Reflections of Levine's Experiential DC and NYC Trip: Class of 2019
Levine Academy

Day One:

Today seemed to go by in a blur. After waking up early in the morning, we got to the airport and got on our plane. When we arrived in DC, we hopped on our bus and headed to Starbucks. Once everyone was properly caffeinated, we walked across the street to a beautiful park to hang out and play sports. We also went to the Nationals vs. Phillies game and cheered on the centerfielder from the visiting team (he waved back at us). We can't wait for what is to come in the following days! -Michal and Chavy 

Day Two:

We went to the Spy Museum today. I thought it was one of the most interesting museums because of all of the gadgets and cool weaponry we had the chance to see. We learned about forensics and tried to do espionage by decoding things like FBI agents to solve the crime. Moreover, this museum was one of my favorites and I would totally go back. -Brendan

Today we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was very sad but I think it was a good experience. We got to see and interact with items that were recovered from that time period and learned new information. We also learned more details about things that we did not know. It was amazing yet horrifying at the same time. I would go back because there was so much more we could learn about. -Lauren

Next the members of the seventh grade got to vote on which Smithsonian museum they would like to visit (there are so many!) so the group decided between the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History. A representative from each group shares their experiences. We went to the Air and Space Museum. There were so many cool exhibits. We got to see so many cool planes and space ships. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings... -Jonathan

My small group of 5 people and Rabbi Rutta went to the Natural History Museum. We saw many different living organisms. We also saw Egyptian mummies that were wrapped and Sara even learned how to wrap one. Once in the dinosaur exhibit we stumbled upon a video game. In the video game (remarked to look similar to Oregon Trail) your choices and chance determined whether your picked species of animal, vegetable, or mineral placed in chosen situations would eventually become a fossil in a museum. I never became one. Ella S. was the only one of us 6 to achieve it. Sarina: "I want to be a fossil more than anything in this life." Ella S.: "No." -Sarina

After a delicious dinner at Max's Kosher Cafe in Maryland we're off to bed ready for our next exciting day. Oh, and through the collective genius of the five chaperones Ms. Derdiger won $30 on HQ!

Day Three:

We went to the White House! It was extraordinary, fantastic, awesome, amazing, and exciting! It was white on the outside but very colorful on the inside. We also went to a lot of the memorials. It was very meaningful and special. We had delicious sandwiches for lunch. During lunch we saw war veterans come from Illinois on Honor Flights to visit the memorials. Once we were done with lunch we went to see the Newseum. It was very interesting and we learned a lot from the 9/11 memorial. -Aiden & Elana

We went to the Newseum. It was really fun. At the beginning, we had a lesson about Civil Rights. Following this we went to the actual museum part. We then saw a short film about the First Amendment. We saw exhibits about the FBI, touched a piece of the Berlin Wall, saw cool photos, presidential pets, and newspapers from over the past 500 years. -Ryan

Though our tour included the East Wing and the first two floors of the White House two members of our delegation had a unique experience today. They were able to experience the White House behind the scenes due to the need to ascend to the second floor without climbing stairs. According to their account (they weren't allowed to take pictures) they got to get close to the West Wing, go to the Diplomatic Reception Room, pass the bowling alley, and go through the kitchen (apparently rack of lamb was on the menu that night) before ascending a private elevator. I still vividly remember my tour of the West Wing the summer before I was in 7th grade (I even remember the date). And I know that this will also be a day they always remember. Secondly the Newseum had an important exhibit on media coverage and personal stories of 9/11 and we thought it good preparation to contextualize it before I lead them on a walking tour of lower Manhattan on Thursday. Speaking of this we are getting ready to spend our last morning in DC before heading up to Philadelphia and New York City. –Rabbi Rutta

Day Four:

Today we departed from our hotel in Washington, DC. A lot of us decided to wear Cowboys jerseys to Eagles territory. I was worried we would get mugged but I guess we didn’t so it’s OK. We went to Arlington National Cemetery where a lot of people who served our country were buried. It was very meaningful. Already we had started to receive comments about the jerseys. Some laughed while others started yelling Eagles (or Redskins) stuff. Then we began to drive to Philadelphia. It was a very long drive and I fell asleep. When we arrived at Philadelphia, we ate and then went to a park. We met two dancers whom Aryeh challenged. Then Ella S., Sarina, Sara, Michal, and I danced to K-Pop music and it was fun. We then had another long bus ride. As I’m writing this we are in the Lincoln Tunnel. -Abbie

On our way to New York we stopped in Philly. The boys decided it was a good idea to wear Cowboys jerseys and there were a lot of comments, good and bad. While in Philly we went to a park and met two dancers. They allowed Sara, Sarina, Michal, Abbie, and I to perform a K-Pop dance. -Ella S.

