Trek West #1: Service & Shabbat

Shalom from Yosemite! 
We have entered our fourth and final national park and it is sad to think we are approaching our last week together on the trip. Spending Shabbat in the hotel was relaxing and a fantastic opportunity for group bonding, whether through our spirited Shabbat services, chill time by the pool, or educational laundry experiences. 
We began Friday at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank where we packed boxes of food for people in need. It was a special experience that pushed the teens to work hard, leading them to feel rewarded for their tremendous output, all the while building comradery as they operated an efficient assembly line and saw the impact they can make when working as a team. In the afternoon we spent time at the beach in Santa Monica, laying out or getting in the water, and spending time shopping and eating at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade.  We returned to the hotel and prepared for Shabbat, holding our Kabbalat Shabbat services in the hotel followed by a delicious salmon dinner. 
Saturday was truly a day of rest as the teens were able to sleep late and show up to lunch as their first required gathering of the day. After lunch we played a game to see how well we know each other. The teens sat in a big circle around two teens who sat in the middle back-to-back, and when someone on the outside asked a question, the two teens in the middle facing away from each other had to hold up a sign that either read “me” or “them”. Each time the two people in the middle agreed (meaning one teen would say “me” and the other held up “them”) they scored one point. We got as high as nine points, with the winners being two people that did NOT know each other before the trip. That was a fun surprise! 
We ended Shabbat with Havdalah and a song session before heading to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and shop for souvenirs. We got stuck in lots of traffic heading back to the hotel, somewhat unexpected that late at night, but the teens had a good attitude about it and were able to sleep a bit later on Sunday morning as a result. We checked out of our Los Angeles hotel and headed north towards Yosemite, stopping on the way to eat lunch and pick up dinner, and making a much desired trip to Target to replenish our bare necessities and pick up some snacks. Finally, we arrived at Yosemite late Sunday afternoon, greeted by our fixed tents and beautiful nature. We had an early night in anticipation of the big hiking day ahead on Monday. 
Here are some detailed perspectives and insights from the teens sharing about the last three days: 
“Today at the L.A. Regional Food Bank we all experienced challenging work. We had to create boxes full of items which would be given to under privileged families. There were a series of tasks that were needed to create the boxes, such as putting a variety of food and drinks in them, taping them shut, and Saran wrapping them together in big bundles. At the end of the session everyone felt proud of themselves for working hard and accomplishing so much. We gathered for a recap at the end, learning we had packed 2,400 boxes filled with basic food needs for the families. What a day!” ~Nat B. 
“On Friday night, Jayden and I led Shabbat services. People joined in singing the Shabbat prayers with passion, followed by a group discussion about how we can bring meaning and purpose to Shabbat this week. Everyone participated in some way, helping to make Shabbat more comfortable to those who don’t usually have a chance to observe it. To cap off Shabbat we had Havdalah led by Anna, Miles, and Isaac. We all joined together, with arms around each other, to sing the final songs of Shabbat. Afterwards, we kept the great energy going by singing popular songs such as Wonderwall and Sweet Caroline to rejoice that we were all together for Havdalah.” ~Maxwell B.
“After Havdalah, we loaded the bus and went to Hollywood Boulevard. We saw a bunch of celebrities and their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some of us went to stand outside the premier of the new Fast and Furious Movie, in hopes we would meet The Rock or one of his co-stars. Sadly, we did not. After waiting a bit, we went shopping and watched all the tourists from all over the world roaming the streets looking for stars and souvenirs. Overall it was pretty cool and we had a great time!” ~Emma P. 
The teens are in a good mindset after a restful Shabbat and long day of travel Sunday, and they are ready for our hardest day of hiking today on the Yosemite trails. We have quite the trek ahead of us, yet there seems to be lots of excitement as we are celebrating birthdays together the next three days. Wish us luck for our hike today! 
All the best, Ari, Deb, Melissa, and Ilan

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