Hi! This is ck reporting from Jerusalem. It’s 3 am Sunday morning and me and my trip participants just got back from hitting downtown Jerusalem, so to speak. Allow me to backtrack a bit. As you may or may not know, Jewlicious, in conjunction with Oranim and thanks to the generosity of Taglit-birthright israel, is running a free trip to Israel. I left on a plane from JFK that was made up entirely of Oranim trip participants and everything went really well.

No seriously.

Anyhow, we got in an hour later than expected and so we went directly to the Kotel for cabalat Shabat. Our driver dropped off our luggage at the hotel and after our dazed but otherwise suitably moved group experienced the Kotel on a Friday night (highly recommended!) we walked back to our hotel, had Shabbat dinner and then more or less passed out.

Saturday, thanks to the hard work of Ilana Rachel, Jewlicious-trip alumna Lori and Jeff Seidel our entire group had Shabbat lunch in Nachlaot with local families. Once again, our trip participants were suitably impressed with the largesse and hospitality of our hosts.

That evening, after our Havdalah service, we went into town and these are the first pictures from the trip. We walked around Ben Yehuda street where some of our Jewliciousers popped their falafel and shwarma cherries. The night ended at a club called Laila where we were joined by Assaf, the drummer and Ohad, the lead singer of MissFlag, fresh from their US tour, where, amongst other places, they played at the Jewlicious Festival. Ohad is in the midst of tryouts for Kochav Nolad, Israel’s version of American Idol.

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003.jpgYanna and the guys from Miss Flag

Tomorrow we’re headed up north where we will visit Caesaria and sleep at the banks of the Kinneret. Hopefully I’ll find the time and the juice to write a bit more about our participants who are interesting because they kind of represent a tiny microcosm of young American Jews. The Steinhardts and the Bronfmans can afford to hire fancy shmancy consultants to try and understand what makes these kid tick. At Jewlicious, all we can afford is field research… stay tuned!

About the author

ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

20 Comments

  • I just went on a birthright trip this past winter and had the best time of my life. It’s a great experience, and I’m glad you’re getting the chance to write about it. This goes without saying, and is impossible not to do, but have fun!

  • Jeff Seidel brews the strongest Kool-Aid in the city of Jerusalem. Also, he’s a crook – he was expelled for life from the grounds of Hebrew U because he hung out around Rothberg (the international school) trying to convince students to “take some time off” from school and instead go to a yeshiva (for cash) – and then he used official Hebrew U letterhead to promote his programs, as if they were affiliated with the university.

    Kiruv apologists will appear like roaches pouring out of a rotten wall in 5…4…3…

  • Not to justify JeffY, Michael, but when was he expelled? He was on campus last year. Maybe he was allowed back.

    And Harry, how is it anti-Zionist? Pretty strong claim, not something I’ve seen from Seidel. Yes, he’s a crank (but clearly a successful one), although, to be fair, his wife is very nice 😀

  • When I was in Israel in 1993 and 1994 I, like many young Jews visiting Israel was set up by Seidel for Shabbat meals. I experienced many anti-Israel comments by both my hosts (with the exception of a wonderful Chabad family in the old city, the Mendelsons if I recall correctly) as well as the guy who Seidel sent to escort us to our host family in Beit Yisrael. I was so turned off by what I heard I never showed up again. Also, one of the hosts clearly didn’t have enough food to feed their entire family as well as us, and it was an incredibly uncomfortable situation.

  • *sigh*
    Every time, it’s the same thing with this Jeff Seidel narishkeit. I can only speak from experience and in my experience Jeff Seidel has never been anything less than completely and gratuitously accommodating. Every time we run a birthright trip, we want our trip participants to have a special experience. Consequently, we like to set up a shabbat home hospitality experience for them in Jerusalem. We don’t know until a week or so before the trip where in Jerusalem we’ll be staying and it can be near the bus station, near the old city or anywhere in between. Once we know where we’ll be staying, one call to Jeff and he hooks up over 50 people for shabbat lunch in the most convenient neighborhood.

    We’ve eaten with Mir Yeshiva couples near the old city, we’ve eaten in the Old City, we’ve eaten with people in the city center and we’ve eaten with families in Nachlaot. On a persnal level, I’ve had shabbat dinner through Jeff with Haredim in meah shearim, and with wealthy modern Orthodox families in the King David Hotel. Once, a Haredi son in meah shearim informed me that the family was anti-Zionist. I’ve had Shabbat dinner in meah shearim with Haredim about a dozen times. All the rest of the meals were otherwise uneventful.

