum was something new to me. Before going to the museum I hadn’t really heard much about the Tenements. It was neat to be able to see a replica of a Tenement after we had learned about them while walking. The bus ride was long but fun. I was able to talk to people more and learned a lot more about some of the other people in the group- both American and Israeli. – Josee
Today was really fun, we were in a lot of interesting places, we got a little wet from the rain and it was cold, but it was still fun and bus tour that went into the water was an experience that you can’t find everywhere. – Noya
Today we went to Boston for the first time. It was really exciting. I loved to see how different it was from New York. It was really cold (61F – S.A.) but we still enjoyed the experience! I am excited to finally be in Massachusetts and experience the American life. – Shani