My Rosh Hashana Inspiration

Just a few days ago, we were all sitting in shul, experiencing a hopefully inspiring davening on Rosh Hashana. I was lucky enough to spend an amazing Yom Tov at TheZone. The days were spent davening in TheZone’s gorgeous shul, The Great Synagogue, as it’s called. It’s a beautiful room, with high ceilings and a stunning aron kodesh featuring animals of pirkei avos and stained glass windows.

the great synagogue

But more beautiful than the décor were the people who filled the shul. The room was crammed with people from all over, with diverse backgrounds, some more affiliated, and some less so. The tefillos were slow, a real authentic davening. The chazzan sang throughout, with enthusiastic humming and singing from the crowds.

I sat next to a woman, Mrs. W. This was her first time in TheZone, and she had never sat through the long Rosh Hashana davening. Until now, that is. Though she didn’t understand what the chazzan was saying, she diligently followed along, turning the pages as we progressed in the machzor, despite the fact that she didn’t yet learn how to read Hebrew. Even those who are familiar with the davening find the tefillos long on Rosh Hashana; it’s even more a challenge for those who have never experienced it before. That’s what made my experience even more inspiring. She sat through the entire tefilla through the tekiyos of mussaf!

More than what I gained from the tefillos I davened was what I learned from Oorah’s guests. There’s just one thing I wish Oorah would do differently- that the Rosh Hashana inspiration would continue with a Yom Kippur event at TheZone!

If this doesn’t make your heart melt, nothing will

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This weekend, TheZone will be hosting hundreds of children and families for the annual Chanukah ShabbaZone. Our camp department is working overtime preparing for the event and fielding the many phone calls and applications coming in.

This email, received just this morning, stood out from all the rest:

“I’m sorry to bother you but I just got my Chanukah money today… and I look up the zone website to sign up and see that you are not accepting anymore boys to your shabbaton. If you can please give me a chance to pay you, it would be an honor to go to a huge shabbaton like this one. Any answer will suit me but just please respond as soon as possible so I would know if I need to buy meat for Shabbat so I can cook. Thank you… hag sameach.”

How could we say no to a request like that?

Livin’ In A Booth

TrampolineFour hundred lucky people got to experience the first Sukkos Yomim Tovim at TheZone, Oorah’s gorgeous facilities in the Catskill Mountains, and a further six hundred arrived for the second set of Yomim Tovim. Staying in cozy hotel-style accommodations may not be quite the same thing as wandering in the desert with the Ananei HaKovod overhead, but none of the attendants were complaining (especially when it rained)!

The special quality of the holiday was amplified by the intensive preparations Oorah’s event planner, Mrs. Shayndy Abrahamson, and by all the volunteers who worked so hard to bring a fun and lively ruach to the clean mountain air, the air of Sukkos, Chag LaShem.

Running Girls

By all accounts, Sukkos at TheZone was a rip-roaring success. The feedback is still pouring into Mrs. Abrahamson’s inbox. Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the first days of Sukkos at TheZone (all photos from Chol HaMoed):

Y: I wanted to thank you for a wonderful experience at the Zone.  It was truly a rewarding experience spending Sukkot at TheZone.  We are grateful that we were able to partake in such a lovely gathering.

S: We all loved TheZone, despite the rain! E. and I enjoyed the lectures,  the magical Yom Tov atmosphere,  and learning from so many amazing people we met!

The kids loved the huge Sukkah, the freedom of running around free, petting the bunnies, and the loud communal singing during meals!

We cannot wait to return whenever we are invited back to TheZone!

Thank you, Oorah for this amazing opportunity!

Lama Lo

V: The Succah is magnificent and the ambience uplifting. The food is plentiful and the accommodations impressive. The program is enjoyable for adults and children alike. No detail is overlooked and each specific element is calibrated to ensure a delightful Yom Tov for each and every guest.

R: Thanks a lot for sponsoring us to the recent yom tov event and for sending me 4 minim set free of charge which I am very grateful for. Although I cannot pay you back in dollars and cents for your kindness, I would like to give the following feedback since I cannot pay you back at this point in [any] other way:

  • Amazing hotel campgrounds plus the free activities (boats, horses, bikes, trails) provided almost a 5 star hotel experience and all for free. Truly outstanding!!!
  • My 9 year-old son enjoyed the dinnertime quiz event and prizes event.
  • Re the vorts during the meal, I liked the one by the clean shaven guy that helps run the TorahMate program (don’t remember his name) that tried to explain the mission of Oorah in this event, which was a question on many people’s minds.
  • My wife enjoyed the weekend very much, firstly because it gave her a much needed physical rest, and secondly it was a meaningful peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never really seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she became religious some 20 years ago.
  • Nine year-old son H. definitely enjoyed the activities and freedom to run and play unsupervised and engage in all the fun activities that your ample and well stocked grounds provide.
  • Sixteen year-old daughter A., [found it] an opportunity to reconnect with her mom and brother in a pleasant setting, and [it was] a peek for her into the American haredi world which she has never seen, since she is only familiar with the national religious world in Israel where she grew up.

Tzedaka

Here’s a sample of feedback from those attending the final days of the Yomim Tovim at TheZone:

E: Thank you so very much.
My children and I enjoyed it very much.
It was our first time joining Oorah and the holidays in TheZone.
Every part of it was great and enjoyable.

I didn’t get a chance to come and introduce myself and family.

But did want to thank you for the wonderful chag!

Tefillin Help

K: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to spend such a great chag at TheZone! We enjoyed every single second of it. From the shaking of the very floor of the shul, to the untimely, but delicious meals, the chag was simply amazing. The speeches and programs has created sparks of inspiration in our hearts, and this kind of inspiration stays with us throughout the year. We have never met such kind and selfless people who have such a  passion to give, and who give everything they can when they do! Once again, Oorah has proven the statement, “It’s more than a camp” correct. TheZone is a camp, a home, and a direct road to inspiration. Thank you so much for everything!

M: This was a wonderful program. I never saw hakafot like yesterday. I was inspired by the custom you held of leaving the candles in the Aron while the Torahs were removed for hakafot. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Rabbi and Mrs. Kleinman.

TheZone

Thank you again for all that you do to make sure these programs run smoothly.

K: Thank you for having us.  I was hooked up with a great TorahMate person.  Having Oorah in our life is a blessing.

Overhead Kids