    As for our birthright trip participants, Shabbat meals with Orthodox families is not something any of them is used to and yet the Shabbat meal always ranks as one of their favorite trip highlights – ranking above Eilat, ranking above clubbing etc.

    For the sort of thing we need, Jeff Seidel is pretty much the only gig in town. Not only that, but other birthright groups have sensed how cool this sort of thing is and Jewlicious is no longer the only group that integrates Shabbat home hospitality into its program.

    And what does Jeff Seidel ask for in return?

    Nothing.

    If Jeff Seidel is indeed running a cult – and we’ve been dealing with him now for 3 years – it’s the most ineffective cult I have ever seen. Also the notion that Jeff Seidel is anti-Zionist, based on third party comments elicited 13 years ago… well, I think Jeff deals in Shabbat meals, and not in the host’s politics. Like I said, I only heard one politely anti_Zionist comment ever, and none of them ever mentioned an “Apartheid” wall or system of governance, none of them ever bemoaned the Zionist genocide against the Palestinians etc.

    So Jeff is fine by me.

  • Jeff has been doing great work for more than three years….

    I remember getting set up for a meal in 1987 by “Super Jew” as we called him.

    michael -And to call him anti-Zionist when he has been helping Jews fall in love with Israel for decades and you only got off the boat from New Orleans 2 years ago seems a bit much.

    Harry – sorry you didn’t get sent to us. We hosted people for Jeff after we got married and lived in Merkaz Hair.

    Uhm… Did you ever tell him that the family were not so cool, and that it didnt work out well back then? Or were you so turned off you didnt go to him and tell him what went wrong.

    Kol HaKavod ck for hooking up students with people that live in nachlaot or anywhere else, instead of meals in a hotel dinning room, which could be anywhere on the planet.

    And when a new organization sets up at the kotel to ship off students to hosts and takes no money, make sure to use them too.

  • Michael you are soooo baaaaad! Jeff is ok and you probaly dont even know him.
    You should ask him to set you up for shabbes meal once – you might like it! Shabbes is a very good Jewish experience, you should try sometime.

  • Wish i was there! My friends from Rothberg went to a Shabbat dinner at the Hyatt that Jeff Seidel set up and they loved it. I never had the pleasure of making his acquaintance myself.

  • When did I call him anti-Zionist? I mean, regardless, I’m terribly sorry that I haven’t established my Zionist credentials, moving to Israel at a young age with no money and all, but maybe you should read closer.

    And for my disguised Polish compatriot, I actually know his Seidelship personally, and have been to several Shabbat meals organized under his stewardship (which may or may not have had something to do with my meteoric fall from grace). He’s a macher. For the Lord. I don’t really like machers.

  • Michael: It was Harry who said that Jeff’s organization was anti-Zionist.

    If you think Seidel is a macher then you don’t know machers. Jeff is a shlepper. He’s accessible, helpful and his ubiquity is manic. He’s the one that’s out there hooking people up with meals. He’s the one that calls me and follows up to make sure our trippers enjoyed their meals. I don’t know an machers who are so self effacing and helpful.

  • See Michael? When you open just a little bit then right away there is a room for discussion. So you you dont like machers? CK is right Jeff is as much macher as CK is.
    Maybe you dont like him because he s never set you up for a right shabbes experience? I ll call him about you!
    I chased Jeff after chatzoys on Shmini Atzeres (the chutznik’s one). After being disinvited from a seuda in a fancy hotel ( to which I was first invited to) I found Jeff by the Koysel giviing a tour to a group and he still came up with a place for me. The food was less then mediocre and the whole thing was unispiring but by then I wasnt picky at all. But Jeff is really ok.
    Since he probably didnt serve in IDF so you can probably call him anti-zionist. But it s so funny names calling. In Poland in 1968 when one wanted to ruin other person’s career he would call him “zionist”. And now I see if one Jew wants to discredit another he calls him “anti-zionist”.
    This is hilarious.

    Michael, amico mio! I am not disguising myself but searching for new name. Can’t be ybocher forever, especially breaking my first stroller. If only CK enables it, I ll be happy to put white and red flag next to my name.

  • I frankly don’t care if Phoebe disavows me forever. I had nothing but complaints when I stayed by the Portnoy’s in Jerusalem.

    *ducks*

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