NOAM Olami Shabbaton, May 2014

This past Shabbat 28 representatives from the Masorti/Conservative affiliated long term programs in Israel including: Shnat Noam from Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Nativ from the United States and Canada, Noam Israel from Keturah and Ashkelon joined together for a Shabbat at Mizpe Ramon filled with song, tefillah, outdoor attractions and ongoing dialogue about the current and future state of Masorti/Conservative Judaism for young adults.  The participants engaged in a fun-filled afternoon of archery golf in the desert and bonded immediately while shooting arrows and talking about their backgrounds.

Each group creatively presented and explained all about the structure and infrastructure of their local youth movement structure and ideology and the layout of their program in Israel.  They delved into conversation and explanations about the running of their camps, special programming, their relationship with Israel, how their ideology is implemented and how each movement is peer led. Everyone commented on how unique each group is, yet at the same time so similar in nature.  They pressed one another with questions, looking for ways to better their own programming and leadership structures.

Shabbat services were led by participants from each group– from being shlichei tzibur to Torah reading and aliyot.  We heard amazing and inspiring divrei Torah based on the parsha and connected to life experiences.  Meals were filled with the sounds of discussions in Hebrew, English, and Spanish.  Zemirot were sung, new melodies learned, and friendships built.  The Oneg Shabbat lasted for hours as each group demonstrated their Shabbat programming skills, culture and humor.

With the professional guidance of Avigail Ben Aryeh, Rabbi Joshua B. Cohen, and Lucas Ledjerman, participants were provided with an opportunity to share their experiences about what Masorti means to them, and to learn the vast nature of what is defined as Masorti and Conservative Judaism.  They spoke of values and challenges they face each day as they try to continue to build within their own communities.

Parting ways after Havdalah was bittersweet.  As one participant remarked, “I always thought Masorti/Conservative Judaism existed on a local level, or maybe, at best, a state level.  To come here and meet people who are just like me makes me feel as if I am part of something larger than I could have imagined.”  Another person remarked, “How cool is it that we all speak the same language, just in different languages!”  And finally another participant explained, “We are all so alike, yet so different and that seriously inspires me!”.  All the participants ended the seminar by saying: “We have to stay in touch and continue to work together in the future!”.

The Shabbaton was a success!  People felt good about not only being a part of the weekend together, but of being a part of something larger than just their local communities and making valuable and meaningful connections.