HAMSA TEEN PROGRAM
in partnership with the Sephardic Educational Center
and with support from the Altabet Foundation and the SAMIS Foundation
In 2018, SBH piloted a new teen program called HAMSA. With generous support from the Altabet Foundation and the SAMIS Foundation, SBH was able to offer a select cohort of high school students grades 9-11 the opportunity to attend the Sephardic Educational Center's summer Israel trip--free of charge. Led by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, the SEC offers the only uniquely Sephardic trip for high school students.
SBH recognized that such an amazing opportunity comes with a sense of responsibility to educate our teens about the importance of giving back to our synagogue community and our local Seattle community. Before and after their trip to Israel, HAMSA teens volunteered at synagogue events, ran a supply drive with Jewish Family Services, and engaged in meaningful discussions about Israel's past, present, and future.
Here's what our teens had to say about their first trip to Israel with the SEC!
Shabbat at the SEC was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so meaningful to spend all three Shabbatot in the old city.
This picture is of the Old City of Jerusalem. I took this picture right before our first Shabbat at the SEC. Every Friday afternoon we would go to the same spot overlooking the Old City to sing songs and take pictures. After Shabbat we would also say havdalah and sing together.
Although I had been to Israel before this trip, I hadn't had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the Old City, and that was one of the things that made this trip so special and unique. Thank you to the SAMIS foundation and the Altabet Foundation for making this trip possible!
While we were in the Northern part of Israel, we went to the Tank Museum (Yad La-Shiryon). Before going to the museum, my dad asked me to look for the name of my grandmother's cousin who died in the Yom Kippur War.
When we got there, we went to the wall with all the names of men and women who lost their lives from the Independence War, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, and the Lebanon War. I asked the people there to help me find the name of my relative, Shmuel Perle. After searching on the wall, I found his name.
On the SEC trip, we learned a lot about people who served and the IDF and people who gave up their lives for the state of Israel. After seeing Shmuel’s name on the wall, I realized that the people who died in war weren’t just random people; they are family. Thank you to the SAMIS Foundation and the Altabet Foundation for this once in a lifetime experience.
The day we went to Har Herzl and Yad VaShem was a very deep and meaningful day. This is a picture of the Wall of Names of IDF soldiers who died in combat in Har Herzl. We would go through name by name, simply talking about who they were.
The one theme that came up again and again was how we need to not only remember that people unfortunately passed away, but we must remember their names and personalities as well. We can’t just see those who die as one of many casualties, but we must see them as a person who had a unique personality and a family of their own.
I truly feel that I came out of that museum with a greater appreciation for the Israeli soldiers and their sacrifices. I would like to thank the SAMIS Foundation and Altabet Foundation for making this trip possible.
We had just landed at the airport and were exhausted from our long journey. This was my first time in Israel, and I was ready to see the sights. We piled onto the bus and headed to the Sephardic Educational Center. Rabbi Bouskila and Peni announced that we were making a quick stop on the way.
A few minutes before we got to the location, we were blindfolded. We all walked out of the bus cautiously with our arms stretched out to ensure we didn't bump into anything. We were a group of 16 strangers blindfolded by our counselors.
Despite being excited about seeing a beautiful country, I was also a little nervous. Oddly enough, I felt at ease when we were all blindfolded. I felt like we were all experiencing Israel for the first time together.
The counselors announced we should take off our blindfolds. From the darkness of the blindfold, we were exposed to the beautiful scenery overlooking the Kotel. I am grateful to SAMIS and the Altabet Foundation for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime this past summer!