Unique New York

 Hello, my fellow readers. Let me begin this blog entry by stating how immensely apologetic I am for my lack of blogging for a long while. It was a mix of family situations, school circumstances, and tons of other things racking my thought process, much so that I either forgot or typed it and just never posted. Of course I will continue to do so religiously (haha get it?). So please forgive me, and read on!

I have a few things to share. This particular blog isn't about one of the JLI classes; rather, it is about personal experiences. Initially, can we just acknowledge the fact that I GOT INTO THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA?!? Phew. Now that that's off my chest, I can weave my tale of visiting a far away place known to some as New York. You may have heard of it. This past Monday I touched down in Florida, the first time since the previous Thursday night. I had spent that entire weekend (and my entire energy tank) in New York. Why New York, I hope you would politely ask? Well, my friends, *guffaws at such a ridiculous question* for the CTeen 2016 Shabbaton! It was an experience of a lifetime, let me tell you.

Shabbaton is this giant get-together every year in Manhattan where thousands of Jewish teens from all around the world fly in to spend Shabbat together. This year, over 2,000 teens from 25 different countries got together to celebrate their Jewish pride. It was breathtaking. I flew into New York (my first time!!) with Miss Sarah and Miss Shira, along with another nice young lady called Cheyenne. Thursday night we went straight to sleep. Friday, we all visited the Wax Museum and explored Times Square, and Shabbat dinner. Saturday was all about Shabbat and more Jewish Pride, and then a HUGE private party in Times Square, and on Sunday we had the closing banquet and visited the Rebbe's grave. The return flight was Monday morning. I don't think anybody would appreciate me writing a novel, so I'll pick apart my favorite occurrences. Okay, so I have this unhealthy obsession with other cultures and languages. So you could say I was in heaven when I was surrounded by French and Spanish and Swedish and Hebrew and Italian... It was absolutely amazing. I was practically drooling over the accents and the culture that surrounded me. At one point, in the subway car, there was a group of Australians singing the Sh'ma prayer in Hebrew and then on the other side was a group of French girls singing it in French. Us silly Americans were stuck in the middle. But oh my word it was awesome. And the party in Times Square.. Seeing all of those teenagers raging about their religion and waving their country's flag, it was enough to make anybody want to be Jewish! Of course I was dog tired by the time the partying ended near 2am, but I fell into bed smiling that night. I wasn't even bothered by the cold or the New Yorkers, the whole thing was an adventure!

On the last day of Shabbaton, we all visited the Rebbe's grave. I can't describe the feeling of the experience other than spiritually stimulating. I actually cried while I wrote my prayer.. Don't tell anyone else that, okay? That's between you and I and the NSA other there in that corner. They're there, trust me. But anyway.. All around me, people bent over their papers scribbling their thoughts and hopes and blessings, all in an effort to right the wrongs in the world. It was a beautiful and halcyon scene.

The entire event had me dying for more, yet left nothing to be desired. I met so many incredible kids (I still talk to a few of the kids I met) and heard to many life changing stories.. It's a shame I'm out of highschool in 3 months but you can bet that I'll be looking into chaperoning for Shabbaton 2017!!!! GO CTEENS!!!

A Nameless Virtue

    I'm not proud that I had to come to JLI this morning in work clothes (ripped up tee-shirt and worn jean-shorts), but seeing as I had to run to work upon JLI's ending leaves my actions more than justified. And I'm not particularly happy with the fact that I couldn't attend last Sunday's session, but my health was extremely lacking- I couldn't effectively get out of bed. So, just for the record, and whatever vain soul that may be keeping it, my lax in blogging progress has not been due to negligence. I save that for schoolwork. But, I do have good news to soothe any heightened frustrations. So read on, dear reader!

    Initially, it was established (with vehement enthusiasm, I must add) that I am in need of a Hebrew name... any suggestions? I'm sure I'll think of something by the next lesson. That's going to be occupying my mind quite a bit. But let's talk about the actual lesson, shall we? The component that held most prominence was, of course, the Uniqueness that is Israel. "...And also we shall be like all the nations..." Well, quite frankly, that was a failed attempt. We are nothing like the rest of the world. Sure, Israel holds the common ideals of a Democracy, but a Jewish Democracy. Our biggest issue as a people is our crisis of identity. Trying to make a name for ourselves if only to gain the approval of the world. It's a scary concept when differentiability becomes just another evil. Personally, I feel as though our differences are what make us so beautiful. Something perhaps just as beautiful, though, is sleep. Miss Sarah shared with us the importance of sleep not just in a physical sense, but in a spiritual one as well. It gives us the opportunity to have a new beginning each day; to wake up like a lion. Apex confidence and motivation in order to complete the mission in which G-d laid out for us.

