Jewish Memphis

Yosef with family at the Kotel

Yosef Vanderwalde, son of Drs. Lindi and Ari Vanderwalde, is a junior at the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of his Mach Hach Ba’Aretz Israel trip last summer. 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. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. To learn more and apply, please click here.

By Yosef Vanderwalde

Before this year, I never recognized Israel as anything more than a vacation destination. I’ve been to Israel with my family twice before: once when I was six and once when I was ten. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate all that Israel had to offer that America could not. This visit was very different. I went on a program called Mach Hach Ba’Aretz for five weeks and had the time of my life and grew a new appreciation for the Land of Israel.

I arrived in Israel after a very long flight, was greeted by my old summer camp friends, and then met the people on my bus who I would be spending the next month in Israel. After driving to our hotel in Jerusalem to put our bags down, we headed to the bus again to take the short trip to the Western Wall. I had visited the Wall before, but this time I felt an incredible connection with the city and the people around me and I was excited to experience Israel again.

Mach Hach Ba’Aretz is a touring program, we went from the Golan Heights in the north to the Red Sea in the south and from the beaches of the Mediterranean in the east to the Dead Sea in the west. We really covered a lot of ground. We went to many cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tzfat, Tiberius, Eilat, and so many more. Along the way we became friends with other Jewish teens from different countries such as England, France, and Belarus. My counselors were all amazing Americans who made aliyah to Israel after high school and it was very nice to get to know them and learn what made them love Israel.

While on my trip, I learned about what it is like to live in Israel. I really enjoyed being able to eat basically wherever I wanted because there were so many kosher options. It was nice to be in an environment where there were Jews always surrounding me. Sometimes in America, I don’t want to wear a Kippah because I am worried that someone will have a problem with me, but in Israel I was able to express my Judaism with everyone around me.

To conclude, I had an amazing time in Israel. I traveled throughout the entire country and was able to appreciate it as a young adult. Also, I saw what it was like to live in Israel as a Jew and enjoy all the delicious kosher foods. Lastly, I made tons of friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. I love the Land of Israel and all that it has to offer, and maybe one day I will be able to move there.

Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my Mach Hach Ba’Aretz trip possible.

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By: Nadav Lowell, 11th grade, Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys

According to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 1,350,000 Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, leaving only 150,000 surviving. Those that survived did not escape unscathed; many witnessed horrific deaths and horrible crimes. Children were forced to grow up fast and become self-reliant if they wanted to survive.

Most of the ways Jewish children survived were hazardous. Many children hid in bunkers, attics, or other hideaways, in constant fear of discovery. Some lived in the forest. Some children were sent to live with family and friends, and a lucky few were brought to England (via “Kindertransport”). A great many parents gave their children to the church, even knowing their children might be converted. Some parents encouraged children to hide their Jewish identity.

Given all of the above, I wonder what inner qualities and practices kept children alive, resilient, and even identified as Jewish, especially considering limited Jewish education. How did Jewish youth, after witnessing so many horrors and so much tragedy, stay true to their faith and their people?

To help me answer these questions, I turn to the writings of the Jewish youth, carefully collected and maintained by the Yad Vashem archives and others. For example, we have letters written by Hearshc Pollock, Chiya Marla, Jacob Marcus, and dozens more. Heartbreakingly, many of these were written not only to their own families but to neighboring Poles, community rabbis, and others, begging and pleading for interventions to save and protect their loved ones. These letters show me how these children-maintained hopes and dreams, and care for others, even while suffering and struggling themselves.

The Holocaust Art and Essay contest is hosted annually by Memphis Jewish Federation. Students in grades 9-12 across Tennessee and the Mid-South are invited to submit essays. This year’s theme was Courage and Hope: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of a Child.


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2023 Yom HaShoah event chairs, Dorothy and Michelle Goldwin with keynote speaker, Tova Friedman

By Shoshana Cenker

On Monday, April 17, more than 475 attendees packed the Memphis Jewish Community Center’s Belz Social Hall for Memphis Jewish Federation’s 61st Annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration. The Tennessee Holocaust Commission sponsored this year’s keynote speaker, child survivor Tova Friedman, for Courage & Hope: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of a Child.

Laura Linder, Jewish Community Partners president and CEO, opened the moving program, which was followed by a beautifully harmonized rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by Temple Israel teens. Then, second-generation survivor Dorothy Goldwin and her daughter, Michelle Goldwin Kaufman, co-chairs of the Memphis Holocaust Committee, offered powerful remarks, part of which highlighted the importance of sharing family history knowledge from generation to generation.

