Figuring I'd be slightly tired tonight, I decided to write this post on the (very long) bus ride back from NY. I wrote about what we've done in the city today, what's coming, and to make my life a little easier, I even pre-wrote the assumed summary of Simchat Torah celebration, as this is not my first year experiencing it (I promise everything else is written in real time - you can go ahead and read the blog posts from previous years online).
However, after arriving home tonight, I realized I can't publish it. I can't publish it because what I wrote doesn't even begin to come near a fair description of the we all experienced tonight. The warm welcome from the families and their delicious home-made food after a weekend of bagels and pizza, the energies after a very long day, the joy, dancing, singing, hugging, the togetherness, the choking up when it was time to say goodnight, they were all missing from it.
Now, let's rewind to this morning, which somehow only began 16 hours ago.
Sunday is a pivotal day for our program. We are concluding an intensive weekend spent together, away from everyone's home, and transitioning into a week in the Boston area. On one hand, intimacy will grow with home hospitality, but on the other the togetherness of the group will not be felt the same way.
The weather we experienced today was transitional as well, as the fall rain took the place of the warming sun we got used to, and the leaves changed their colors in a rapid pace as we traveled north.
We tried tying this theme of transitions into our day, as we visited the place that symbolizes transition maybe more than anywhere else - Ellis Island. The old immigration processing center, which was the last step out of the old world and the first into the new one for many immigrants, including millions of Jews, provided us with the opportunity to reflect upon our shared Jewish stories, as well as think about the transition we are currently going through as a group and as individuals.
Here's the new part. Knowing we were going to arrive late, together with the accumulating exhaustion from the weekend and the unknown that awaits us following services, made the bus ride to Beth El a little tense. The longer it lasted, the more anxious we have become, and as much as we wanted to arrive already, we also, a little bit, didn't want to.
But things changed about 180 degrees once we entered Beth El. Finding the parents sitting and waiting for all of us, with big smiles and and warm food felt like home. Even if it was our first time stepping a foot at Beth El. Even the anxiety the was built up for some of us erupted and swiftly turned into calmness. And then the festivities began.
Teens and their families from two different countries and five different congregations, as one big family, celebrated together the joyous transition between the end and the beginning the Torah reading. Rabbi Josh Breindel and Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler honored one of our Israeli teens, May, with being Kalat Torah, and her delivery very well deserved of the huge yeshar koach she received. As the night was fading into a mix of sweets and suitcases, certain emotions of separation began surfacing, and saying goodbye to our 72 hour-long friends proved to be much more difficult than one would imagine.
Tomorrow is the beginning of an exciting week in which our Israelis will explore Jewish and American life, history, and culture in the greater Boston area, while our local teens will return to their schools and daily commitments, while playing hosts to their new friends.