Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,

We hope you are well.

This weekly update is dedicated to our Shnat Netzer Ma'ayan North group, who completed their 8.5 months Shnat program in Israel tonight. You have been an amazing group and we loved having you with us. You exceeded our high expectations, and did above and beyond. We are so proud of you for the long way you came, as individuals and as a community, and we have a lot of faith in you. We have no doubt that you will bring your meaningful experience back to your home communities, and we will be there with you in spirit- always.

We miss you already!!!

+ The Northern Corner

Weekly update by Miranda Robshaw

We all knew that someday this final report of Shnat would have to be written, have to be typed up, have to be sent to Lior and in turn the recipients of this newsletter. But somehow, we didn't really believe it ever would. Back in October, eight months seemed like a lifetime. Now, sitting in a bedroom on Lotan writing this, it's too easy to believe the whole thing never happened at all. We might have longer hair, more piercings and look less tidy, but there is really no significant change to our appearance. You might only realise the intensity of the time that has passed if you had a conversation with one of us. We are all infinitely more mature, and a sense of calm prevails over the group that was absent before.

This could be because as a group, we have experienced some of our highest highs and lowest lows. We have been to Karmiel and Jerusalem, lived together, cooked together, sung together, travelled together, danced together and learnt together. These kind of experiences must have had an impact upon our group dynamics and the difference in atmosphere is almost tangible.

Over the course of this year, we have met many interesting people - the esteemed Michael Livni, founder of the political philosophy Reform Zionism; Mike Nitzan, founder of the Netzer kibbutz; Danny Freelander, President of the World Union of Progressive Judaism; and Anat Hoffman, founder of Women of the Wall, as well as many others. The interaction we had with Anat Hoffman a few months ago was particularly memorable - a quote that had a strong impact on all of us was "there is a lot of untapped nuisance in this room", a remark that sits with many of us today. Indeed, one southerner friend of ours described the lecture as having given her 'emotions she had never felt in her entire life'! High praise if there ever was any.

We have learnt a huge amount about Progressive Judaism and how it relates to our lives, and I know that from a personal point of view, I have learnt how to express my Progressive Jewish identity in a meaningful way - through Jewish music, Jewish celebrations, and marking Shabbat with Kabbalat Shabbat services (which have held a special place in our group this year). I believe this is true for the whole group.
Shnat has also offered us the opportunity to explore Zionism and how it fits in with our beliefs. I now say with confidence that most of us are 80% sure what Zionism is.

I can also say with 100% certainty that wherever we choose to live in the future, Beit Shmuel Jerusalem is a place we can always call a home.

This year has been highly formative for us all, and, to tentatively repeat the cliché, the best year of our lives.

This is Miranda Robshaw, with the last weekly report of Ma'ayan North.

To My Shnatties / Maya Pollack

Over Passover chofesh I was watching Tangled and eating ice cream. I wasn’t really paying attention cause my ice cream was really good, until I heard this sentence, “I’ve been looking out a window for 18 years. What if it’s not what I dreamed it would be”? I realized that that is a fear that I had before coming on Shnat. I have quotes from 9th grade angsty teenage Maya’s diary saying, “I hate highs school. I can’t wait to go to Israel on my gap year”. So apparently by 15 years of age I had already decided to come on a gap year. So basically this year is something that I had been anticipating and building up in my head for over 5 years. What if it wasn’t everything I thought it would be? What if it was a waste of time. Now I’m not going to lie to you, the first week of Shnat, I thought that that fear had come true. I remember sitting in a circle doing a program at Beit Shmuel thinking, “how embarrassing would it be if I went home now? Would plane flights be expensive”?

I’m not really sure it was, but something wouldn’t let me truly acknowledge how I felt. I think I was probably in denial cause I wanted it to work out so much. And I’m glad I was in denial. Because after giving it a little time, I realized that you all were a very special group of people and that I am lucky to go on this journey with.
Every one of these past 255 some odd days I have learned something new because of you all. You taught me how to communicate effectively. You taught me how to love unconditionally, how to cook, how to get angry and then move on, and how to sing with all my heart. It’s not a coincidence that our voices fit so perfectly together. It’s because we fit so perfectly together. Each one of us fills a role in the group that is irreplaceable. And when we are together, there is a vibe, an energy, a feeling that I’ve never felt before. I can’t really describe it, but it’s there. Sometimes I even get mad that my friends back home won’t feel this. Because it really is something special.
So I guess this long windy rant is my weird way of saying thank you. Thank you for opening your hearts and letting this weird California girl into your lives. Thank you for the countless laughs, hugs, and tears. Thank you for the beautiful music. Thank you for making this year not only what I dreamed it would be, but so much more than that. I truly love you all. You guys know I love quotes so I just want to say one more that I found.

“Good friends care for each other, close friends understand each other, but true friends stay forever, beyond words, beyond distance, beyond time”.