Next, as third- and fourth-generation survivors, my three children and I had the honor of reading local survivors’ bios as they lit the memorial candelabra with the help of third-generation survivor Adam Exelbierd. Diane Zelickman Cohen, Memphis Symphony Orchestra assistant principal first violinist, then played a lovely musical reflection, setting the mood for Tova’s presentation.

The audience was captivated as Tova Friedman took the stage with a commanding and engaging presence, sharing startling stats: Before the war – there were 15,000 Jews in her Polish hometown of Tomaszow Mazowiecki; 5,000 of them were children – after the war, just 200 were left; only five children. Of her 150 family members, Tova and her parents were the only ones to survive. “Killing was an art,” Tova noted. “I represent a whole town. … Today, Poland is one giant place of graves.”

Living in her town’s ghetto as a toddler, Tova was 5 years old when she and her parents were sent to a Nazi labor camp. It’s believed that she’s one of the youngest people to survive the Holocaust. Tova credits her mother for not shielding her from reality. When Tova asked if the bodies she saw were dead people, her mom told her yes. “My mother communicated well with me. I learned to listen to her,” she said, “And I never cried out loud – that would give away your hiding place.”

Sadly, her grandparents were shot dead into a grave that her father was forced to dig. Her favorite uncle was shot, among many others – rabbis, teachers, and doctors were killed first – all most often without clothes on. “Shooting was so common, I thought being Jewish meant you had to die,” she told the engrossed crowd, which included Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “The Nazis killed the elderly to destroy families – killing the spirit and glue that holds families together…. They were ordered to undress before they were killed because clothes make you a human – it’s easier to kill naked people, there’s no humanity.”

Tova remembers seeing kids disappear and realizing that people were being moved from location to location, sometimes in secret, in the middle of the night. “Breaking up a family,” she said, “breaks their spirit.”

Tova was almost 6 when she and her mother were forced into a packed cattle car and sent to Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau extermination camp, while her father was sent to Dachau. “We were on that train for 36 hours, with terrible smells and screaming,” Tova said. “When we arrived at the concentration camp, I asked my mom what the smell was. She told me it was burning bodies.”

Somehow, Tova managed to stay alive – despite being sent to the crematorium (her mother screaming as she watched her go; for unknown reasons, Tova’s group was sent back to their barracks); despite only being allowed to go to the bathroom twice per day (you’d be shot for more); despite falling into a toilet; and despite starving (“a hunger that words cannot describe”).

“I’ve had many miracles in my life, maybe because I am a witness,” she noted. “I am the voice of the 1.5 million children who died.”

As the Russians approached, Nazis began ramping up the killings. It was chaos until Tova and her mother were liberated from Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945. “In Yiddish, my mother said, ‘They’re gone,’” referring to the Nazis.

Tova’s father survived Dachau, reuniting with Tova and her mother the following year. After several years with tuberculosis in a German sanatorium and Displaced Persons camps, Tova and her parents arrived in the U.S. when she was 12.

Tova earned a BA in psychology and a master’s in Black literature. She and her husband, Maier Friedman, immigrated to Israel, living there for over 10 years where she taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Returning to the U.S., she earned her master’s in social work, becoming the director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset and Warren Counties in New Jersey for over 20 years, where she still works as a therapist. She wrote her memoir, “The Daughter of Auschwitz.” Tova’s blessed with four children and eight grandchildren.

“When I speak, I remember the 1.5 million kids who aren’t here – it’s as if I’m putting a stone on their graves. When kids watch my stories on TikTok, they ask questions. It gives me hope,” Tova concluded. “It’s not just my story to tell – multiple it by 1.5 million.”

The Commemoration program ended with several meaningful, compelling moments. Lodz Ghetto survivor Sam Weinreich sang the “Ghetto Song,” second-generation survivor siblings David Winestone, Shelby Baum, and Rebecca Gerber recited Tehillim and Kaddish in memory of their father, Ted Winestone (OBM), Cantor Ricky Kampf chanted El Maleh Rachamim, and Rabbi Akiva Males offered a closing benediction, asking G-d to grant Tova strength to continue sharing her story.

Tova’s bravery and resiliency remind us of the importance of transmitting the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation. To those we’ve lost and those proudly living with us, we will never forget the 6 million. Never again.

