A Much Less Eventful Day 4 in Dneprepetrovsk
Shabbat has its own rhythm and today it was Shabbat. We were able to sleep in until breakfast at 9:15—how civilized! We then walked to synagogue for a 2 ½ hour service which included the granting of a Hebrew name to one lovely young woman, Lena, on our trip—she is from the Haifa contingent (have a mentioned how wonderful it is to have a Haifa contingent with us? Three extraordinary young people—Dana, Guy and Lena—who add so much spirit and insight. Anyway, it also included thoughtful remarks from our trip co-chairs, Bill and Larry, and the reassuringly familiar prayers in Hebrew. They courteously translated the rabbi’s sermon into English—he spoke of the evils of lashon harrah (gossip). Fortunately, being here with a remarkable and uniformly lovely group has eliminated any temptation for me for the past week!
We then split into four groups and walked to homes for Shabbat lunch—or should I say Shabbat feasts? Elissa, Marcia, Betsy and I went to Rabbi Stembler’s house. The rabbi has 7 fabulous children and one on the way. The rabbi and his wife are from Israel, so they spoke primarily Hebrew—wish I could say I conversed effectively. The rabbi was born in New York so he spoke English fluently. We had a huge and delightful meal (mostly Israeli food) and then went to his roof deck where we had incredible views of the city.
We got back to the hotel in the very late afternoon then gathered for “before we leave Dnep” reflections—Bill and Larry asked us to discuss what we would be doing differently when we return home as a result of this trip. Many people expressed the desire for greater involvement in Jewish communal life and particularly for engaging others in the Dnep project. I offered that the seamless collaboration between the array of Jewish agencies—both Ukrainian and Bostonian—here in Dnep was an inspiring model for how we may work together at home. We all know it’s easy to say these things in the emotions of end-of-trip group dynamics—it will take work to keep focus over the long haul.
Francine, Anthony, Rachel, Joel and I continued our reflecting with a dinner at the hotel—and had a powerful discussion about our experiences with Soviet Jewry, Dnep through the years, and volunteerism on boards and enjoyed a quiet evening together. A piano player treated us to Fiddler on the Roof songs as well as some Jewish folk tunes!