Ambassadors to Bulgaria: The Jewish Communities of Sofia and Plovdiv

Our last days have been inspiring and adventurous! We enjoyed a meaningful Shabbat with the the Jewish community in Plovdiv at a Zionist synagogue. There we heard from the Israeli Ambassador of Bulgaria, Irit Lilian, and the President of the Bulgarian Jewish community, Alexander Oscar. Lilian shared her story and why being an ambassador for our global Jewish community is such an important job and an honor. Her story and words were inspiring. Oscar spoke about the Bulgarian Jewish community, his own personal journey and how wonderful it was to have us be apart of their community.

 

We enjoyed Shabbat dinner with members of the Sofia and Plovdiv Jewish community and the America Ambassador in Bulgaria, Eric Rubin. After dinner Rubin reiterated the need for and importance of being an Jewish American ambassador and thanked us for taking on the job to educate others.

 

Saturday afternoon we explored the city is Plovdiv, one of the oldest living cities in Europe. Through a scavenger hunt we saw an ancient theater, explored the cities rich history and ended with a view of the city on top of old ruins. Following Havdallah we dined at a local restaurant and danced to music from all over the world.

Sunday we travelled by bus taking in the stunning views of hilly tree filled mountains as we made our way to two ancient caves, Devil’s Throat and Yagodinska. We learned the mysterious stories of the caves that are hundreds of thousands years old.

Monday was full of adventure, teamwork and relaxation. In teams we rafted down Struma River, paddling as a team with guides that helped lead the way. Sunday evening we participated in a fun and educational program led by two of our teen coordinators at the synagogue in Sofia. The Sofia synagogue is the biggest synagogue in the Balkin Peninsula, it was built in 1909 and third biggest in Europe. It stands out especially with its hand painted designs and enormously beautiful chandelier.

Tikkun olam, repairing the world, was the theme of our final day together. We began the day by giving back to the community that has so much to us. Groups volunteered at the Bulgarian food bank, the Jewish community center preschool, a group sorted donated Judaica, and another group listened to Holocaust survivor stories from elderly at the “Parents Home”. Our afternoon included free time to explore, shop, eat and engage in learning more about the Jewish history in Sofia from local tour guides.

We ended the day in the conference room where we first began our journey together. We reflected and shared our experiences, feelings and what we learned about ourselves. Many shared the importance of being an Ambassador, they spoke about what they will take home, what they learned about Bulgaria, about our global Jewish community and said they will teach it all to others.

 

Ambassadors to Bulgaria 2016 created a community, a group of Jewish teens from all over the world that are proud to go home and be ambassadors for the Jewish people. They feel like a family that will forever remember and cherish the incredible experience and friendships they’ve made.

We wish safe travels to those headed to ILSI and home.

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