Winners of the 14th Annual Holocaust Art and Essay Contest were announced. 1st place essay went to Nadav Lowell, 11th grader at Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys; 1st place art went to Kayla Lam, 7th grader at Colonial Middle School. The TN Holocaust Commission selected Mr. Jordan Bernardini as the 2023 Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award winner. Mr. Bernardini is a Facing History & Ourselves teacher at Germantown High School and a member of the Facing History’s New Committee Fellowship.

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Imagine a life of wandering, and then on a 10-day trip, you find your way, and everything clicks! Picture finding and connecting with that spark! Realizing a connection to a peoplehood, a land, a nation-state, and cultivating a deep relationship with other Jewish men, all in only 10-days. If you can join a Momentum Men’s trip, jump on it! The first words out of your mouth should be, “Where do I sign, and when do we leave”!

My backstory started in 2009; my wife and I had just completed our conversions to Judaism. It was a fantastic time and a process that brought us exceptionally close. The process involved a great deal of study, reading, classes, meetings, and soul-searching. So naturally, I ate up all the knowledge and excitedly absorbed the experiences of the conversion rituals. On top of things, I had a great career direction; we were still newlyweds, with a wide social circle and solid congregational life. 

As a Jew by choice, I spent the better part of the last decade putting aspects of my newfound religion at the forefront of my daily life, such as life-long learning, Tzedakah, Torah study, Tikkun Olam, community building, and more, helping to mature my identity. We infused our home with Judaism, created lifelong friendships, involved ourselves in the community and our congregation, and entrenched the values in our children’s lives. And there still seemed to be something missing, but what was it? It was Israel and the need to develop a connection to the land of our peoplehood, ancestry, a place riddled with triumphs and tragedy.   

I went on the Men’s Momentum trip with no expectations, landing in Tel Aviv with an open mind and heart. We had 150 men from across the US and Israel on three buses setting out on an adventure. We saw fantastic historical sites connected to the beauty and rich history of the land, building a brotherhood along the way—a brotherhood of men that transcended the spectrum of Jewish denominations. We connected with Israeli soldiers and talked about fatherhood, politics, shuls, relationships, and lighter topics, such as our favorite beers. We spent our evenings in the Shuk or hotel lounge, chatting about life, our families, and journeys.   

I know my words haven’t done this experience justice, but how can one capture something so powerful? For me, Israel is the link that sews the individual facets of my Judaism together. Living a Jewish life in the Diaspora takes time and effort. You often have to blaze your trail, but not in the Holy Land. In such a place, being Jewish is the norm; no matter your religious observances, there’s nothing more beautiful than the peaceful silence during Jerusalem on Shabbat. I thought my conversion was complete with my dunk in the mikvah. Yet, on the Bar Mitzvah anniversary of my journey, I feel a new completeness and connection that took 13 years to come full circle. And while my journey is far from over, I feel ready to start a new chapter. 

I’ll close with this: Don’t put off your trip to Israel; before you know it, there’s a decade of excuses standing in your way. Make the call, and commit. Life is too short to wait until things slow down. The most precious gift we have is life. Make sure it’s one worth living: full of fellowship, spiritual connection, positive relationships, challenges, and peace.

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As anticipation builds for Shuk, Rattle and Roll – Memphis’ community-wide celebration of Israel’s 75th anniversary – Memphis Jewish Federation continues to finalize plans for the adult-only event, to be held on May 17th at the Memphis Botanic Garden at 6:30pm.

The music for this fun, casual, yet meaningful event, will include performances by local favorite Jason Caplan and visiting Israeli-born, DJ Jewel. Jason Caplan’s Naqshon’s Leap is a Memphis band that plays original unity music with funk, soul and Memphis-inspired sound. Its songs have the goal of fulfilling a mission to celebrate One God, One Human Family and creating bridges between people of all backgrounds. Naqshon’s Leap features Jewish, Christian, Bahai, and Sikh musicians in its performances. The band is comprised of guitarist Jason Caplan, percussionist William Ruiz, vocalist Gilbert Smith, bass guitarist Cecil McDaniel, keyboardist Raishene Webb, vocalist Eric Pierce, saxophonist Stephen Wachtel, and drummer Terry Saffold.

Following a communal toast to Israel involving all celebrants, the party will continue with DJ Jewel taking over the room. Julie Fiss, a/k/a DJ Jewel, was born in Israel, where she grew up loving music. Raised in Israel, she served in the IDF and moved to New York when she was 27. Although her life’s dream was to be a DJ, she did not pursue that dream until she was 34.  She had a mentor who helped her, but she bought all of her own equipment, and booked all of her own events, to pursue this dream. To this day, she is the only Israeli female DJ in New York. She has worked all over the United States and Israel. Most recently, she headlined the AIC (Israeli- American Council) Summit 2023 in Texas where she DJ’d five times in three days. In addition, she is a mom to three young daughters!

