Shabbat brings meaningful experiences to IST

Aug 1, 2023 | Article, Newsletter

Shabbat brings meaningful experiences to IST

Aug 1, 2023

This year, JEWISHcolorado celebrated the 53rd year of the Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour (IST), and for the first time since 2019, IST returned to Poland.

We spent the week traveling through Warsaw, Lublin, and Krakow, visiting sites significant to Jewish history. This year, the journey through Poland ended in a first for IST, the opportunity to spend Shabbat in Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. Our Kabbalat Shabbat began on the steps outside The Old Synagogue (Alta Shul in Yiddish), the oldest Synagogue still standing in Poland. This experience is something I will never forget.

IST in Poland

In the moment, I wasn’t thinking about the millions of Jewish people who stood here and prayed before me. I, along with most of the teens, was thinking about the long walk back to the hotel after dinner, the amazing Shabbat dinner we were about to eat, and the klezmer music playing at the restaurant around the corner.

Looking back, it gives me goosebumps to think of the 65 ISTers sitting on those steps singing the same songs and prayers our ancestors sang when the Synagogue was built more than 500 years ago. After Poland, we continued our journey in Israel. During the four weeks in Israel, we traveled to each border and met with people from many different cultures, religions, and experiences. Between the learning and meaningful conversations, we rode camels, surfed, ate falafel and shawarma, floated in the Dead Sea, climbed Masada, and so much more.

Just like in Poland, the culmination of IST and our journey in Israel is the final Shabbat. Our last Kabbalat Shabbat is spent at the Kotel (Western Wall). As with all IST Shabbatot, the teens lead the service, pick the songs, and bring the energy. The energy was brought and all of Jerusalem, or at least all the Old City, could hear us sing.

IST Shabbat in Poland

At one point, while all the teens stood in a circle with their arms around each other, I stopped everyone for a moment as we were about to welcome in Shabbat. I asked everyone to turn and face the Kotel and imagine. Imagine all the people who stood here before them, all the people who never stood here but imagined it, and all the people back home or other places like Synagogue and camp who are facing this direction. Imagine those people and how lucky and special it is for each of us as individuals to stand together as the Colorado Jewish community with 64 new friends. That moment, watching the teens internally reflect on the past five weeks and what it has meant to them and their Jewish journey, is the reason why I go on IST.

There is something special about our teens, our community, and the respect that IST gets around the world. Everyone involved in the Jewish community in Colorado should be proud of our community trip.