The month of May is over, and it has been nine months since Dana and I arrived in the Jewish community of the heart of New Jersey. The schoolyear coming to an end, and farewells from the community and the institutions we work at have begun. It feels very close to the end, but it’s not really the end…
Dana and I still have three more months here in the US – two out of which we’ll be camp counselors at Camp Nah-Jee-Wah. There we will meet more children from the community and spend the entire summer with them teaching them about Israel and sharing our Israeli perspective.
I feel sad parting with Federation, but I’m also happy because I can clearly see the impact I’ve had on the children I worked with, and the impact they’ve had on me. I’m grateful for the long journey I have been through this year: the successes and achievements and difficult times and challenges. They all make up this journey called shinshin – shnat sherut (a year of service).
The fact that it is so hard to conclude my time here, shows how significant this experience was for me. Seeing how emotional the children at the synagogues were in our last meeting - some crying, some brining farewell gifts and letters, shows how much we touched each other’s hearts. I feel they learnt a lot and that our engagement this year made them more connected to Israel, developing a personal relationship to it.
What complicates this farewell is that I will be soon entering a new chapter in my life. Once I return to Israel. I will be enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). So, I will not be able just to ‘come and visit.’ I will be in a new setting, stricter than my year at Federation, confronting many new challenges. I hope to be back, but only in a few years – and by then, much will change and my many friends and acquaintances here will be more mature and grown up.
When I was asked to summarize what I did with the children as part of my year-end report – what activities we engaged in, what were the highlights of the year, special days and interesting topics, etc. – I compiled a very long list. It was great to take stock of how many new things the kids learned, how they changed, and how much they developed. I was so lucky to learn about each one of them, and to learn so much from them, too!
It is amazing how much I’ve learned this year about day-to-day Jewish life in the US; how being Jewish is a matter of choice, not always obvious, as it is in Israel; how beautiful pluralism in Judaism is, with the possibility of choosing the community life one finds most appealing.
These are things I wouldn’t even begin to imagine before this year, and certainly would not understand. I feel privileged to have been exposed to this and I will bring this information and experience with me back to Israel. I will tell my friends and family about Jewish life in the heart of New Jersey and serve as a sort of ambassador for the Jewish community of New Jersey.
After a year of teaching Jewish children about life in Israel, I will go back to my community and share with them my wonderful and powerful experience here. For me, this was an experience of a lifetime, one which changed and shaped me. I thank every person who was part of this journey and those I had the opportunity to meet, and of course, learn from. I will always treasure my time here. Shalom!