So here’s to infinity and beyond…? (That was so cheesy but I wouldn’t help myself)


+ The Southern Corner

Weekly update by Maxine Silbert

On Sunday after lunch we put the northerners on the bus for their sikkum seminar. sure we are seeing them again, but emotions raised as it felt like a dress rehearsal for The Real Thing. the whole weekend we'd spent going down rainbow slides at a water park and tasting hummus in the old city, trying to ignore The Inevitable and just enjoy our time together. and then we were putting the northerners on a bus to have their first experience without us in 4 months, and we realised that next time we put them on a bus it could be to experience their whole life without us. we joked as we stood around awkwardly it was like putting our kids on summer camp, who knows what process they’ll undergo and how they will return to us. when the purple bus disappeared behind the Jerusalem stone, we gathered each other up, wiped the tears of each other's cheeks, and walked back to the flat holding hands to have an assefa.

Our assefa was efficient and effective, perhaps it showed our development or our mellowed mood but for the first time in my recollection there were gaps of silence between people speaking. The assefa began a process of warming us back into the idea of a southern kvutsah, as we all listened so closely to each other and learnt how to help each other over the next hard few weeks. Dinner was lentil salad and pasta and us machoniks were ecstatic to have vegetables and protein with our carbs! I lit candles and put on a tablecloth and made it a romantic date for the kvutsah. conversations and things fell into place naturally as everyone helped each other get food. machon and etgar shared stories and it was then that I realised how truly different, yet similar our last 4 months had truly been.

Spirits dropped again a little after dinner as people began to realise how they already missed the northerners, and how this aching feeling can only get worse before it gets better. However, Nancye changed this by running a well thought out maamad- which I am trying to reflect in this weekly update. it was in the dark and we added lights as we moved through a service of a combination of South and North tunes. Through our prayers we released our emotions, making this the most spiritual moment that many of us had felt on shnat. Despite the spirituality and the intensity of our praying, between the prayers we couldn’t help but chatter excitedly. We were so happy to be back together and had so much catching up to do. We went to sleep with hearts filled with the excitement for being once more Southern Ma’ayan, but with our hearts missing and loving our northerners.

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+ Israel Update

Praying for Equality

A few months ago there was an historical decision made, to have an egalitarian section at the Kotel- creating “one wall for one people.” Unfortunately, shorty after we witnessed the current, cruel reality at the Kotel - the detention of Lesley Sachs, for bringing a Torah to the prayer services. IRAC- The Israel Religious Action Center stated that they are committed to continuing meeting at high levels and negotiating, but must also set facts on the ground. They are asking you to write your embassy and tell them: We are all Lesley Sachs. On the eve of Shavuot, when we celebrate the Torah that was given to all of us, we will not stand for women being arrested for reading from the Torah. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to face these challenges head-on, until we achieve the full equality we deserve in Israel.
Today, there was a Mincha Service organized to take place at the Kotel. Over 20 of our shnattim joined Israel Religious Action Center - IRAC and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism at the ‪‎Kotel at a pluralistic Progressive service on the designated egalitarian section. Despite being provoked by Ultra-Orthodox to gathered in protest, our Shnattim kept the mood focused on pluralism, peace and faith.

This experience brought up a lot of feelings and thoughts among our participants- it was a really intense and hard situation, and at the same time- a source of strength which made them feel part, and proud. Despite my mixed emotions, I am so appreciative of the opportunity they had and the privilege to experience that, joining hands and sing songs of unity.

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+ International

Responding to the Horrific Attack in Orlando Florida

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) extends its deepest sympathies and prayers to the victims of the Orlando shooting and to their families, whose lives were cut short and shattered by hatred and intolerance. Progressive congregations, rabbis and individuals from around the world responded with a range of condemnations and prayers from around the world, including this statement from the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ) in the UK, this interview with Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner for BBC 4 in the UK, and the following statement from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in the US below:

Washington, D.C., June 12, 2016 – In response to the tragic violence in Orlando, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) issued the following statement:

*The horrific violence in Orlando shakes us to our very core. The staggering loss of life, yet again facilitated by a military-style weapon that has no place on the street, causes us deep pain. We pray for those who were murdered, for healing of body and soul for the injured, and for comfort to the families of all who were present in Pulse nightclub.

*We are grateful to law enforcement, the first responders, and all those volunteers who are helping during this crisis.

*The fact that such devastation targeted a club popular with the gay community and occurred during Gay Pride month reminds us that despite the strides made toward equality, there is much to be done to address ongoing homophobia that was for too long acceptable in this nation. The attack is also further proof, as if any were needed, of the imperative to end the culture of gun violence that grips the nation.

*On this holiday of Shavuot, we engage in all-night study and reflection of the words and lessons of Torah. No lesson is more fundamental than that which teaches that the spark of the Divine is present in every individual - gay and straight, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. In the face of tragedy, let us come together in a spirit of love and compassion for all and work together to create a nation that rejects violence and instead celebrates the holiness of every human being.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit RAC for more.

+ The Weekly Portion

In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion-

+ Shabbat Treat

A little tribute to Shnat Netzer Ma'ayan North-

Another special moment today at the Kotel-

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, 

Lior and the Netzer staff





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