These and Those

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

Turkey 2016: The Power of Stories

Posted on January 17, 2016 by Rachel Dingman

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Today was an incredible reminder of how powerful a story can be. We had the privilege of visiting multiple synagogues today (Italian, Sephardi, Ashkenazi). Each Sefer Torah we looked at, each impeccably crafted stain glass window, and each siddur told a story I will never be able to fully grasp. I felt honored to be able to peer into the Turkish Jewish community.

The most powerful reminder of the impact of listening to and telling stories was our time spent at the Jewish old age community. We went in as a group of eager young Jewish students armed with a guitar, a ukulele, and a well-crafted song list. I quickly realized that I wasn’t just there to sing songs and bring joy and smiles (which we did) but I was there to be a sponge to whatever stories people wanted to share. Today I had the blessing of seeing a woman’s face light up because Yosef and I gave her a space to tell her story in her own language (Spanish), we gave her a humbled and grateful audience. I spent a lot of time with a woman named Sol and as I helped her put her shoes on so she could follow us around while we sang, I knew I needed to know more. With the help of Rafi (one of our amazing guides) I was able to listen to her stories about her life story, her fears with recent attacks, and her pure love for her family.

My grandmother spent the later part of her life in an assisted living facility and I have to say—we didn’t visit as much as we should have. I know the joy that came with the moments I spent in her room listening to her tell me the same story, or getting caught in the hallway by one of the other people on her floor and listening to them tell me about their families. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be reminded of how powerful stories can be and how important it is that we ask for them.

Rachel Dingman