JDC Entwine: Inside Jewish Greece and Bulgaria, Day #2

Oh what a day we had, oh my where to begin? It started with a trip to the Golden Age Home for the Elderly - which is an annual camp experience for the Jewish elderly across Bulgaria, some of whom do not have access to Jewish community programming during the rest of the year. We visited with them, and though they did not speak English (some of them spoke Russian or French) there was still a lot of smiling and hugging. Then the kindergarten class from the Bulgarian JCC who we would be visiting later, came and preformed for the seniors. It was the cutest thing ever.

Afterwards, we broke into a huge Israeli dancing session. Instantly, I was taken back to my BBYO days where I learned Israeli dances and it all came right back. After this, the kindergarteners started dancing with us. Now I must say I had a major crazy dance session with 4-5 kindergarten kids (none of whom spoke English). We were jumping, twirling, and dancing like there was no tomorrow. It was a special moment that I will never forget. My iPhone was in my pocket and slipped out, falling on the concrete face down. The entire screen is now cracked, but it was worth it and I'll get my phone fixed when I return to the U.S.

After this we returned to Sofia where we had lunch at a local restaurant and then learned about the JDC's role in Bulgaria. Here I had a reunion Polly Zaharieva, an old friend from BBYO who was president of Bulgarian BBYO and was my roommate at February Execs and attended International Convention with me back in 2002 and 2003. It was amazing to see her and be reunited with her, especially all of these years later.  Polly now works for JDC as program coordinator for JDC Regions.  

I then had another unbelievable experience; we broke out into groups and made home visits to the elderly community members who receive assistance from the Jewish community. We visited with our new friend Sophie (pictured). We were warmly invited into her home where she prepared snacks, coffee and juice. We had a translator with us so we could communicate with Sophie and hear her story.

Sophie is a tiny old doctor who in World War II fought against the Nazis with the Soviet Communist anti-Nazi resistance group. She had an amazing story that I cannot even try to summarize here. Afterwards we returned to the hotel and ended the day with a festive traditional Bulgarian dinner experience. Not only was it a beautiful restaurant on a mountain and a 4 course meal, but we were entertained with traditional Bulgarian folk dancers (pictured) who also walked on coal. Apparently this is an act of Bulgarian festive celebrations, though my experience with it had previously been limited to a Tony Robbins seminar. The dinner was plentiful and entertaining and I had another opportunity to get to know and make new friends in my group. Overall a long, terrific, memorable day, filled with moments I will never forget.

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June 24, 2015 at 11:14 AM




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