Bonnie and Diana Elozory at Temple Israel

by | Nov 14, 2014 | Other News

The weekend after Sukkot, Temple Israel’s Scholar-in-Residence program featured Bonnie and Diana Elozory. During Saturday services and Sunday Religious School, the Elozorys shared their life-altering experience of 2013.

Judaism and family were always fundamental focuses in the Elozory home.

After suffering through some very difficult times, Bonnie Elozory of Tampa, Fla. decided to take a hike. No, she didn’t run away from her problems, she set out to refocus on those qualities by hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) with her family.

In May of last year, Elozory set out with her two youngest daughters, Ruth (17) and Diana (12), to through hike the AT. “Through hike” means to hike every one of the 2,186 miles stretching from Georgia to Maine. Her husband, son, eldest daughter and nephews all joined them as schedules allowed. They also served as a base of operations, mailing dehydrated kosher meat and other supplies to towns along the trail where the hikers would be stopping. Elozory and the girls kept kosher on the hike as they do at home by using the meat, along with lots of calorie-laden prepared foods.

In addition to their extended family’s support of the hike, their synagogue and Hebrew day school were also supportive. When Diana fell and broke her arm, UVa hospital sent her back to Tampa for extended treatment. The family feared they would not be able to finish their hike because of Diana’s schooling. But, Diana received dispensation from Hillel of Tampa to miss the fall semester in order to finish the hike and her teachers voluntarily helped her catch up upon her return. They praised the endeavor as a unique life-lesson and encouraged Diana to “finish what she started.” The entire school followed their progress. The synagogue’s clergy were also encouraging and made MP3 files of Diana’s haftarah and the Friday and Saturday prayers so that Diana could train for her June 2014 bat mitzvah using her iPod. In the evenings, the family would take out paper copies of the same and practice together. Older sister, Ruth, had the same haftarah, so expectations were high.

Some of their favorite memories included celebrating Shabbat and the fall holidays on the trail. They carried matzah and birthday candles for Shabbat. On Rosh Hashanah, they ate honey on apples they chilled in a river. Yom Kippur was a quiet, spiritual day as they were unable to hike while fasting. Of course, Sukkot was a cinch! Being in nature made them feel closer to God because they were interacting so closely with his creations, discovering newfound kinship with Jewish ancestors who lived more like life on the trail than today’s modern, indoor society.

What did they get from the experience? They were made more cognizant of the great worth that fellow human beings hold. The supportive community on the trail helped them heal some of the hurts of the past and trust others again. They were reminded that humans are the caretakers of all of the natural wonder of this world and everyone needs to be more aware of their impact on what has been loaned. And, they learned that when it is necessary to climb a mountain, a good way to start is a breakfast sandwich of peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, Nutella, honey roasted peanuts and M&Ms.