Hi everyone! Sorry it has been a while, we have just been so busy!! This past week AJSS Springfield had a packed week full of fun, service, and Springfield history. Tuesday, we worked vigorously in the scorching sun, weeding and cleaning up the landscape in the community garden and Watershed Park, an environmental educational park, on the state fairgrounds. As the sun went down and the moon made its appearance, we were given the privilege of experiencing a free night on the town. Half the group decided to spend their night in the wonderful store, Target, while the other half splurged at the White Oaks mall.
Early Wednesday morning, AJSS helped out the Salvation Army prepare their newly bought building by weeding the parking lot and partaking in a demolition project of removing ceiling tiles for their new building. As the day continued, we headed to Habitat in the afternoon to lend a helping hand in painting a pod and fixing a fence. Later that night, AJSS was joined by Israelis who run the week-long Jewish federation camp to dinner and they did a program with us about what Israel means to us.
Thursday morning, AJSS split into two groups. One group helped out at the Central Illinois Food Bank separating a huge donation of onions for their mobile food pantry, while the other group continued working with the Salvation Army finishing what we started on Wednesday. We later decorated our living quarters with colorful streamers and posters and cleaned up the Temple in preparation for the artival of AJSS Louisville. To end the night, AJSS experienced pizza from a crane for dinner and reconnected with our childhoods at the wonderful arcade. After we were full from pizza and bankrupt from emptying our money on numerous arcade games, we enjoyed the Lincoln Ghost Tour, where we learned about the ghostly stories of Abe Lincoln and the history of his and his family’s past.
Friday, AJSS Springfield split up into three groups. One group stayed back to help cook and prepare for Louisville’s arrival. We cooked a traditional Shabbat dinner, including home-made challah (YUMMY). Another group went to UCP and spent a fun-filled day fishing with the kids. And the other group enthusiastically enjoyed playing with all the kids of the Boys and Girls Club in the water at a local pool in Springfield.
After much needed showers, we finished preparing for Shabbat and joined our AJSS Louisville friends and Temple Israel for Kabbalat Shabbat services led by Jesse. We had a good time getting to know the congregants and welcoming in Louisville with our delicious Shabbat dinner, joined by Rabbi Marks, the Rabbi of Temple Israel. On Saturday morning we had the option of joining the congregation in services or an alternative service combining meditation and a conversation about Kashrut and Judaism. The congregants loved hearing the AJSS’ers lead services and read Torah as well as getting to know one another during the Kiddush luncheon. After some time to relax and go to the park, we had dinner and an awesome program about Harry Potter and its connection to Judaism that got us super excited to see the movie after Havdalah. Following a ruach-filled Havdalah we set out for the movie theatre for the long awaited last Harry Potter movie. While a good time was had by all, there were mixed reviews on the movie from the audience.
Come Sunday morning, we woke up to join Kumler United Methodist Church (we have volunteered with their ministries) for their prayer service. It was a unique and awesome experience that was new and exciting for all of us. The community was extremely welcoming and we are looking forward to helping them with a demolition project to expand their space to serve the homeless on Wednesday and Thursday! Following church, both groups headed to the Lincoln Library and Museum where we had a great time learning more about Lincoln and seeing the incredible exhibits and movies in the Museum. After saying goodbye to Louisville, AJSS Springfield ate lunch and headed to the Weiss’ house (congregants from Temple Israel) to swim in Lake Springfield (which is behind their house!) and have a delicious, meat-filled BBQ.
After a goodnight sleep on Sunday night, AJSS Springfield woke up to do some work at the Helping Hands Homeless Shelter. We helped prepare and serve lunch, mend some mattresses, do some laundry, and clean-up on the grounds outside. Once we had lunch and spoke about our experience at the homeless shelter, we decided to beat the heat by heading to the Knights Action Water Park for a water-filled afternoon. And once we finished our delicious fish dinner, we headed to our weekly laundry night, committee meetings, and milkshake/slushy outing at Sonic!
Last but not least, today (Tuesday) was quite a busy day. We began our day by going to Petersburg, IL, about 20 miles outside of Springfield where there is a reconstructed village of New Salem, where Lincoln spent his years before he entered politics. This reconstructed village was complete with log cabins, animals, and volunteers acting out the parts of local blacksmiths, weavers, and store owners from the time. From there we went to have lunch with the Director of the Department of Agriculture of Illinois who wanted to have us over to show his appreciation for our work in the community garden. The lunch was complete with vegetarian chili, salad and green beans with produce from the garden, and fresh peach and cherry pie (pictures to come soon!). \
Following lunch, we headed back to St. John’s Breadline to prepare and serve dinner. Once back at the synagogue, we were greeted by Rena Convissor, the director of AJSS, Larry Green, the chair of the board, and his wife, and David Kaplan, another AJSS board member. They are all visiting just for the day to see what we are up to in Springfield and to do a little work with us as well. They joined us for another one of our teen philanthropy sessions, followed by dinner, and an ice cream outing, Larry and David’s treat. Thank you!!
Now it is off to bed to get a good night’s sleep before our big demolition day tomorrow at Kumler Ministries! More to come soon!!
Chandler and Shosh