What a meaningful couple of days we’ve had here! On Monday evening we brought in Tisha B’av, the annual fast day that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as many other hardships that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history. Campers lit tealight candles, read Eicha (Lamentations) and watched the film A Hero in Heaven, about Michael Levin — an Israeli soldier who lost his life in the Second Lebanon War, and a close personal friend of Assistant Director David Furman.
On Tuesday many of our campers and staff chose to fast, and we had a full day of learning about Jewish history and celebrating the resilience of our people. It was remarkable to see how our campers and staff engaged with the heavy educational content of the day. We recreated The Trial of God, as told by Elie Wiesel, we discussed what being a Jew means to each of us, stuck notes into a cardboard Kotel, and saw a presentation by Rob Jacobs from StanWithUs about Israel advocacy.
To end the day we burnt down the coardboard Kotel, representing the destruction of the Temples and I read this speech, which I had prepared based on the many inspirational things that I had witnessed throughout the day.
We mourn the loss of life of our people, and all peoples, but we march onward through time. We bend, we don’t break. We adapt without losing our essence. We grow cities out of the rubble of our troubled past. We build synagogues in the place where a great temple once stood. We question where God is, or perhaps more accurately why God is absent in our darkest moments. Yet, out of the smoke of a burning temple, the chambers of Auschwitz, or rocket fire, grows a resilience that burns hotter than any fire and a mission to bring even more light into a troubled world.
Those who do not agree with our way of life have tried to kill us, but they have all failed. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans — we saw them all rise and fall, and yet we are still here. We are still here and we are as strong as ever. We show no signs of our age, no weakening of our values, no dimming of our people’s light onto the world.
Mark Twain said, “All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is their secret of immortality?” I see the answer to that question right here. It is in our values, our desire to repair the world, and our unwavering commitment to support and love our community. So as we look back at the tragic moments in our history we give pause to pay tribute and remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, but we continue to look, and march, forward into the future with optimism, confidence and a love of Am Yisrael. We do not live under a veil of tears, in mourning of a temple lost, rather, we celebrate our resilience to grow ever-stronger and to shine even brighter.
And with that Tisha B’av came to an end and we launched straight into Israel Day! Our Israeli staff members jumped up from within the crowd of campers with cans of shaving cream, Israeli music came blasting through our sound system and fireworks lit up the sky! Dancing continued into the the night, Maariv was prayed with gusto and everyone chowed down on Einstein bagels to break the fast! It was a very special time to be at Camp Solomon Schechter, and proved once again that this is truly a place where Judaism and Joy are one!
Camp Solomon Schechter, 2014