Julie is super excited to meet and party with the Memphis community. She added, “I am going to bring the best music and best energy to celebrate our beautiful country and make this night unforgettable.”

While listening to great music, attendees will dine on Israel’s favorites including falafel, hummus, babaganoush, shwarma, bourekas, rugelach and babka. The open bars will be flowing with beer, Israeli wine, and specialty cocktails. The planners are busy coming up with items for the Shuk experience. Guests will fill their market bags as they exit the event with goodies and an appreciation of Israel’s impact on their lives.

Get your tickets and see sponsorship opportunities for Shuk, Rattle and Roll at

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Ellie and Friends at an archeological dig.

Ellie Royal, daughter of Leigh and Craig Royal is a junior at St. Mary’s Episcopal School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of her NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip last summer. 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. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. To learn more and apply, click here.

By: Ellie Royal

This past summer, I had the best opportunity to visit Israel on a NFTY in Israel program. NFTY in Israel is a program where you are able to see Israel with your URJ camp. I visited Israel with all my camp friends from Henry S. Jacobs camp, which made the trip even more special. Traveling to Israel with lifelong best friends was the most incredible experience. Along with being with your own camp friends, each camp is paired up with another URJ camp, therefore you also have the opportunity to make new friends from different regions of the United States.

Before going to Israel, I had no idea what to expect. I knew Israel was an important place to my religion and culture, however, I had no idea how just important it really is. I learned many different things during my trip, such as the history of Jewish people and the history of Israel, different aspects of Judaism, and we got to visit some of Judaism’s most holy places. In my opinion, the most memorable religious site we saw was the Western Wall. One of my favorite memories from the whole trip was spending the first Shabbat in Jerusalem in front of the Western Wall. We did Shabbat services, sang camp songs, and learned about the Western Wall and why it is so important. I loved being able to take in the feeling of being at the holiest Jewish site in the world with all my best friends.

 Another one of my favorite things in Israel was our three-day excursion to the Desert. We slept in the Bedouin tents one night and slept at campsites the other two nights. During our time spent in the desert, we floated in the Dead Sea, rode camels, and went on scenic hikes. The funny memories I made in the desert are memories I will never forget.

Another one of my favorite parts of the trip was Sea to Sea. Sea to Sea is a three-day hike from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea. Going into Sea to Sea, many of my friends and I were nervous. We felt unprepared to hike all day, cook our own food in the woods, and sleep under the stars. Although Sea to Sea was not necessarily an educational aspect of the trip, I felt as though it was the most influential part of the trip. I found it made me get out of my comfort zone and taught me things I would never learn if I didn’t choose to do it. I learned to trust people when navigating through the trails, and I learned as well that I really enjoy hiking – specifically hiking with all of my friends on beautiful trails in Israel.

 All in all, my experience in Israel was easily the best experience of my life. I learned so many things not just about my faith, but also about myself. I made memories with all my best friends that will last a lifetime. I am so beyond grateful for the opportunity we had when visiting Israel, and I hope to visit Israel again soon. Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NFTY Jacobs Camp Israel trip possible.

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Henry Rochkind and friends in the Old City.

Henry Rochkind, son of Leslie and William Rochkind, is a junior at Lausanne Collegiate School. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of his BBYO Israel trip last summer. 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. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. Click here to learn more and apply.

By Henry Rochkind

Ever since I was eight years old, I have spent my summers in Maine at an all-boys camp. Not surprisingly, out of the 215 or so attendees, 200 are from the East Coast, 14 come from California, which leaves me, the lone kid from Memphis, Tennessee. I always took this position with pride however, as my friends learned to embrace me with equal parts awe and curiosity. This year, as I embarked alone on my BBYO trip to Israel, the experience was no different, except I learned to embrace an entirely new culture. The day before I went to the airport, I was extremely nervous about the trip ahead of me. I was going blind into a group of 22 people, including myself, all from various places and backgrounds.

When my dad dropped me off at the JFK airport, my anxiety was even further increased. “This is it” I thought, “I have to spend the next twenty-one days with these strangers.” Although I was at first uncomfortable in my current situation, I soon realized that I and all the other people in my group were connected by one thing – Judaism. With this in mind, I quickly made some friends and took the grueling 11-hour flight all the way from JFK to Tel-Aviv.

