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“We are strong and determined, working tirelessly to take care of many people.”
We in the South have been living under difficult conditions for several weeks already. We do not know from day to day what will be: will the authorities allow our summer camp to be held? How many sirens, rockets and trips to the bomb shelter will we make? How many will die in battle? We are all in mourning over the loss of life.
It is difficult functioning under such stress and uncertainty. Yet, we are strong and determined, working tirelessly to take care of many people. We sent off a van full of basic supplies collected by our Kehilla, Magen Avraham, to soldiers on the front; I visited Sherri’s Home for abused children to tell stories, sing songs and pray with them. We have put together some critical relief programs for the Kehilla and for the kids at our summer camp, including a visit from Amichai Lau-Lavi (Storahtelling) and the musician/singer Gabriel Meyer Halevy.
The Masorti Movement in Israel has been amazingly supportive, providing emergency funding for our efforts. We are grateful for all of the help we have received from them and from other individuals. We feel that so many of our brothers and sisters are united with us in this struggle and appreciate all of your prayers, support and love
Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff, CY 2001-2003, Kehillat Magen Avraham, Omer, Israel
On being a Hillel Professional in these times of war
Needless to say, these are complicated days to be a Jew.
Whether “left” or “right” or wrestling in the “middle,” this war is difficult to read about even if it is easier to make sense of.
More than any previous conflict, the trauma of the war has reached us in unprecedented ways. An app synched to Israeli “Code Red” warnings blasts a siren as you lay in bed. A ferocious barrage of images and voices pummel your Facebook feed. Jews are physically attacked at rallies in Paris, L.A., Calgary.
We all can live on a frontline of this battle. We all can be wounded – in the soul and in the body.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the 40 Birthright students with whom I traveled to Israel this past May. It was such an expansive journey – so much clarity and love and renewal. The land, in all her beauty, spoke with us. The people – the young soldiers – were so earnest and full of joy.
How have my students fared over the past month? How have their starry impressions and memories dwelt alongside images of falling rockets, the deaths of Jewish teenagers, the representation of Israel on news channels and social media? How has this war aroused feelings of doubt? How has it inspired zeal and pride?
For Hillel professionals, there is so much work to be done.
Our role during these days must be primarily pastoral – we must be ardently available for our students. Our posture is an open door, an available ear, and an understanding heart. And students need to know this.
We must invite students in the most public and private ways to reach out and speak their souls.
As Hillel professionals out there on the “frontlines” of students’ lives, our role today is to accompany students as they intentionally or accidentally experience Jewish self-authorship in the midst of this conflict.
Our role today is not about striving to stake our own claim. We have to be conscientious about how our own drive to make sense of this war – especially if that drive takes place in the public forum – may unknowingly close the doors of trust and safety that students anxiously pass through in their desire to approach us.
We know that in our world the boundary between private and public is increasingly blurred. In our peculiar and holy work with students the lines between personal and professional are necessarily complicated. We must mind how public confessions of the former – no matter how righteous – may negatively impact the pressing responsibilities of the latter.
Even in times of war, our mission continues – to enrich the lives of Jewish students. Hillel professionals can demonstrate transformative leadership by positioning ourselves as intensely available to students. We can be courageous, capable of sitting with and validating the emotional and intellectual complexity of the conflict. And we can display strength by cautiously approaching the invitation to participate in public battles of ideology and faith where often the only casualties are depth and civility.
We will be rewarded with the greater prize of our work – having a positive role in the emerging lives of this Jewish generation.
Rabbi Joshua Bolton, CY 2009-2010, is Senior Jewish Educator for the Jewish Renaissance Project at Penn Hillel