By Brian Avner, RJE and Rachel Margolis, RJE, Tzofim Segel (Faculty)
This session our Kibbutz HaTzofim chanichim (campers) are exploring important moments in Jewish history. Our time together is guided by the saying דַּע מֵאַיִן בָּאתָ, וּלְאָן אַתָּה הוֹלֵךְ – Know from where you come, and where you are going (Pirkei Avot 3:1). As we travel back in time to key moments in Jewish history, we connect with modern issues of today and our middot (values) for the summer.
On Thursday, we started our morning by reading Torah quietly, explaining to the chanichim that we had to pretend that we didn’t have a Torah and couldn’t let anyone hear us. As everyone gathered around the Torah, we sang in a whisper and stood close to one another so that people passing by wouldn’t see the Torah scroll itself. Later, during tochnit boker (morning program), we traveled back in time to meet Jews from 1880s Eastern Europe. They shared their troubles with the eidah (unit), and met HIAS – the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The chanichim eagerly explained why these Jews would want to move to America, religious freedom being first among their answers. In their ohalim (tents) they discussed why it’s important for us, as Jews, to welcome the stranger, as we are commanded to do repeatedly throughout the Torah. The chanichim then created welcome cheers and rituals to use when people enter their ohel or the Tzofim area.
Our chanichim then took all of their enthusiasm and ideas to design letters, artwork, and motivational signs that we will be sending to refugee families who are trying to come to America. They employed our middot of derech eretz (community mindedness) and ometz (perseverance) to write beautiful messages that included encouraging words and their own stories of endurance in achieving something hard. In their own words…
It’s a beautiful day now that you’re here!
You’re hard work will pay off! Our home is also your home!
The world is one family – we are all in this together!
Home is a place you carry inside of you wherever you go. A house is just a place to put it. Remember that you are welcome here, even when times are hard.
This is OSRUI. At OSRUI we build a culture of kindness and welcoming. At OSRUI we cheer others on. At OSRUI we celebrate our attempts – whether we succeed or not. At OSRUI we know, as one chanich wrote, “There might not always be GOOD in the world,” and yet, we strive to “BE THE GOOD.”
Brian Avner, RJE is the Director of Youth Education at Congregation Sinai in Fox Point, WI. Rachel Margolis, RJE is Senior Program Manager of Congregational Innovations at the Union for Reform Judaism, and serves on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.