Abby Cassius: My Teen Israel Experience

by JCPConnect-

Abby Cassius, pictured right, daughter of Melinda and Lyn Cassius, is a senior at White Station High School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to offset the costs of her NCSY/ JSU/The Jewish Journey program in Israel. All rising high school juniors and seniors in the Memphis Jewish community are eligible for grants up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for Summer 2022 are now available online. To learn more and apply, please click here.

By Abby Cassius:

My experience can be summed up in four words… The BEST SUMMER EVER!

Our tour guide would also sum it up as the hottest days of the summer, and the best day on JSU/ (The Jewish Journey) TJJ, and I would have to agree. Along with all the influential places we got to visit, like Har Hertzl, Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Museum, a Yom Kipper War Bunker, or the Kotel, I made long-lasting relationships with other teens from the Mid-West. We also challenged our advisors asking questions about why people fasted on Tisha B’Av-which I didn’t know about until the trip-or why some Jews are shomer negiah (refrain from physical contact with members of the opposite sex).

The water sports day in Eilat was one of my favorite experiences. For the first time ever, I went tubing and banana boating all in one day. The sun was beating down on my face, and I could taste the saltwater on my lips. The rafts were huge, enough to fit four teens on each side. It was crazy, and I flew off the raft, but grew as a person every time my face hit the water because I realized I was doing all these firsts in my homeland, Israel.

This was my first time in Israel and my real first experience going out of my comfort zone. Sone of the activities, like rafting down the Jordan River, tripping through the Blind Museum or bunker, and stepping foot in a hostel room with complete strangers pushed me out of my comfort zone as I had never felt before. In the bunker, I put my teamwork skills to the ultimate test with the Midwest bus who I didn’t know yet and learned how exhilarating it was to meet new people, my TJJ family.

Overall, my summer experience was so much more than just a vacation. Services combined with Chaburah and speakers informed me on Israel, the Torah, and Judaism in general while the historic sites put all of their words into perspective. My friends and I slept under the stars in Bedouin tents and contemplated our futures as Jews. And, as I got home, I have challenged myself to use what I learned in my community, at my synagogue, and with my family.

I am appreciative to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemksy Endowment for helping to make my JSU/ TJJ Israel trip possible.

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