I wanted to add a bit about Arlington. The kids showed great respect as we honored our fallen heroes (some even took offense to members of another group disrespecting a hallowed section of the cemetery). We talked about JFK, his legacy, and some quotes ascribed to him. At the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier we witnessed the end of a wreath-laying as well as the Changing of the Guard in its entirety. The students were impressed and inspired by the dedication of the honor guard who does not leave his/her post in any weather or condition for a single moment. I also wanted to mention how impressed I am by the risks they took today. I’m not talking about the risk of wearing Cowboys gear in enemy territory (though it was quite entertaining to see the reactions). The fact that so many of our students put themselves out there, to dance in front of hundreds of people, strangers and friends alike, in a public park, to conquer their fears, the students continue to impress me every day. This was a day where we celebrated bravery at Arlington in the morning and then showed bravery of our own in the afternoon. I am thrilled and honored to share this experience with your children. Good night. -Rabbi Rutta

Day Five:

We went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on a ferry. It was informative. Next we went to the Tenement Museum. It was interesting and cool to see how people lived in the early 1900s. We went to Wicked, which was very fun. –Samantha

Today we went to the Tenement Museum. It was an interesting experience. We witnessed an actor perform as if she were a 14 year old Turkish Jewish immigrant living her day to day life on the Lower East Side. I had fun thinking of my life compared to hers. She told us about how she cleans in her apartment and cooks with her mother. –Joshua

Today we went to see Wicked. It was my third time seeing it. We all had fun as we watched the show. The two witches were amazing when singing and dancing. This has been an amazing night. –Sophia

Friday through Shabbat

We ate breakfast (real NY bagels!) at the hotel after services. We drove to the NBC Studios and right as we exited the bus we saw an actress from The Office named Jenna Fischer (she played Pam). We got to see the set of SNL and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I would recommend it! –Avery

Next we walked around the city. We split up into groups and went to a few stores. Many of the boys went to the NBA Store and the girls went to H&M or the Nintendo Store. For lunch we went to a kosher restaurant called Mr. Broadway and everyone loved it. There were burgers, schwarma, sushi, etc. –Jeremy

After lunch we went to the Empire State Building. We all enjoyed the classic New York City view from the top. After that we went back to the hotel and relaxed. We then enjoyed a spirited Shabbat service followed by a delicious dinner. Then we retired back to our rooms after a long day of fun. –Ava

Day Eight

On Sunday morning Rabbi Rutta had a few students reflect on their Shabbat experiences on the Upper West Side. When walking into BJ (Bnai Jeshurun) for the first time I was greeted with the welcoming music and instruments of a Friday night service. The experience reminded me of a Friday night service at Temple Emanu-El with a Conservative flair. The overall experience was great with the melodies and prayers. I find that this was a very welcoming service and very encouraging to get up and dance to the prayers. On Saturday we went back and the Bar Mitzvah service was exceptional due to the musical accompaniment. The shul was great and I highly recommend it! Also a further thing to note is that the sanctuary is truly magnificent. It is worth it just seeing it. - Sarina

The morning of Shabbat we ate donuts and muffins for breakfast and went to a meaningful service at BJ. Afterwards we ate “snacks” and lunch at WSIS (West Side Institutional Synagogue), an Orthodox shul. Next, we walked to Central Park where we ate snacks and played sports such as soccer, football, frisbee, and catch. -Ella F.

We woke up and went to a service at BJ. Then we had lunch at Rabbi Litton’s hometown synagogue. Then we walked to Central Park. We played football and frisbee and soccer. –Noah

In the morning, we drove to Brooklyn. Our first stop was the Living Torah Museum. It is a museum with artifacts recovered from 2,000-year-old shipwrecks. We were able to try on gladiator helmets, rings, and even crowns that our biblical ancestors might have worn. After that we went to lunch on Central Avenue. One group got sushi, one got burgers, and our group went to a barbecue place. I really enjoyed wearing history at the Living Torah Museum. -Jacob

After lunch, we walked around and shopped a little in the area. We went to a Judaica store and a kosher candy shop. Then we drove to Rabbi Litton's high school and met with one of his rabbis. A while later we went to the beach and walked around the boardwalk. For dinner, we then went to Rabbi Litton's family's house. -Brynn