As part of their Bat Mitzvah or Bar Mitzvah ceremony, graduates of Adventure Judaism’s Adventure B’nai Mitzvah class are asked to write a Dvar Shana, thoughts about the year. To write the speech, the students look back at the journal they were required to keep. They make an entry after each of the class’s 15 expeditions. At the end of their journey, we ask them to read through the entries and reflect on what they learned about themselves, Judaism, and community and put it in a speech called D’var Shana. Eliza Serlen became a Bat Mitzvah on June 15, 2019 and this is her D’var Shana.
D’var Shana – Thoughts About the Year
by Eliza Serlen
This year has been interesting in the best possible sense of the word. From slipping around on the ice and mud during our snowshoe hike to setting marshmallows on fire (or, alternatively, trying to avoid getting your marshmallow lit aflame) with wooden sticks, it’s all been hilarious and magical.
With my class, I also shared more serious, intimate experiences like enjoying the full moon on a quiet, snow-covered trail, and treasured moments with my friends and family.
Everything this year was fantastic, but one of my favorite classes I experienced during my time in the Adventure Class was called Iron Chef Shabbat. Imagine putting twenty kids in a room, with basic recipes for matzah ball soup and challah, and letting them go wild with a fun variety of ingredients like potato chips and chocolate milk. It’s just as fun as it is messy!
My team didn’t win, but we had tons of fun anyway. And, personally, I think our food was pretty delicious! We added chocolate chips and cinnamon to our challah, and shaped it into tiny loaves — one for each member of the group. In regards to the matzah balls, we may have added a bit too much garlic powder to ours, but they turned out fairly well regardless!
Another class this year was a three-day Passover retreat to Moab, Utah. The night we got to Moab, the Adventure Class set out on a full moon hike to Corona Arch, mostly without flashlights. While climbing a ladder up a steep ledge, and using a rope to get up a cliffside slope in the dark were both terrifying for me, if I’m being honest, it was all worth it. Looking up, it felt like you could see forever — every single star in the sky was within your view.
The services we did for Passover weren’t just sitting at a table and listening — instead, we got to hike! And when we weren’t hiking or doing organized activities, we were hanging out by the river, falling into the river, skipping rocks, making mud babies, freaking out over various card games, or just sitting and talking about anything and everything, hanging around and having fun.
The entire experience of the Adventure Class taught me a few lessons about responsibility, acceptance, charity, and crucial life skills to succeed throughout my life — these important values brought me this far and developed my character, and I will need these values in becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Above all though, this class teaches concepts of kindness, one of the most important qualities in anyone’s life. Acts of kindness can simply be giving smiles to those people around you, to both people that you’ve known for a long time and to strangers you may never see again.
From small actions like holding the door for a person passing through it, to larger ones like spending an hour or two picking up garbage from a local park, every little act of kindness is important.
The Adventure Class, regardless of what the particular lesson’s focus is, always finds a way to incorporate kindness. It could be anything from making sure people aren’t forced to hike behind our large group by pulling to the side a minute to let them pass, to spending a class actually doing community service, to simply ensuring that we leave behind nothing but footprints upon completing a hike.
This has been an incredible experience topped off by the incredible day with all of you. Thank you so much, everyone, for being here to celebrate my bat mitzvah with me today!