These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Turkey 2016: The Power to Connect

Posted on January 17, 2016 by David Wallach

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While yesterday, we spent much of our time remembering what was, today we really spent time getting to know the Jewish community in all its current glory. We had a chance to see many important synagogues in the Turkish Jewish community. We were blessed with the opportunity to have an audience with the Chief Rabbi of Turkey (really, a once in a lifetime experience). We finished off our day spending time learning with, and forming new friendships with young adults from the Turkish Jewish community with Generation Next.

All of those experience were absolutely amazing, but the experience that stood out to me most was the few hours that we spent at the Jewish old age home. We came for a simple task: to circulate throughout the building, singing songs and interacting with the residents. We were armed with a guitar, ukulele, voices, song books and smiles.

From a simple task came an amazing opportunity, and an experience I will look back on for the rest of my life. The way that the faces of each resident would light up as we walked into their room, singing songs that brought them back to their earlier days. Sometimes our chords weren’t 100% correct. Sometimes the residents didn’t know the words exactly – and yet each and every time, we could see on their faces a true sense of joy, a sense of love, and a sense of connection. I know that, at least for myself, it was so difficult to move from each room to the next because the beautiful happiness that we were bringing to that resident’s day was something I didn’t want to take away.

Many of the residents spoke only Turkish, and yet we were able to communicate and share ourselves with them, and for them to share themselves with us through the power of a familiar song, and a warm smile. Even with the language barrier, all of the residents expressed in whatever way they could their deep appreciation for our presence there. We were lucky enough to meet some residents who did speak English, Hebrew, or another familiar languages. We got to speak with them about their lives growing up in Turkey, their families, and so much more. One woman spoke 6 languages, and attended Harvard!

More than anything, the experience taught me about our power to connect to one another in small, yet incredibly meaningful ways. The smiles on their faces will be an image that stays with me for years to come.

David Wallach