The first few days in Israel were definitely tough. It was my first time outside of North America, and I had to adjust to new food, people, language, and not to mention the horrible jetlag you get. As more time went by, however, the adjustment from the United States to Israel became easier and easier. After getting more comfortable with the people around me, I realized the reason I was in Israel – to embrace my Judaism and learn more about my culture and background.

The BBYO Israel Journey I went on did the job. We traveled to all sorts of places: The Golan Heights, Eilat, Haifa, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and more. All along the way were experiences that gave me a larger perspective on Judaism as a whole. For example, in Tzfat, our group met a man named Abraham, a follower of a spiritual type of Judaism. He explained how Judaism defines who we are as people. Listening to Abraham especially gave me a new perspective, such as his ideology that our ancestors have been trying to reach Israel for hundreds of years, and we finally are there, honoring them.

Another experience our group had where I felt most connected to my Judaism was at the Kotel. The Kotel, or the Western Wall, is a sacred place in the heart of the Old City where all the people pray. Seeing the people of Israel together praying gave me a sense of unity, and further helped me understand what it means to be Jewish.

In total, the Israel trip I went on was one of the best experiences I ever went on – I got to experience a new culture, meet new people, and strengthen my Jewish identity. As I said before, I had gone to camp for my entire life. I was only in Israel for three short weeks. Yet, in that short period of time, I made what I hope will be lifelong friends from different parts of the country. We shared incredible experiences from sleeping in a kibbutz to riding camels to swimming in the Dead Sea – memories I will never forget.  Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my BBYO Israel trip possible.

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Natalie and her cousin Shayna in Tiberius.

Natalie Mashinsky, daughter of Deena Thomas and Alex Mashinsky, is a senior at the Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to offset the costs of her NCSY Euro Israel program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors are eligible for grants of up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for Summer 2023 are open click here to learn more.

By Natalie Mashinsky

This summer I had the privilege of going on NCSY’s summer program Euro Israel. This trip consisted of eighty-six teens flying to Switzerland, driving to Italy, and then flying to Israel.

I could easily say this was the best summer ever. When we flew into Switzerland and started the drive to Italy, I saw parts of Switzerland I never thought I would see. We also drove through the French Alps which was even more awesome. When we finally reached Italy, it was a dream come true. My entire life I had wanted to travel to Italy, so this was a perfect program for me.

We went through the major cities in Italy and stayed there for a week and a half. Shabbos was amazing and we got to see the first ghetto established in World War II.

Italy was amazing but Israel was even better. I never felt much of a connection to the land of Israel until this summer. I even talked to my advisors about my guilt, and they said, “once you get there you will feel it,” and they were right. We covered all of Israel going from Tzfat to Eilat. We started in Teveria (Tiberias) and that was my favorite place. I loved the water there and the layout of the city. It was so beautiful to me I will never forget it. We stayed there for Shabbos and then drove north to Tzfat. I liked the cooler air in Tzfat and how beautiful the stone streets were. From there we went to Haifa and went surfing. This was my second time surfing, and I did not do so well. But I still made amazing memories with my friends as we all fell off our boards.

The next event was Yom NCSY (an annual event with an evening concert that marks the extended NCSY community spending the summer in Israel) and traveling in Tel Aviv. This was my first Yom NCSY, and it was one of the best days of my life. I saw other friends on other programs and got to see all of these Jewish kids come together. In the final weeks of the trip, we went south down to Eilat. The heat there was unbearable, but we got through it as we partied on a boat.

Finally on our last stop we stayed in Jerusalem. This was another one of my favorite parts of the trip. Learning about the history and even walking through the sites gave me an understanding of my heritage that I didn’t have before. After this program my feelings changed, and I love Israel more than anything now. Traveling throughout the land to different cities and different histories opened up my eyes to how important the land is. I also met the most amazing people on this program. I have made friendships I know will last a lifetime. I am forever grateful for being able to go on this journey.

Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NSCY Euro Israel trip possible.

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Shoshanah with Reyut Wasserstein and Eliana Waghalter

By Shoshanah Kaplowitz

Shoshanah Kaplowitz, daughter of Drs. Rebekah and Mark Kaplowitz, is a junior at the Goldie Margolin School for Girls. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided her with a Teen Israel Experience grant to offset the costs of her Lindenbaum Lamdeni program in Israel. All rising juniors and seniors are eligible for grants of up to $3,000 to attend a recognized teen summer or semester program in Israel. Teen Israel Experience applications for Summer 2023 are open. Click here to learn more.

