A 2021 Summer to Remember (Pt. 1)

1 year ago The Connections Staff 0

Homecoming 2021/5781

Stella Washington// CTeen North Fulton, Georgia

Read Part 2 of our CTeen Summer recap on the XTreme trip here: https://www.cteenconnection.com/uncategorized/a-2021-summer-to-remember-pt-2/

This article is dedicated to counselors Sarah Sherman, Pessi Naparstek, Mushkie Rapoport, Gitty Friedman, Gili Houpt, and every single girl that was a part of this group. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to every single one of you. I learned much more than I could have ever imagined, and wouldn’t want the trip to be any other way. 

I can easily recall the night I decided that I needed to go on the CTeen Heritage Quest trip. I sat at the dining room table with my parents and our guests from that night. The conversation was focused upon the chilling rise of antisemitic incidents– interestingly enough, it was the 4th night of Chanukah, when we celebrate our survival. As the conversation went on, I decided that it was my turn to directly confront the Holocaust. I can’t quite explain why I needed to directly address it, but it turned into this goal that was constantly on my mind. The next morning, I remembered a program that my rebbetzin had mentioned the previous summer– CTeen Heritage Quest. 

Initially, I was supposed to go on the trip in July 2020, but much to my dismay, it was called (thanks COVID). I decided to hold my spot and wait until next summer– best decision EVER.

Fast forward to July 12 of this summer. Our plane begins its descent into Ben Gurion Airport,  and everyone slowly wakes up, groggy yet excited. But at that moment, I became quite confused– I didn’t feel excited. For the past year, I was expecting to feel a flutter-y, adrenaline rush. Instead, I just felt content. Simply content. And by the time we made it to Jerusalem, I figured out why.

While I was sad to leave the mountains and valleys of the North, I was eager to get to Jerusalem. Jerusalem seemed like this mythical place– the pinnacle of holiness. As the bus passed through the tunnel leading into the city, everyone began to buzz with excitement. Finally, I felt my heart rate increase. The closer we got to the end of the tunnel, the faster my heart beat. Gili, our amazing tour guide, began counting down from 10. Almost perfectly, the bus emerged from the tunnel right when the Yoni Z. and Nissim Black’s song, “Home,” reached its chorus:

“Oh, I just wanna go home

To the city of gold, in the land of old

That’s my home

And oh, I just wanna go home

Searching for truth, take me back to my roots

Oh, please take me home”

Looking back, I feel that these lyrics perfectly sum up my experience on this trip– an intense outpour of happiness while we’re on a heritage quest.

During our first visit to the Kotel, I remember bursting into tears as soon as I touched my head to the stones. Almost as soon as I stopped crying, we began our Bat Mitzvah ceremony for those of us who never had a Bat Mitzvah. Once again, I began crying as we sang and danced together. Something awoke inside of us, and it was drawn towards the Wall.  I recall our group leader saying to me, “Your soul is happy! Your soul is happy to be home!” She was absolutely correct.

Here’s to next year in Jerusalem!