The day before Yom Kippur starts thousands of people go to the Kotel to pray during Slichot (the beginning service of repentance). My friends and I waited for a few hours to eventually stand by the Kotel for 30 seconds; I was able to touch the Kotel, and repent. It was a moment where I felt like a tourist, but also where I felt I belonged.
The next night was beautiful; the sun was getting ready to set and the breeze was light but refreshing. My friends and I had just finished eating dinner, and we walked to The Jerusalem Great Synagogue for Kol Nidre Services which happens the night Yom Kippur starts. After some back and forth between my counselor and the security guard we finally got let in. I was sitting on the balcony with all the women and I looked down in awe. Going to Kol Nidre services was something I had been doing since I was a baby, but being in The Great Synagogue was a moment I will never forget. I was full of joy, and it was such a powerful moment with all the voices around me. I still get chills thinking about that night. We then walked to Kikar Paris, in the heart of Jerusalem. Nativ (The gap year program I went on) has a tradition of sitting in the middle of this typically busy street and singing Z’mirot (songs). Surrounding us were families, tourists, locals who expect it annually, and people from other gap year/ high school semester programs. I wasn’t even thinking about food, I was thinking about how grateful I am to be a Jew surrounded by people I had met two weeks prior, who were now my best friends. That night I went to sleep thinking of how lucky I was to be in that incredible environment on such a meaningful Jewish holiday for Jewish people all around the world.
As we were walking back from services, I ran into some friends on Nativ, and we ended up sitting in the middle of the street having a long, deep conversation about life and gratitude. This Yom Kippur, in Jerusalem, I looked beyond dreading the fast and focused on gratitude, bonding with new people, and really opening up to the positivity of the holiday.
As Yom Kippur was nearing the end, my peers and I walked alongside my Director to a Synagogue called Raz’s Minyan for Neilah (the closing service for Yom Kippur). I walked in and was, again, in awe. Every single person in the women’s and the men’s section, young and old, was praying with so much passion and energy. I walked outside with some friends; we listened and prayed in unison with the community that we were surrounded by. It was a moment that I will remember forever because it made me realize how proud I am to be Jewish.
The feelings I had on Yom Kippur 2018 are indescribable, irreplaceable, and will be forever cherished.
My name is Daphne Budin, and I’m a Lewis Summer Intern at CJE SeniorLife. Before starting my studies at Syracuse University, I took a gap year with the Nativ College Leadership Program in Israel, where I studied and volunteered in a kindergarten. Now, I'm in the Falk College at Syracuse, where I am majoring in Human Development and Family Science. I am passionate about working with children, and I've spent two summers working at Camp Ramah Wisconsin. Outside of school, I have been involved in a Sorority, Hillel, Chabad, and Relay for Life.