    Turkey Day is upon us, my lovelies. It is that time of year when we all forget that diet plan, buy bigger pants, and take part in turkey-induced comas. And so I bid you all adieu, until next week!

We Are Kind Of A Big Deal

 It's always a pleasant surprise when the Rabbi and Miss Sarah organize guest speakers for the Sunday JLI meetings. New people lead to new stories, lending themselves to newly acquired knowledge and overwhelming wisdom from said knowledge. This particular Sunday morning, however, the fatigue-plagued students were greeted by a smiling face belonging to a Professor. His name escapes me, initially because I'm running on two hours of sleep, and secondly because I was in the restroom upon his arrival. I do remember most everything he spoke about, however. His entire lecture can be summed up in one snazzy phrase; We are Kind of a big deal. We being the Jews, of course. The professor whipped out all of these fascinating statistics regarding the Jews as a people, all of them leaving our mouths agape with incredulous looks plastered on our faces. Did you know that 1/3 of all American doctors are Jewish? How about the fact that 1/2 of American Lawyers are Jews as well? The humorous aspect about it is that we only make up about 2% of the American population. He then went on to discuss the contributions of the Israelis on a global level. Inventions and innovative technologies like the cellphone were made right there in Tel Aviv. This all blew me away. I mean, I already knew it, but how can the world even deny the evidence-backed claim that Jews Rock??I really enjoyed the Professor's teachings.

On another note entirely, I'm still working on the Kosher club and the Positive energy seminar, but this week has been so backed up with school testing. But worry not, my fellow readers- your dear author will do as promised. Until next Sunday!

Peace to Pieces?

    I have never been so ecstatic to see a clock read 8am when my phone claimed it was 7am. Could it be? Daylight Saving's Ending sweeping in to play heroics against the commonplace aggressor so universally known as exhaustion? Oh time bipolarity, how I love you. Especially since I danced the night away, roaming the streets as V from V For Vendetta in search of candy. Life lesson one: you are never too old for Trick-or-treating. Not to mention that I went to a party until around 2am. So it's safe to say that an extra hour was welcomed with open arms. Fast forward, skipping the part where I showed up 20 minutes late due to a fussy baby, I sat down among my Jewish peers and immersed myself within the intricate web of questions so delicately woven by inquiring minds. However, the intricacy of such inquiries did little to settle the nausea-inducing turmoil metastasizing inside my stomach. Today's subject pronounced upon the bias and resentment depicted by the UN's continual condemnations against the state of Israel. It was rather infuriating, quite honestly. The entire world is acting like the existence of Israel is a big joke. The indifference towards threats, the lack of help in response to said threats, turning a blind eye to the happenings in the Middle East. In this world, it's allies to enemies, and it's time to show those enemies *ahem Syria, Jordan, Iran, etc ahem* that we, the United States of America, stand with Israel! I mean, it is my home. How else am I supposed to react to somebody wishing ill will upon my home?

   In other news, I'm starting another club on campus. The plans are still totally up in the air, but it's going to be a kosher foods club. I'm really excited to get the ball rolling with this. That isn't the news that I discussed last week, however. I shouldn't really discuss this idea just yet, as it is still up in the air. But, it may or may not include Miss Susan and Mister Edmund presenting their program to the student body of Jupiter High. Anyway, I have a lot of things going on this year, I can't wait to see what comes of all this. Until next week!