This past summer I was a part of the Lindenbaum Lamdeni program. I spent the summer learning Torah and other Jewish topics in Israel but was also able to experience them in real time, by going to the places where they happened. I visited Shiloh to see where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) stood, and to the place on the Jordan river where B’nai Yisrael (the Jewish people) crossed into Israel for the first time.

I did many fun and exciting things in Israel including going white water rafting and on scavenger hunts. We explored Jerusalem, by going to the Kotel multiple times, spending time in the Old City, and by just simply walking around going to cafes and malls. We went across Israel and spent a weekend in the North at a small kibbutz, and spent time in Efrat, south of Jerusalem. I had so much fun seeing small parts of Israeli society in different places in Israel.

The classes on this program were all amazing and I learned so much from the teachers and Rabbis who taught. Every class was super interesting and informative and changed the way I thought about different Jewish topics. The classes ranged from the true meaning of the Jewish holidays to a Gemara (Talmud) class where we finished the last chapter of Mesechet (Tractate) Ta’anit, and classes about modern Israeli society and government.

The best part of the Lamdeni program was that it was very small and close knit, and I was able to be friends with everyone there. The people who went on the program truly made the program what it was and made every day great. I am still in contact with the friends I made on this program, and they are friends that will last a lifetime. The people who went all had such a love for learning that you could feel all the time, and having access to the Lindenbaum Beit Midrash (Study Hall) meant you could see people learning in there at all hours of the day, and even night. I cherish my many memories of being on this program, and the friends I made there. Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my Lindenbaum Lamdeni Israel trip possible.

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Yehuda and friends at the Kotel during the NCSY Kollel trip last summer.

Yehuda Kahn, son of Dr. Yosef and Talia Kahn, is a junior at the Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys. Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund provided him with a Teen Israel Experience grant to help offset the cost of his NCSY Kollel Israel trip last summer. 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. Applications for Summer 2023 are now available online. To learn more and apply, click here.

I spent this past summer in Israel attending NCSY Kollel and had an amazing Israel experience. It is a beautiful culture with so many amazing landmarks. Israel is a great country for hiking because everything is so close together due to it being such a small country. During my trip, I went on many different hikes, such as the one in Ein Gedi, which was a beautiful water hike. Every 50 feet or so there is another lake that we would jump into, and it would be so refreshing.

Every Friday, the campers would all drive to the Machane Yehuda shuk (market) in Jerusalem. The kosher options were phenomenal. Food that is typically difficult to find kosher in Memphis, such as falafel, shawarma, and pizza, were readily available on the trip, which made it even more enjoyable. Israel is impressive since many American chains opened up in Jerusalem in a kosher version.  Pizza Hut or Big Apple Pizza are just some examples. I am sure some of you have heard about the famous Marzipan Bakery in the shuk. If you are ever in Jerusalem, you should try to go to the Marzipan Bakery and purchase some of their famous rugelach. There is no rugelach in America that compares to Marzipan rugelach in Israel.

 Every week there was one big tiyul (journey). Some of the tiyulim were hikes in great scenic sites, and others were attractions like the visit to the Blind Museum in Holon. Also, we met great Rabbis and visited a great Rabbi’s grave. Every day the campers went on one or two mini tiyulim to either the mall or to the Kotel or to some fun exciting place.

NCSY Kollel took us to the Kotel many times and it was an indescribable, beautiful and a very spiritual experience.

The learning in NCSY Kollel was amazing. I was in an amazing shiur (lesson) with a truly knowledgeable rabbi. We also had chaburas (small groups studying Torah) of about 4 to 5 kids with one madrich (counselor.) In chaburas we would learn and do fun activities together. Every time the whole camp goes somewhere, chaburas stayed together. My madrich was amazing and really taught us a lot and made the experience a lot better.

In NCSY Kollel I made many new friends and met amazing people throughout the entire six weeks. The kids that you are around determine how good the experience in Israel is going to be. Many nights I played pickup basketball with friends and would go to the canteen afterwards. We also had basketball leagues with about eight people on each team and 48 teams which encouraged everyone to play basketball and have a blast. I had an amazing team and we played very well together and made it all the way to the semifinals.

I thoroughly enjoyed my fun and spiritual Israel experience this summer. Thank you to Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund for helping to make my NCSY Kollel trip possible.

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