Posted by: ajsssummer | July 9, 2012

Last Week in Review from Birmingham

First Week (Ish)
Day One: As we got off the plane and found Rosa and Phil at the
baggage claim, we (the girls) were delighted to find that we too were
not the only ones to have packed “a little more than needed.” As we
entered our new home for the first time, we were greeted with the
feeling of pure bliss that is air conditioning. Magically, the first
night 7 girls and Rosa were able to inflate air mattresses, unpack a
bit and still find room to sleep. The girl’s bright yellow room even
has a chalkboard (it’s pretty cool) and a squeaky door that has a bad
habit of being noisy when entering and leaving at odd hours. We played
a few ice breakers at a nearby park, and concluded the night with the
going over of rules and a lovely pizza dinner (who says you can’t have
dinner at 9:00 P.M.?). That night, we learned that bedtime could be
whenever we wanted it to be, so long as the lights and opposite gender
were out when the first person went to sleep. The teen lounge is down
the hall from our rooms, equipped with TONS of food (shoutout to the
welcoming committee at Beth-El), a T.V., really comfortable couches
and a bounty of board games.

Day Two: beep. Beep. Beep! BEEP! Oh yes, nothing sweeter than the
increasing sound of an alarm at 5:45 in Birmingham. As a groggy group
of teenagers made their way to breakfast, I don’t think I saw an
expression other than excitement. “Maybe we’ll get to like use a
wrecking ball” I heard someone say, “I hope they have air
conditioning” I heard another say. Our first actual day, we worked
with Habitat for Humanity, to help rebuild a house that was destroyed
by a tornado about a year ago. There, we met Phil (not our leader
Phil) who quickly became our hero. He’s patient and helped us figure
out the best fit for us and how we could best help the house. We also
met a church group from Concord, North Carolina; we will never forget
Connor—a funny 14 year old who we all quickly bonded with. Later that
night, we went over a few more rules before half of us went to bed,
and the other half decided to play hide and go seek in the dark.
Leader Noah “Daddy” taught the hide and seekers Hide and go Scare,
that provided us with some entertainment to say the least. We have to
give props to Sean who hid from us for over an hour during Sardines
(reverse hide and go seek). We did not trip the alarms, but we did
learn a very important rule: No flirting with the stairs [because it
would trip the alarms]; only flirting with Ben Zander.

Day Three: The second work day went by pretty similarly to the first
work day, and we appreciated the showers at the JCC just as much. Rosa
got a little lost, but it was okay because Lauren, Max, Rebecca and I
all got a chance to take a snooze. On this same voyage, we say a train
move that we’d seen stationed in the exact same spot for two days—it
was pretty amazing to say the least. JCC Birmingham is truly a palace,
and we have access to it all! There are Zoomba classes that we will be
sure to try, and AMAZING workout facilities. Showers are heaven sent,
after hours of 100+ degree heat in direct sun, they truly feel like a
blessing. After we got back, we had an Oneg with the Synagogue and did
our best to shmooze with them. The congregates are all so sweet and have
amazing accents. I was invited up to play an instrument during
services, and we were all invited up to play percussion later in the
service as well—they were very open and welcoming. After services,
almost the entire group played a few rounds of hide and go seek and
other such games before calming down and participating in a truly
amazing experience—trust circle. We used a bag of crumb cakes as the
“talking stick” as a few of us went around and shared more or less our
life stories. Trust Circle will be something we hope to continue
throughout the rest of our summer together.

Day Four: Shabbos morning Lauren, Ben and I decided to go upstairs for
services. We were again welcomed, and the community was very
interested in talking to us. As a group, we then all headed to the
local park (Caldwell Park) and played intense games of capture the
flag—water balloon style. Later that day, we discussed Judaism and
civil rights, and how they interrelated and concluded the lovely day
with an amazing play called The Last Woman Hotel at the little local
theater. A few made bracelets or gave back massages in the teen
lounge, but the rest decided to turn in early. On both Saturday and
Sunday morning, breakfast wasn’t until 9:30, which was a warm welcome
compared to the 6:15 breakfasts on the first two mornings.

Day Five: I’m here in the car typing all of this as we head to the
lake. Today’s festivities: WALMART!! We’re also going to the JCC and
will hopefully have time to get a workout in addition to showering. A
group of us were considering going for daily morning runs, but decided
against it once the first day started at nearly 6 A.M. With a
temperature of 100 and a full day’s work ahead of us. This summer is
going to be amazing if it’s anything even half as good as what we’ve
just experienced.

Toby Klein



  1. Thanks Toby for such a great review!!! Can’t wait to hear more, it sounds like you are all having an amazing summer. Birmingham is so lucky to have you all!!!

  2. Thanks for the detailed update, Toby! You’ve got a lot of fans reading this blog and it’s wonderful to be filled in on all you’re doing. Sounds like a great start to the summer. Stay cool!

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