How my Great-Grandfather Came to America- Journal 10

My Great-Grandfather, my mother’s grandfather, Jules Cohen, later Jules Kagan, was born in Pinsk, Poland in 1915. Pinsk, at the time, had 35,000 Jews. It was on the Russian border. He left to go to America in 1923, with another lady from his village. He left because of the post-WWI Cossack pogroms. He was given jars of herring and loaves of bread. The bumpy ride in steerage made him seasick for eight days. When he got to Ellis Island, his uncle Israel Deretchin picked him up. He started his education in Brooklyn, knowing only Yiddish and Polish. He would be beat up for not knowing English, so he quickly learned it. He lived with his uncle for a year until his mother, my grandfather’s grandmother, came.

Herring, like my great-grandfather would've eaten on the ship.


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The Remarkable Renowned RAMAH RETREAT! “Journal 9”

Last week, we went on our annual Middle School Ramah Retreat. We went to Camp Ramah Darom, hence the name. We go there for four days, but we’re really only at Ramah for two days. Monday we drive 9 hours to Ramah and stop in Atlanta to eat lunch and do an educational activity; Thursday we drive 9 hours back home and stop at a rest stop and eat lunch. The purpose of the retreat is to bond and become a middle school, not a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. We want to bond while having fun.

We do educational activities at the retreat because we’re supposed to learn. It’s still school, just school without classes. I think the educational activity that was the most meaningful was the Planet activity. Each grade had their own planet named after a Jewish food. Each planet had something wrong with it. We were given a bunch of values had had to trade values with representatives from another planet until we all got the values needed to fix each individual planet. I think this activity was the most meaningful because we had to work with our classmates to pick out the values, and then we had to agree with the other grades to get the values needed.

Like I said before, the retreat is all about bonding. I tried to bond, but it didn’t work out for me. One of my previous friends now dislike’s me because I made a joke; another is mad because I accidently hit the door into her face. (NOTE: When this post was published, I made up with these two friends.) I don’t think I came back with any new friends; if anything, I lost some.  I did, however, became closer friends with Elior and Itamar. In my opinion, the activities don’t really get us to bond. What they need us to do is put groups of five people that don’t regularly hang out to just talk for a little bit, get to know each other.

My favorite part of the trip was just having time away from classes and books to just talk with my friends. There’s so much to talk about, and not really that much time because of classes and grade separation (for some of my friends). I enjoyed it because I got to grow closer with my friends and talk with them.

On Wednesday night, the last night of the retreat, we always have a bonfire. This year, we did something different; we all took a stick, said something we were going to do to be better in the community, and threw the stick in the fire. I said I would stop being in my state of mind where I don’t think and bad things end up happening. I have started to do this by being quieter and separating myself. Something else I have already done that I’ll definitely continue- although some readers might not think so- is “RAOK”. I RAOK a lot at school, and in life.





Bartering values with representatives from the other planets. I'm the one on the bottom right.

Bartering values with representatives from the other planets. I’m the one on the bottom right. My friend Elior is on the bottom left.

Me carrying a cooler with my friend.

Me carrying a cooler with my friend, Itamar. I’m on the left. (Not such a good shot, eh?)


“The Cross By Day, The Mezuzzah By Night” Chapters 1-5

We are reading a book in our Tanach class called The Cross by Day, The Mezuzzah by Night. This book also counts as our Chai reading for November. These first chapters take place in Seville, Spain. The main character is named Isabel Caruso de Carvallo. However, her Jewish name is Ruth. Her father is the tax collector of Seville. She has discovered that she is a Marranos, a secret convert to Judaism on her 13th birthday, along with a birthday present; A century-old mezuzzah that was her great-grandmother Ruth’s. This is in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, when it is very dangerous to be a Jew.