After a VERY long day of learning, exploring, eating, text studying, eating some more and touring we finally have arrived back at the hotel for a brief respite in order to prepare for Shabbat.
Here is a summary of some of the highlights of our trip so far:
We arrived very early at the airport on Thursday morning for an 8:00 flight to La Guardia. Unfortunately, due to weather delays, we didn't actually leave Denver until some time around 10:15. This meant that we arrived in New York too late to visit the Hebrew Union College. Since we didn't eat on the plank, we stopped off a store to pick up snacks that would tide us over until dinner. We arrived at our hotel where we were met by Rabbi Bruce and Susan Greenbaum and 9 Confirmation students from Temple Israel in Carmel California. Rabbi Greenbaum is a rabbinic classmate of mine and a dear friend. He has been going on this trip with Temple Emanuel for over 22 years - ever since he came here as Assistant Rabbi in 1987.
Quickly changing into theater clothes, we dashed out to dinner at Ellen's Stardust Diner - a fun place where all of the waiters are aspiring Broadway singers and dancers. While the food isn't great, the ambience is fun and the kids (and chaperones) had a great time.
After dinner we walked (or sloshed, might be a better word...) through the NY rain to see the musical "Spider Man - Turn off the Dark." I have a lot to say about the musical - more than I want to write here but, in a nutshell -t he technical effects and music were amazing - the plot was a little (no - a lot)_ convoluted, and we had a great time. We sloshed back to the hotel to dry off and go to sleep.
This morning, we started off our day at Battery Park where we boarded a ferry that took us to Ellis Island. WE toured this fascinating monument to the History of Immigration in our country. As we passed by the Statue of Liberty, the sun came out and we truly felt blessed to be where we were - especially as news of the Earthquake in Japan and the subsequent Tzunamis and aftershocks came filtering through to us.
After Ellis Island we had a wonderful study session with Ari Hart - and Orthodox Rabbinic student (who happens to be my nephew.) Ari is the co-founder of a group called "Uri L'Tzedek" (www.ultzedek.org) that works to bring issues of social justice to the Orthodox Community. Ari and his partners have created a special "Hecksher" (certification of keeping kosher) for restaurants that certifies not only that the food that is served is kosher, but also that all of the workers in that establishment are treated fairly and ethically. We studied Biblical, Talmudic and Kabalistic texts with our students over lunch. It was very enlightening and worthwhile.
After lunch we went to the Jewish Museum where we utilized their collection to examine issues of Jewish Culture and Identity.
WE came back to the hotel and quickly changed into Shabbat clothes. We went to services at B'nai Jeshurun Congregation where we sang, danced and celebrated shabbat with great joy.
Dinner was quite an experience. We went to Sammy's Romanian Steak House. Sammy's is like nothing else our students had ever experienced. We feasted on "Jewish soul food" -with enough schmaltz, kishke, chopped liver, gribbenes - to give an entire NY city block a quadruple bypass.....
WEe also danced, sang and celebrated with the music of Dani LEv on the piano -- sake your children about Sammy's - I guarantee they will cite it as a highlight.....
I must say how impressed I am with this particular group of 10th graders - both ours and those from Carmel. They have bonded with one another and are engaged and a lot of fun to be with.
With my very best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom, I am.....
Rabbi Joe Black