As Livnot’s six-week Onward Israel program comes to an end this Shabbat, participants reflect on their time here at Livnot U’Lehibanot.
My name is Marina Shayevich. I’m a 20-year-old college student from New Jersey. At Livnot, I’ve been learning to explore my spirituality and to grow as a person by going out of my comfort zone and meeting tons of new people each week. We’ve gone hiking, we’ve cooked and cleaned together, and we’ve had many insightful classes about Shabbat, relationships, and Jewish meditation practices.
My internship was at the local old age home in Tzfat. My contribution was communicating with the Russian-speaking elderly in the home. I visited two people a few times each week, for three hours each time I visited. I played chess with an elderly man whose favorite hobby throughout life was playing chess – in fact, he competed in chess tournaments in the Soviet Union and was considered a Grandmaster of chess in Belarus, which, incidentally, is where I and my family are from. I also visited a very lonely elderly woman who simply needed someone to talk to and to listen to her stories. I felt like I was really able to significantly contribute to both of their lives over the six week period that I visited them.
My future career will be in public health. So, my internship was slightly different, in that I dealt with people one-on-one, whereas public health will have me working with statistics or entire communities. However, I find it important to spend time connecting with people personally to keep in mind that although I will be affecting the health of potentially hundreds of people, each person’s health is relative and needs to be valued individually.
One of my favorite experiences at Livnot was Shabbat. I found each Shabbat to be peaceful, spiritually enlightening, and energetic at the same time. Singing during each meal and focusing on connecting with many people throughout the day has allowed me to feel more connected to Shabbat itself. I did not grow up religious, so Shabbat was not – and still is not – a part of my family life. When I got to college, I began to explore Judaism and attempt to adopt the concepts of kosher and Shabbat into my life. Livnot has definitely helped me feel a greater spiritual connection to Shabbat. Because of Livnot, my relationship to Judaism now has broadened. I feel more open-minded and comfortable with my faith.
I am taking home with me the emphasis on self-progressive spirituality, rather than didactic religion. I want to try to convince my family to make more of an effort to spend more time with each other on Shabbat, to at least benefit from the aspect of Shabbat that brings loved ones together. I will also try to bring home with me the essence of community. So many people feel isolated and alone because they feel like their life, their burdens, and their joys are theirs alone. I will do my best to become more involved in the lives of the people around me to bring a sense of community to each of my relationships.
Livnot Onward Israel Health and Wellbeing – Summer 2014