Members of Temple Emanu-el of Closter, led by Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, recently returned from an 11-day family b’nai mitzvah trip to Israel.
Nearly 80 members of the congregation (20 families) participated in the trip, held Aug. 16 to 27, visiting sites from the Western Wall to Masada.
Shul members rafted down the Jordan River, floated in the Dead Sea, rode camels, and helped out at a local soup kitchen. In addition, they lent a hand at Yad Lakashish, studied at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and met with the parents of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, presenting them with a letter from Sen. Robert Menendez.
Rabbi Daniel Gordis spent a morning with the group, teaching them about the challenges and opportunities confronting the nation.
Each b’nai mitzvah-age participant was called to the Torah at the southern portion of the Wall, near Robinson’s Arch, where most Conservative celebrations take place.
“It was life-changing,” said one shul member. “To share Israel with my children and my community is something I will never forget.”
A parent of three added, “Most vacation spots we experience once. Israel is a place we will keep coming back to over and over.”
Kirshner pointed out that this was the first trip to Israel for more than half of the attendees.
“Everyone there felt great about standing in Israel and with Israel,” he said, noting that this is the shul’s third Israel trip in three years.