Regional Spotlight: Hagalil

Editor’s Note: If you have been to IC, or any international function for that matter, then you know that any clap you hear is usually preceded by, “She’s from Hagalil!” Our next regional spotlight stop is the North Jersey region, Hagalil, a region known for its sweatpants and flash mobs at IC. Read why Edan Blank loves the feeling of Kabbalat Shabbat at her region’s encampment.

After the eventful powderpuff football game between the seniors and juniors of Hagalil and Mizrach USY, consisting of a sprained ankle that resulted in a hospital trip (we love you Maya Wasserman) and stunning performances by our cheerleaders, we all rushed to our bunks to get ready for Shabbat. This comprised of a race to get to the showers first, running to other bunks to borrow clothes from friends, and the overpowering smell of hair straighteners in the girls’ bunks. Two hours passed in the blink of an eye, and now came the time for the legendary picture taking spree. Over two hundred kids rushed to take advantage of “Golden Hour” by getting photos with all of their friends before the staff collected their phones. But once the phones were put away and the chaos died down, everyone was reminded of the magic of what was about to occur.

For years now, USYers from Hagalil have had the tradition at every Encampment of sitting on the wooden benches on a hill directly across from a beautiful lake for Kabbalat Shabbat. Kabbalat Shabbat is always an incredible experience at every convention in Hagalil, as I am sure it is in every region. But the Kabbalat Shabbat at Encampment is by far one of the best Hagalil traditions, and personally one of my favorite memories. Being together with our incredible community, all two hundred (plus) of us, we sing the prayers in unison while surrounded by the sounds, smells, and beauty of nature.

At many services in our region you will find people talking or playing around with a friend. This is not bad and does not mean that the service is bad, or that we do not feel as strongly connected to it. This is simply due to the fact that everyone is excited to be with their friends that they have not seen in ages, and therefore cannot focus on what is occurring. But what makes Kabbalat Shabbat at Encampment so special is that it is truly hard to hear a single conversation, a single voice not in alignment with the prayers going on.  Regardless of each individuals’ personal relationship with their religion and with the USY community, every single one of us stands up and dances around the benches and joins in singing the prayers with such passion and love.

We forget about the drama; we forget about the work; we forget about the world while we  look out at the sparkling lake and sunset above. We focus on embracing Judaism, on embracing each other, on embracing the moment. And as we walked to the chadar ochel (dining hall) for our Shabbat meal, singing Ozi V’Zimrat Yah hand in hand, I realized I had found my second-home, Hagalil.

Edan Blank is a junior from Hagalil USY. She is a proud member of Highland Park USY in Highland Park, New Jersey. She is currently serving as her chapter’s president and serves on Hagalil Israel Affairs Regional General Board as Noam Olami Chairperson.