On Thursday, September 17, the second day of the Ten Days of Repentance, OU Israel’s Jack E. Gindi Oraita Program for at-risk Israeli teens, primarily from low-socioeconomic communities, brought 160 teens to Yerushalayim for an educational day of learning and growth. This was the first time that many of these teens visited Yerushalayim and prayed at the Western Wall.
The David & Lil Shafran Educational Selichot Yerushalayim Trip was sponsored by the Shafran family in memory of their parents. “My parents’ love of Eretz Israel and ahavat Israel was a large part of our identity growing up,” said Anita Shafran. “My father, David Shafran Z”L, was a survivor of the Shoah.”
The Oraita teens participating in the trip came from different backgrounds and 11 cities throughout Israel. “On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we pray to Hashem to establish the Jewish people as one unified group,” said Rabbi Avi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel. “To see teens growing up throughout Israel from families who immigrated from Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia and Russia experiencing such a meaningful Jewish experience in memory of a Holocaust survivor who lived in Canada is extremely special. Today’s trip enables us to see that this prayer of Jewish unity is coming true.”
The trip began as the teens gathered together at the City of David for an enlightening tour of their ancestral heritage. A dynamic tour guide brought Jewish history alive as they walked through the Herodian tunnel and took in the same sights as King David once did.
Following the City of David, participants walked through the Old City to the Tower of David where they gained a deeper appreciation of Yerushalayim and learned about its 4,000 year history–from the first Temple until the British Mandate.
“It is a great joy and privilege to hear the voices of our wonderful Israeli children fill the streets of our Holy City, Jerusalem,” said Anita sharing a lesson from her father. This trip enabled many Oraita teens to actualize this joy in Yerushalayim for the first time.
After a physical experience, walking and climbing, the group enjoyed a festive dinner at Yeshivat HaKotel followed by the spiritual part of the trip. Oraita participants had the privilege of hearing inspirational words connected to the High Holidays, Teshuva and the power of the individual from Rav Shmuel Eliyahu (Chief Rabbi of Tzfat), Rabbi Avi Berman (Executive Director, OU Israel), Golan Azulai (Israeli actor) and a granddaughter of Lil and David Shafran Z”L. The teens ended their busy day with Selichot and personal prayers at the Western Wall.
“It is a place that teaches you about life,” said Yehuda, a 9th grade participant from Maaleh Adumim, about the program. “The trip and Selichot at the Kotel provided a good atmosphere. The Ir David tour added a lot. This was a very meaningful trip.”
“The most meaningful part of the trip for me was hearing Rav Shmuel Eliyahu speak,” commented Adi, an 11th grader from Ariel. “It’s powerful to see the Kotel with so many people.”
As the Oraita teens joined 50,000 other Jews from all backgrounds at the Western Wall, they beseeched Hashem for a year filled with peace, prosperity, health and happiness for them, their families and all of Klal Yisrael. Hopefully the energy and spirituality of the day will enable them to reach higher heights this upcoming year.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.