That Time We Led Services in Israel
By Paulee Manich ’18 and Julia Motis ’17
Rutgers Hillel Reform Community Co-Chairs
After travelling for over 12 hours and only spending one full day in Jerusalem, Rutgers Hillel staff member Greg Yellin asked us to lead the Reform services for all of the Birthright participants staying at our hotel. Before the trip, we did not expect to be more than just participants, but we felt privileged to have the opportunity to put our leadership skills to use. Even though we had led numerous services at Rutgers Hillel, we totally did not expect to be standing in front of 100 plus people in Jerusalem on what could have been just any other Shabbat. Let’s just say we were fully prepared to wing it.
We were super nervous because not only were we in the holiest city in the world, but we were also leading without three things: our usual crowd, our usual snug room at Rutgers Hillel in 9 Bartlett Street, or even Julia’s guitar. Because there was such a huge chance that this would go terribly, we had to take every ounce of leadership knowledge we had and throw it into one service. The a cappella style can be a little awkward, but with that many people joining in, it did not feel as strange. It was awe-inspiring to see so many new faces jump in and go with the flow with us. About half-way through the service, we could tell that some people were kind of checking out, so when we got to the V’Shamru prayer, Julia threw in some spiffy dance moves to get everyone on their feet. Surprisingly, this worked. Everyone was laughing and singing even louder. For the rest the service, all of the participants were awake and ready to pray.
It felt so awesome when everyone, whether they knew us or not, came up to us afterwards and told us how much they liked the service. Not only that, but there were some people who had never been to a Reform service that told us they were blown away by how connected they felt. Since we lead services regularly, we tend to forget the fact that every service can make an impact on those who attend. It was incredible to have such a positive reaction because it validated all of the hard work that we have been putting into the Reform Community over the last 2 years and reminded us why we love doing what we do. After everyone had gone to dinner and the chairs were all empty, we turned to each other and just took a moment to realize, “WOAH, we just led a service in Israel…”
One week after this unforgettable experience, Greg asked us once again to lead the Reform services in Tiberias, and we said yes without any hesitation. This was our final Shabbat with our group, and we felt so lucky to be given this chance once, but to do it twice in 10 days on our Birthright trip was truly a blessing. We cannot wait to be back at Rutgers for another year of life-changing moments!
Registration for the Birthright Israel: Rutgers University Trip (leaving December 28th, 2015) opens on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 10 am ET. To pre-register TODAY, visit www.rutgershillel.org/birthright and click the link.
Through the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement, students strengthen their connections to Israel and the Jewish people. After they return from a transformational Birthright experience, students continue to explore their love for Israel. The Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement exposes students to positive messages about Israel to help them develop stronger Jewish connections to our homeland.
Please support Rutgers Hillel as we create the next generation of Jewish leaders and change the conversation about Israel on campus.