Israel summer trips 2022: Celia Weingart

ELLEN FUTTERMAN, Editor-in-Chief

Celia Weingart, 17, a senior at Parkway North High School, visited Israel for the first time this summer as part of NCSY, through its four-week The Jewish Journey program. The group of 50 she went with were mainly Midwesterners, coming primarily from St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Celia was one of several young people who agreed to chronicle her Israel trip by shooting a short video of the sights, sounds, people and places that most impacted her.

This Israel video project was made possible due to a generous grant from the Kranzberg Family Foundation. You can view all of the videos here.

The Jewish Light sat down with Celia after her return to learn what resonated most about her trip, including the unlikely “food” she still thinks about.

Celia Weingart

What stood out the most about the trip?

The people I met. I made a huge group of friends because we were all on the bus every day for like 2-3 hours at a time and were doing all these activities together. What really stood out is that you’re meeting so many people that I would never have met or maybe I knew but never talked to.

Anything on the trip that was unexpected or a surprise?

Because it was NCSY, it was run through the Orthodox Union. I knew it was going to be a more religious trip. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I enjoyed the more religious aspects of the trip. On Fridays and Saturdays, we would keep Shabbos and all the girls on Friday night would light the candles. I initially thought (the more religious aspects) would be something I put up, but it ended up being something I really enjoyed and defined the trip for me. It was different for me, and I got to experience Israel in a different way.

How did you celebrate Shabbos while in Israel?

You had a choice because we went from people who were already very religious before coming on the trip to people who were completely secular. You did have the choice — did you want to completely keep Shabbos or not? Some things were non-negotiable, like on Friday night and Saturdays it was more formal clothing if you’re going to be out in public. Going to services was sort of non-negotiable. But for the smaller things they were very flexible and most of us ended keeping Shabbos because our advisers were doing it and our friends were doing it. It was just another way to connect with people. For the most part keeping Shabbos was going to services, making sure you were dressed properly, not using technology, not turning on lights.

Will you continue to incorporate some of these rituals into your life in St. Louis?

Something I want to continuing doing is making it a tradition to light the candles on Friday night because it was part of the trip I really enjoyed.

Do you feel you connected more with you Judaism?

Definitely, because for me, before this trip, I didn’t have a ton of Jewish friends. There aren’t a whole lot of Jews in my school. I don’t really know a lot of kids at my synagogue. So it was really getting to experience (Israel) with my friends. Our advisers were also very close to our age, so it was people close to our age guiding you and showing you, yes you can live this wonderful and fulfilling life and still keep these traditions and rules that I think a lot of us thought would be restrictive, but it was really liberating.

Was there a site or day on the trip that stood out?

The big standout to me was the first day we went to the Kotel. I remember it very vividly because when we got into the old city and to the central plaza, they had us close our eyes. We walked through the old city and the first thing we saw was the Western Wall. I saw that and that kind of defined what the old city of Jerusalem was to me. It was very moving.

Did you make any Israeli friends?

Two of my friends and I, when we were in the city of David for lunch, met these girls around our age who were on a trip with their youth group. They were from Israel and we ended up talking to them for 2-3 hours. That was really cool, I loved it. We took pictures together. I have their phone numbers. They taught us some Hebrew. We taught them some English slang. It was a wonderful time.

Do you want to go back to Israel and if so, what will your next trip to Israel look like?

I definitely want to go back. I think when I got back, I want to visit the places that we didn’t get to see a lot because we only had so much time. In the north and mountains, I’d love to see more of the kibbutzim I didn’t get to see because we were going into the main cities. Haifa we didn’t get to see a lot, we just drove through, so I’d love to go back there. Tel Aviv we didn’t really do much in until the last day, so I’d like to spend more time there and explore.

What advice would you to give to someone going on?

My main advice would just to be really open. We were given an option before the trip — do you want to pick your roommate or for it to be random? I’d say if you’re comfortable with it, let them pick your roommate for you. That’s how I met some of my best friends from the trip, we were roommates together and then I met their friends and they met mine. Also, trust your advisers. They are close in age to you but trust them because they know a lot about the area, they know what they’re doing. If they say you need to make sure you’re doing this, trust them. The only time we ever had real issues was when people were not trusting them or didn’t do what the advisers told them to do.

Of all the foods you ate in Israel, did you have a favorite?

On the first night of the trip, one of our advisers snuck a couple of us out after dinner. There was a Golda (ice cream chain in Israel). It was hands-down the best ice cream I ever had in my life.