Bus One-Oh-Fun: A Tale of Two Birthright Shabbats
By Marissa Freeman, OneTable Chicago Hub Manager
Last time I wrote a piece about Shabbat on Birthright, I was back from an incredible 10-days with Bus 24, as a participant. This time, I’m coming with a new understanding of Shabbat’s ability to bring a group together. I’m now back from staffing a Birthright trip with Bus 101 (aka Bus One-Oh-Fun) and still running a holy-high from our time together, specifically on Shabbat.
As a staff member for this trip, my trip highlights came from witnessing others have meaningful moments. Kabbalat Shabbat with our group, from lighting candles and exchanging Shabbat flowers, allowed us to sit together as a full unit and take a deep breath. Setting some intention with our peers ignited a flame in our group’s willingness to experience the next week together. You can imagine the smile on our staff’s faces when we finished programming for the night and instead of everyone going to sleep, they all stayed up chatting on the shores of the Kinneret. I didn’t think my heart could be fuller – until our next Shabbat together.
For Shabbat, our guide, Bar, shocked us with the most incredible gift. Bar had private access to an exclusive rooftop view overlooking the Western Wall and with all four quarters of the Old City in sight (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Armenian). When we got to the rooftop, the temperature was perfect, not too hot and the breeze was whipping through each corner of the white-stone Old City. Overlooking Jerusalem, we took a huge breath together and the Bus 101 Shabbat committee lead Kabbalat Shabbat while we peered over the Western Wall.
We danced and welcomed Shabbat at the Kotel and then walked back to our hotel together, dancing through the streets of Jerusalem along the way. After dinner, we used our OneTable Shab-bag and our Shabbat committee facilitated a Shabbat-O-Gram gift exchange and shared printed pictures from our OneTable Polaroid camera. Shabbat proved again to be the glue that brought our family together.
As a participant, Shabbat was a time for me to get to know my new bus-friends. As a leader, Shabbat gave me a chance to step away from the chaos of managing 49 participants for ten days straight. The time we had set aside to relax meant basking in the joy that was our time together, creating the perfect glue to bring all of our laughs and lessons from the previous eight days together. Shabbat book-ended our journey and as a participant turned Birthright leader, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.