– Sharon Sayagh
Our second day in New York City was an amazing one. In the morning, we hopped on the subway and made our way to Battery Park, which offered a view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Given the fact that the theme of our visit to NYC is the American dream, we sat down and shared our thoughts on it. Every one of us shared their origins, mostly from Western and Eastern Europe, and we discussed what caused our ancestors to leave everything behind and come to America, “the land of hopes and dreams”.
Although different opinions were brought up, most of us agreed that the American Dream isn’t accessible to everyone and that there still is a “glass ceiling” preventing some segments of the population from fulfilling this dream, because of issues such as racism, sexism or even college fees. To conclude the discussion, we wondered if we, as a generation but also as individuals, accomplished our ancestors’ dream.
After hanging out by the pier and taking some pictures, we took the subway to the wonderful Wall Street, one of the poles of worldwide economy. We got to see the famous Wall Street bull as well as the stock exchange building. We talked about money in America and the fact that globalization has made the different economic hubs of the world mutually dependent.
For the second time on the trip, (the first time being in L.A) we experienced food trucks for lunch, which offered a wide range of choices. I got to eat Chinese food, my favorite, which put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.
Later, we walked to Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street Movement, a movement that protested against social and economic disparities, took place. Billy told us a little about wealth distribution in America, illustrating the fact that some people don’t have access to the American Dream.
Following that thought, we made our way to the 9/11 memorial, Ground Zero. Billy connected the memorial to the American Dream by saying that 9/11 is an example of what can happen when people don’t feel that they have access to this dream.
Given that the people on the 2015 trip were aged from 1 to 5 years old when the attacks occurred, our memories of it are very hazy. Nevertheless, those who did remember that day got to tell the rest of the group their story. After that, the staff members Naomi, Eli, Andrew and Rebecca became our “living textbooks” for the day and shared their 9/11 experience with us. All of them went through a confusing experience at school, as the adults were devastated and didn’t want to tell the kids what had happened. Billy then told us about the way the world shifted on that day, and how this tragic event shaped modern America.
I found the memorial very touching, as it was impossible to see the bottom of it, no matter where you stood. It featured the same elements (water, stones, names) as other memorials we’d been to, such as the Columbine High School memorial or the OKC bombing memorial.
After a very busy morning, we headed back to the hotel and got three hours of free time to nap, hang out, walk around and get ready for Friday Night Services.
Before going into the synagogue, Eli F. told us about the conservative judaism movement, which falls between the reformed and the orthodox movement. He also told us the story of rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. I had heard about him mainly because he gave his name to one of Tel Aviv’s main streets, but thanks to Eli, I now know that he was a 60s hippie rabbi who brought back the singing and dancing into prayers. He influenced many people starting from NYC, but also in the whole country and the whole world. Thank you Mr Carlebach!
Finally, we attended services at the B’nai Jeshurun congregation, a conservative synagogue we had seen in the movie “Keeping the faith” as we were making our way into NYC. The services were beautiful: they involved piano, drums, new melodies and many wise words from the rabbis. They made me feel connected to this community, in spite of all our differences. Sephardic and Ashkenazis, conservative or liberal, americans and Israelis ; we were all together that night.
After a musical evening, we had dinner at a kosher deli where a lot of us ordered matzoh ball soup. We then headed back to the hotel, to get some rest after such a nice day.