Posted March 6, 2017
What new realizations are you eager to bring back to NYC, and how will you turn those thoughts into action?
After visiting all the cities and having interactions throughout the trip I have learned so many things and I have so many valuable lessons that I’ll take back to NYC.
First, it is important to have context and understand where everything is coming from. If we hadn’t had our history lessons from Rabbi Lorge leading up to the trip, it would have been extraordinary challenging to follow what we were seeing. It would have been way harder to pick up on what we were supposed to. Context and preparation provided a far easier path for learning and allow for fun and enjoyment.
Second, I understood through both touring the cities and listening to our tour guides speak that the Jewish community which was once vibrant, no longer is because of the lack of Jewish presence after the expulsion of 1492. There are so few Jews today in Madrid, Segovia, Toledo and other cities in which the community was once thriving because Jews were seen as the other and because of that they were expelled and knowledge of them was silenced. This teaches me the lesson that we need to stand up for what is right. Even if we are greatly outnumbered we need to take a stand with pride.
The third lesson I learned on this trip is that although Jews build synagogues and other things they don’t get to keep them. When listening to the tour of Toledo, Ben Cutler told me that the mini lesson wrapped in all of the synagogues that were now turned to museums and churches is that Jews build great things but can’t keep them. They are taken from us. This idea began to appear in several ways throughout the trip including the city of Segovia where Abraham Senior converted to Christianity to save his own life and instantly his Jewish heritage was taken from him. His community was also taken from him as he had to live his final days as a Catholic man without his Jewish community. These great edifices and physical signs of Jewish life had either been erased completely or taken and used by other religions for themselves. We don’t get to keep them.
Upon sharing the idea above I received one of the greatest compliments of my life. One of my rabbis felt challenged by something I said? How could this be? He said that the Jewish community wasn’t dead and that by coming to these communities, lifting up their memory, and reading texts and voices from the Jews of the past, they are once again somehow alive. He told us that the Jews have never been a people of material possessions or physical structures, but a people of lessons, scripture, ideas and knowledge. He taught us that although we didn’t get to keep our synagogues, and even though this community disappeared, we still got to keep the memory of medieval Jewish Spain, and the work and writings of its great teachers, rabbis philosophers, and poets. The community in Spain still shapes us even after they are gone.
So now we go on to implementing these ideas. Another valuable lesson to understand is good things are a good sense of community comes with devotion. This sense of community is built through being together more than once a week and enjoying each other’s presence. This comes through spending time with each other and caring for each individual on a personal level. The next step is trips like these. When community is built then its time tot are the problems head on. When a community realizes a problem, it is stronger when more than one person combats the issue. Building community is NO use when there is nothing to fight for.
Last, but most important, is beginning to repair the world again. While there may be problems other than building up Jewish communities it is important to know that they must be rebuilt. This rebuilding must be done together and with a cohesive force behind it. Once these communities are rebuilt return must happen. It has been a long time since 1492 and a lot has changed since the Jews have been expelled, but it is time to continue to rebuild.
– Sam Brill
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