Junior Journey: A Visit to Yad v'Shem

Rabbi Dean Kertesz
Today was one of the heaviest days of our trip. A day when we grappled with death and memory. Appropriately, the day was gray and a little colder today.
We began at Yad v'Shem. All students took the tour through the museum, which was redesigned in 2005. It tells the bigger story of the Shoah through the story of individuals. One of the goals of the museum is to take the number six million, which is overwhelming, and try to tell the stories of individual Jews. Thus the Shoah is transformed from an abstraction to a profound reality. We framed the experience by asking students to think about why we study the Shoah and what is the appropriate way to memorialize. Many students were deeply moved by the experience. Many who had toured the museum as 8th Graders, had a more powerful experience this time because they are older and more sophisticated.
After a picnic lunch on the grounds of Yad v'Shem we walked up a path that connects the museum with Har Herzl, Israel's largest cemetery. We visited a number of sites. Our guide engaged our students through stories about some of the men and women buried here. As we left the cemetery, which was also a profoundly moving experience, he reminded our students that one of the realities of Israeli life is going from the sad to the joyous, like from Yom HaZikaron to Youm Ha'atzmaut.
We finished our day with an art project at an organization called Kol Ha'ot, where students had a chance to process their experiences during the day through making a collective collage. Tonight we went out for a traditional Jerusalem meal of salads and grilled meats and then spent time in the Machane Yehuda market.
It's hard to believe that our trip is coming to an end. Tomorrow we meet with a panel of young Israelis who represent a cross section of Israeli life. It will be a chance to tie together many of the themes we have explored during this trip. Tomorrow is a busy day ending with Shabbat. We fly home late Saturday night, early Sunday morning.
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace their Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.