Today we explored downtown New York City. After an optional bagel breakfast, we took the subway down to the south pier. We saw Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty from a distance (due to damages from Sandy we could not go to the actual island), and we had a discussion about the American Dream–what is it and is it still around today? We were divided on whether it is economical or social dream.
Our next activity was to walk around Wall Street. We saw the famous bull statue and the stock exchange. Once there, we discussed how the American Dream is tied into the economy and could it be that if people who do not have access to the American Dream may make their voice and anger heard by flying planes into buildings. This ties into our next visit as we went to the 9/11memorial.
After a long security line we got in to the memorial. The memorial was extremely well done and very moving. It had the same elements of a memorial as Oklahoma City and Colombine High School (water, names and quiet) We discussed our memories of the event and how America was forever changed.
For lunch we experienced a downtown phenomenon, food trucks. The choices ranged from schnitzel to Mexican to Lebanese.
Next we met with Lisa from the American Jewish World Service. This is an organization that works on issues such as poverty, water scarcity, etc. in third world countries. She asked us to choose in between two good causes and justify our decisions. For example one question was whether we would donate our time to a local clinic for the impoverished or to a program that sends doctors to India to teach local doctors in rural villages. We were split almost 50-50 and argued about amount of impact, need for help and charitable priorities. The other topic we discussed was whether aid should go to directly helping the problem or insuring that the problem stops re-occurring. We did an exercise where we were broken into groups, picked an issue, and tried to trace the cause of it. My group looked at starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa and traced it back to the power vacuum created when that area stopped being colonies of Europe.
After some time to freshen up, we went for Friday night services at Bnai Jeshurun. We had great seats in the very front. Bnai Jeshurun is a unique Shul because everybody got up a danced at lecha dodi. I really enjoyed services there because of the amount a of spirit. However, some found it long and boring (the absence of transliteration was also not popular). The rabbi had such a deep powerful voice that was really spiritual. Afterwards went for dinner at a kosher deli.