As school vacation kicked into full gear in the US, twelve families from Charlotte, North Carolina traveled across the globe with Shluchim Rabbi Yossi and Mariashi Groner, and arrived in Israel for an unforgettable 10 day journey.
The multi-generational nature of the trip offered children, parents and grandparents the chance to explore Israel as a family and bond through engaging and thought-provoking activities.
The program included extensive touring in Israel to places like Tzfat, Masada, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, Golan Heights, Upper Galillee and Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. Activities such as archaeological excavations, camel riding and desert hospitality, a chocolate-making workshop, volunteering for Israel’s poor, Jewish Quarter scavenger hunt, BBQ with IDF soldiers and more, offered a holistic and extraordinary experience for first-timers and veteran travelers alike.
With a dynamic mix of educational activities, interactive discussions and hands on experiences both the children and adults could not stop beaming when asked about their Israel experience.
Rabbi Yossi and Rebbetzin Mariashi Groner, of Charlotte, North Caroline spearheaded the trip in what was their eighth official Israel trip with their community. Mariashi Groner, Director of Charlotte Jewish Day School, made this trip a reality by bringing fifth graders and their families together to Israel. Her enthusiasm and love for the students and the Charlotte Jewish Day School (CJDS), and her passion for education, was evident through the utmost thought and care she infused into every activity and educational aspect of the trip. Rabbi Yossi Groner, Rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, was equally involved by inviting members of the community to join the trip, generating a wonderful and unique dynamic between the members of the Jewish Community of Charlotte.
Together with their daughter, Chaya Groner, a fifth Grade Jewish studies teacher at CJDS, it was clearly apparent that the educational element of the trip was the primary focus for the Groners. It was an absolute goal for the Groners to ensure that the children returned home with a greater understanding for Israel, its history, and their own renewed personal Jewish connection to the land and the Torah. With scrap-booking
As the group approached the Western Wall on their first day of the trip Rabbi Groner reminded the students, “This is the exact place we talk about and pray towards every single day. Today there is no need to ask which direction is East, today you stand face-to-face in the same place your ancestors stood and prayed for generations.”
Jonah Rubin, a fifth grade participant shared that the highlight for him was being at the Western Wall. “I was stunned and amazed at where I was. On Shabbat when we went back for the second time I cried on Friday night as I was so moved. There we were praying and dancing with people from all around the world and I thought about how each brick was put into place and how much history lay within the stones.”
A CELEBRATION LIKE NO OTHER
On day four of the trip, twelve years old Georgia Englhartd had the opportunity to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah atop Masada with her grandfather, parents, siblings, friends and community. “Having my Bat Mitzvah in Israel changed my perception of a Bat Mitzvah. This was more than just a party. As I spoke about our Matriarchs and the history of our people, I felt directly connected to the history of our people and to the story of Masada. It was a changing experience, something unique and different and an emotion I wouldn’t have felt if I did this back at home.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Gina Schechter, came to Israel with her husband for the first time on this trip and shares that as she flew into Israel she felt that she was coming home. “Praying at the wall, being in Jerusalem, touring the sights were all wonderful, however the highlight was visiting an IDF base and having dinner with the Israeli soldiers. These young soldiers go through so much to protect Israel. My husband and I pray for the soldiers every single night, and I now have faces to go with my prayers.”
THE MOST MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE
For the parents, this trip was a dream come true. Mother of a 5th grader at the CJDS, Chantal Rubin, shared that her children had been studying about Israel since pre-school. Now they finally got to see everything they had learned about for all these years. “Bringing the kids here to Israel is cementing their dedication to Israel and understanding for this country and the people and the importance of keeping it at the forefront of their lives. To do a trip like this with other kids in their class was the best way; they all know each-other so well and as a group are just gaining so much from every day of the trip. It’s been truly amazing.”
COMMUNITY CONNECTION, JEWISH PRIDE
Rabbi Groner continues, “The idea of this heritage trip was to offer a joint experience for families to learn about the very fundamental foundation of Judaism. Israel was the background for us to make this connection. The trip touched on the spiritual level, heritage level, and a Jewish level and was infused with fun and adventure. The families have been very much inspired and turned-on to Israel and Judaism. It was amazing to watch the excitement through the eyes of the people that have never been here before. Everything they knew about Israel was through the media, photos or second hand report but experiencing it on their own was a total transformation for them.”
The trip was arranged by Zev Jacobson and his team at Israel Maven Tours. To plan a Community Mission, Bar or Bat Mitzvah or Family trip with a team that is devoted to the finest details, we highly recommend contacting Israel Maven.