For the Shabbat of July 10th, we were given a unique opportunity. A member of the Little Rock Jewish community owns a farmhouse in Marvell, Arkansas, and she very generously offered it to us to use for a weekend. We arrived there late on Friday afternoon, and held a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat and Friday night Shabbat meal. The relaxing Shabbat day brought a welcome rest from the week, with books, games, and food. We also held an involved discussion about pluralism within our varied community, and how we could hold communal prayer. We drove home Saturday night. On Sunday morning we had a discussion about our struggles when approaching the learning of Jewish texts. The Soccer World Cup finals took place on Sunday afternoon, and an Israeli family living in Little Rock kindly extended an invitation for us to come to their house to watch the game and swim in their pool. We were all very excited, even more so once we saw their beautiful house. We all sat in their living room and watched the game, rooting excitedly, with fans present for both Spain and the Netherlands – the host family rooting especially vigorously for Spain. We also got to eat some delicious barbecue prepared on the family’s grill. Once the game ended in a victory for Spain (boo!! Go Netherlands!), we changed into our bathing suits and swam in their pool. Overall it was an amazing day, relaxing and tons of fun. On Monday morning we drove to a food bank in Little Rock. It was a huge space full of every kind of packaged food imaginable. First we had to sort through hundreds of cereal boxes because Kellogs had recalled certain cereals made between certain dates due to defective packaging, and we had to sort them out. Then we went through packages of food, made sure none were way past their expiration dates, and organized them on shelves. Despite the extreme heat in the food bank, we had a lot of fun, and it felt great to see how much food we had sorted by the time the morning was over. After lunch we drove to a domestic violence shelter in Little Rock. The shelter is a refuge for victims of abuse, almost completely women and children, and its location is kept as secret as possible, to protect from the abusers finding them. There we helped unpack and sort donated clothes, as well as cleaned up in general inside and outside the house. We were also taught a little bit about domestic violence in general, as well as the services this specific shelter provided. Our eyes were opened to what a widespread and prevalent issue domestic violence is today nationwide, and how it affects 1 in 3 American women. On Tuesday we were back to working with Habitat for Humanity. We worked at the Re-Store, organizing furniture and finally finishing up the shelves we started in the first week. Then we went on a hike up the highest mountain in the area, with a lot of hard work and climbing up rocks, but ending in a spectacular view. After dinner, we ended the day watching Remember the Titans, an amazing movie about the racial integration of a high school football team. On Wednesday we continued painting a house for most of the day. Then we had a free night, when some of the group went to see a movie in theaters and some went to get ice cream and hang out in the shul.
After spending the day touching up and finishing the painting of a house that was started a couple months ago, we departed for our weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana! More to come on the New Orleans trip in the next blog post!