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If You Really Knew Me

Hachnasat Orchim Games and Activities for Creating a Welcoming Environment

Game 1: Alpha Beta Planets
Divide the group into 5 smaller circles Planet Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet, Hay
Each team behaves with specific customs only characteristic of the members of
that group (attached)
Task: You must design a planet theme park as a group, pick a theme, pick rides
or forms of entertainment it would include and how it would represent your
As the students as discussing, they must demonstrate the customs and
characteristics of their planet provided.
After about 7 minutes, 2-3 people will be removed from each group and brought
into another group. The group is not allowed to give away any character traits or
explanations. The point is for the newcomer to adapt to the new culture and for
the planet members to respond to an outsider.
Two more people are moved out of the group and moved into another group
Step 2: Analyze the experience
-reconvene to debrief the experience
What were some of the characteristics of your planet? How was the discussion
dominated by the behaviour? How did it feel that everyone knew what to do?
What did it feel like as the newcomer, as the outsider? Were you confused,
frustrated, discouraged? Did anyone try and help you? Did you feel that you
could interrupt and ask for help? Did you miss your own group where you knew
what was going on? Did anyone wish to reach out to the newcomer? Did you
even notice that he/she could have been lost or confused?
Step 3: Integrate the analysis and the discussion
When you first entered the world of USY, who welcomed you? How were you
welcomed? Have you ever been in a situation where you did not feel welcome or
felt like a stranger and no one reached out to you? Explain.
In this game, did you feel overwhelmed by the new customs and culture? Did
anyone reach out to you and draw you into the community? What does it mean to
be part of a community, to be part of a group? As Jews and as USYers, we are a
special and unique group. We have our own language, (USY lingo), customs,
rituals, beliefs and culture but how can we as leaders be more supportive to each
other and to welcoming newcomers?
Explain Parsha connection: In this weeks parsha, Vayera, three men appear at
Abraham tent. He doesnt know that they are angels of God but he right away
greets them, welcomes them, encourages them to wash and relax and feeds

them. He is rewarded for his kindness and hospitability when they promise him a
To break down barriers and make everyone feel welcome, were going to play a
few getting to know you games.
Game 2: Mishpachot
Materials: pens and index cards
Instructions: have everyone write down 3 last names they have in their families
(maiden names, grandparent last names, etc.). They have to walk around the
room and try to find any matches with other people.
Point to make: were all connected in some way. Even people who you thought
you had no connection with, may end up surprising you with some kind of
similarity! Also, being part of a Jewish family means, youre never really alone!
Game 3: Cross the Line
Materials- a line on the floor made with masking tape
1) Cross the Line
(adapted from the Challenge Day activity featured in If You Really Knew Me, an MTV reality show)

Goal: The purpose of this activity is to draw on differences and similarities and to
get to know people beyond stereotypes, assumptions and rumors.
Place a straight line of sting or tape on the floor. Ask USYers to stand on one side
of the tape. Explain that you will call out a statement instructing them to cross the
line if the statement applies to them. You can use this list and/or make up your
Preliminary: Explain that this is a getting to know you activity that is serious and
can get intimate in terms of information sharing. Everyone should be as honest
with themselves and the group as possible. There will be NO judging, laughing or
accusations made. We are here under the premise of tolerance, understanding
and respect.
Introduce with Jewish Text:
Explain: Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Sages, teaches us many lessons for real life.
It is almost like a book of wisdom for the every day. Before we begin this activity,
keep these two Jewish texts from Pirkei Avot in mind throughout:
Judge every person favorably" (Pirkei Avot 1:6) Page 19 of sourcebook
Heb: dan lchaf zchut
"Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place." (Pirkei Avot 2:5) page
44 of sourcebook

