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January 20, 2011 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-01-20

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by Talia Schechet

a blessing in disguise

observant way of life sparks contemplation for teen at diverse FJA.

cannot drive, cook, or use other forms
of electricity on Shabbat or Chagim),
there are various holidays that require
weeks of planning and consideration.
On Passover, those families who
adhere strictly to halachah (Jewish
law) climb figurative mountains to
ensure that all dishes are cleansed
of chametz (leavened bread) and that
all chametz substances are under the
supervision of the highest rabbinic
authority. While the majority of the
Jewish world fasts on Yom Kippur
(Day of Atonement), the Orthodox
community observes fast days that are
sometimes unknown to other Jews.
I never thought about my family's
In a posed photo, Tana Schechet helps ready her home for a typical Shabbat.
practices until I enrolled at the Fran-
in West Bloomfield. Now a
t's Friday afternoon and the Orthodox
community is in frenzy. Mothers make freshman, I have the privilege of attending school
,AL last-minute dashes to the bakery, pressured with kids from all denominations of Judaism. Natu-
to put dinner on the table before their sunset rally, some students are curious about my customs.
deadline. Children return home from school I'm often asked, "How do you keep Shabbat when
and shower hastily so that they can assist their you can't drive to see friends? What do you do all
parents with the required preparations. Fathers day?"
My new school environment has highlighted dif-
are constantly on the move, rushing from work
ferences between my lifestyle and that of other Jew-
to synagogue with barely a spare moment.
In other words, it's the average pre-Shabbat ish teens. Because many of my friends do not check
state of affairs. A bystander might ask, "Why all the for rabbinic symbols on their food while outside of
school, I must become increasingly vigilant about
It's true, following an observant way of life can doing so myself.
Their questions and choices have triggered
be trying in a society where perpetual stress and ex-
haustion rule. In addition to Shabbat's weekly race thoughts about my own. I have considered the
against time (according to Orthodox practice, one meaning behind a few of my contrasting rituals,

primarily Shabbat. This contemplation has brought
me both a firmer sense of self-identity and a more
appreciative view of my traditions.
The hectic pre-Shabbat atmosphere pays off
when Shabbat arrives. "Shabbat" literally means
stop, or rest. Because I can't hop in a car on Satur-
days and spend the day shopping at the mall with
friends, I create and strengthen other relationships.
During the busy school week, I don't always have
the time to communicate properly with my family;
on Shabbat, time spent together is abundant. I also
see neighborhood friends whom I would probably
lose touch with if not for my "immobility."
Prohibited from driving, I am instead driven to
immerse myself in my community. Saturday after-
noons are spent being a madricha (counselor) at my
local synagogue for B'nei Akiva, the largest reli-
gious Zionist youth movement in the world.
While some teens would think a day without tex-
ting, Facebook or TV inconceivable, the personal
reward is priceless. During this 25-hour period, I
reap the benefits of calm, spirituality and time to
reflect on my week — things technology robs from
us every day. I think about how I can reconstruct
my life so that I am enabled to live both healthier
and happier. Shabbat is just one example of the
many religious practices that may seem to be re-
strictive challenges. In truth, they
are blessings in disguise. {

Talia Schechet, 15, is a freshman

at Frankel Jewish Academy In West


inner focus

by Batsheva Honig

my Jewish soul


o what's a nice, Jewish public
high school girl like me do-
ing learning Torah for a week
during my winter vacation? It's
simple. My mom made me go; and
I will be grateful to her forever be-
cause it has changed how I see the
world and my place in it. NCSY's
Yarchei Kallah made it possible for
me to embrace Judaism in ways I
had never experienced before; and
it was awesome!
This was my first NCSY event.
My mom sold me on the idea by ex-

TT2 teen2teen Janaury 20.2011

winter vacation at NYSY's Yarchei Kallah helps teen embrace Judaism.

plaining that Yarchei Kallah was an
extraordinary opportunity for me to
meet other Jewish teens like myself. It
was so much more than that.
The true highlight of the trip was
learning about Torah and mesorah
Uewish traditions) in ways I never
thought possible. I knew I wanted to
learn more about Judaism; but until
Yarchei Kallah, I never realized how
much I had been missing out on.
The atmosphere at the Stamford
Hilton in Connecticut was energized
by 200 teens from across the country.

All week, we engaged in fun activities
while also breaking into group ses-
sions where we delved into thought-
provoking discussions about Jewish
concepts and openly shared our per-
sonal insights. It made me want to
learn and know more about Judaism
and how it is relevant to me as a teen-
ager and beyond.
Judaism never excited me until I
attended this program. My favorite
nightly session was led by Rabbi Da-
vid Felsenthal, titled "Derech Hashem:
Understanding the Ways of God." He

touched upon so many Jewish con-
cepts that opened my heart. Our dis-
cussions made me more comfortable
with Judaism not only spiritually, but
also as a meaningful way of life. Being
Jewish is no longer just a statement
of my religious affiliation, but also a
proclamation of my inner being and
way of life.
Yarchei Kallah also taught me
about community and Jewish pride.
I had never experienced a Shabbat
with such intensity as I did during
Shabbat in Teaneck, NJ. There was

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