Mi Casa, Su Casa

I could lie and say I was up early, ready and roarin' to head out to JLI this morning by 9am. But let's face it, I stayed up until 2am last night baking cookies with my best friend. So when I rolled over and saw that the clock was t-minus 15 minutes from 10am (when JLI starts), my first thought was "Oh lord, I have to get up from my coma?!" And when I walked into Chabad looking as exhausted as I felt, the spring in my step had sprung its way into sometime next week. Man, I was draggin. For someone who hates coffee, my eyes couldn't stop searching for that sweet salvation. Little did I know that my wake-up call would come soon enough. So I plumped down in my chair, mind on sleep and heart back home in my sheets. And I heard something that chased the fatigue towards tonight. "Who does Israel belong to?" The question resonated throughout the room and reverberated in my thoughts. Well, I thought, of course it belongs to us. The Jews. We. Me. It is my home, it is our solace. How could you even question it? But my claim of ownership was derived from the stories I heard and the necklace that dangled on my neck. I didn't have the facts. But those shortcomings were made up for in attending today's session. Those questions flew off of our tongues, challenging and questioning and refuting claims presented in the PowerPoint. But in the end we all realized that Israel truly DOES belong to us, and that is factually supported by tangible evidence as well as intangible ideologies. And not only does it belong to us, it is open for all to come and visit and fall in love with. The lesson grew and birthed new topics related to war and peace and conquest and sacrifice. In the end, Israel still came out victorious in its land borders. Israel belongs to the Jews. And in gaining this knowledge, I have become an ambassador of Jewish history and Jewish future. This is SO much better than coffee.

The grand finale of the lesson was meeting an amazing couple named Mr. Edmund and Mrs. Susan. They were awesome, and I have so much to tell, but then I won't have anything for next week! So stay tuned, because I hopefully have an announcement to make on their behalf. Can't wait for Sunday!

Call It Scandalous

Beep! Beep! Beep! *sound of an alarm clock being thrown across the room* I roll over in bed and practically fall onto the floor, the clock reading 9am. Need I repeat my Sunday routine? It remains the same, quite honestly. Except this time, when I stroll into the Chabad, some new faces catch my eye. All friendly, of course. Yearning to gain new knowledge of the very religion that joins us together every Sunday morning. I smile to myself in knowing that my generation harbors an interest in a healthy religion despite the romanticised atheistic ideologies of society. It gives me hope. Anyway, today's lesson was a continuation of Israel, otherwise known as "The Holy Land." How long could you possibly discuss a little sliver of land in the middle of nowhere? Well, it really is much more than that. And no amount of time in the world used to describe its uniqueness and peculiarity would do it justice. But hey, we can sure try, right? That being said, we discussed, at great length, the assets that Israel has been able to develop in order to survive and even prosper. Before I attended JLI classes, I already held Israel in the highest regard. With every lesson learned, however, the name leaves me even more breathless and awestruck with each utterance. I can't wait to finally witness its beauty firsthand. But for now, all I can do is thank Hashem for its existence, and count down the days until next Sunday. Today's lesson ended with a bit of a bang though. Within the last 20 minutes, Miss Sarah taught us about the parallels drawn between Judaism and love. I had never really thought about love and relationships as an aspect to be considered holy, but today left me wondering. It seems nearly scandalous that one can learn so much about life in a simple teaching of religion. Who knew?





JLI Teens Begins

Sunday morning schedule of normality; wake up about 9am, devour a huge bowl of seemingly healthy cereal, think up more excuses to put off the homework I have that's due in a day, and take a nap. This past Sunday morning schedule was a bit different though. I still woke up about 9am, devoured a huge bowl of cereal, put on pants, and drove my car to the local Chabad center in Abacoa. Why would I do such a thing, you may or may not ask? Because JLI Teens is back in session! Starting my second consecutive year in the program, I found myself increasingly excited to arrive to the day's lesson despite the amount of times I hit the snooze button. Last year was quite an experience considering I wasn't all that active in my religion. But last year's session changed my perspective of Judaism and life itself; I was smiling at the world more so than ever before. So, why wouldn't I be excited for the next one? Anyway, I walked into Chabad feeling a bit nervous, but the welcoming sight of my friends and Rabbi melted the nerves away immediately. It felt like I was home, and I was put at ease right away. When we started the lesson, time practically flew by. That two hour discussion lasted all of 5 minutes, it seemed like! But it captivated me. Questions concerning the importance of Israel and Judaism swirled in my mind and jumped off my tongue, constantly initiating new subtopics about the central theme of the lesson; the land of Israel. With JLI, it doesn't feel like I'm in a classroom learning about the ideology of a religion. It feels as though I'm learning how to live my life the proper way, and finally implementing the true meaning of the word 'Torah' into my daily life. I definitely cannot wait to see what the other kids think of the lesson plans, and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for Sunday to make another appearance. It's so exciting!



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