Following each statement, allow a few seconds for the group to observe the
numbers of those who crossed the line and those who didnt.
Cross the line if:
Youve ever been to a concert
Youve ever worn your shirt inside out by accident
Youve ever been to a foreign country
You speak more than 1 language
You have a friend you know youll be friends with forever
You have a friend or family member who embarrasses you
Have an allergy
Have been in love or loved a non-relative
Have spread a rumor
(depending on how well the group knows one another, you may want to add a
few more Stage 1 comments)
Stage 2: more emotional
Youve ever been hurt by a best friend
Someone has confided in you with a serious or dangerous secret
Youve ever felt different/like an outsider
Youve ever felt that you dont belong
You know someone who is gay
You know someone who has a learning disability or who learns differently
than most
You know someone who is physically different than most
You know someone who constantly puts others down (bully, Mean Girl,
You have felt that you would never get through a difficult time or situation
and your world was ending
You have felt ugly, fat, unattractive, small
Felt like a loser or felt you werent good enough
Sent an email/text/post that you shouldnt have or regret
Stage 3: Tough Stuff (but more common than you think)
You know someone who puts him/herself down
You have suffered a rumor or been humiliated by a rumor
Know someone who has
You know someone who has intentionally hurt him/herself physically
Know someone who has attempted suicide
Know someone who has carried out a suicide

Explain: This activity is inspired by recent and more common news pieces of
young people hurting themselves because of the actions of others (bullying,
cyberbullying, gossip, etc.).

What did this activity teach you in general? Responses? Reactions?

What did it teach you about yourself? About others in the group?
How did it feel to see others step forward at the same time as you did for
some of the responses?
How did it feel to see others step forward when you didnt?
How does this exemplify empathy and help us try to better understand
each other?

Ask 2 people to repeat the Pirkei Avot texts

Judge every person favorably" (Pirkei Avot 1:6) Page 19 of sourcebook
Heb: dan lchaf zchut
Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place." (Pirkei Avot 2:5)
How can you apply dan lchaf zchut and the other text to what you learned?
What does this teach you about being yourself and accepting others as who they
are/being open/welcoming to others?
Discuss the idea dan lchaf zchut and learning to give everyone a fair chance
and not judging until weve been in there shoes. Ask them to share their own
examples of how how dan lchaf zchut and the other text applies to:
Gossip and rumors
Abilities (of all kinds, of different kinds)
Intelligence (of all kinds)
Transition into improv games
Sometimes we judge others without really giving them a chance to be who they
really are. Were going to give everyone a chance to let loose a little, without
judgments and place ourselves in other peoples shoes through some improv
fun. Remember Pirkei Avot and allow yourself to be free to be what you wish with
these games. No ones judging so relax and have fun!
Section II: Free to Be/Improv Games
Improv games allow you to break down barriers and act a little outside of the box,
outside of your comfort zone. There are no judgments, no stereotypes, no

negative perceptions or pre-conceived notions. You can be anything or anyone

you want to be.
African Chant
Someone calls out a profession. A contestant sings about that profession, with
the others accompanying the chants.
Contestants act a timed 90 second scene with each action in the scene starting
with successive letters of the alphabet.
Bad Applicants
Again, call out a profession or job. Have contestants present the World's Worst
applicants for that job.
Ballad Of...(Glee style!)
Two contestants sing a ballad about Mark or Liz (youth advisor).
Hollywood Couples
Two contestants improvise a scene changing into various famous couples
suggested by the audience.
Dating Service
Contestants act out short dating service videos using character types called out
by audience (example: football jock, nerd,
Point to make- everyone is looking for someone to accept them, no matter who
they are. There is someone out there for everyone whether it is a date or friend
so give everyone a chance!
One person interviews another with a third person sitting in the middle as the
interpreter. The interpreter and subject being interviewed speak in gibberish to
each other and the interpreter translates creatively and with humor to the
Point to make- sometimes there are friends of yours who dont feel like anyone
understands them. It can be your responsibility to speak up for that person.

Call out a scene. Contestants must each act out the scene in gospel or opera
(example: grocery shopping, doing the dishes, cleaning your room)
Home Shopping
Two contestants perform a home shopping program or info-mercial selling
useless items theyve invented.
Living Scenery
Two contestants act a scene using the others (audience members) as any
required props.
Moving People
Two contestants act out a given scene, but they can only move when moved by
two audience members.
The contestants perform a musical based on a situation someone in the
audience has recently experienced.