My Jewish Family

My sisters from Itamar

 

 

As I was on my way to Yeshuv Itamar in the hills of Samaria, my bus stopped to let on a family.  Since leaving from the central  station in Jerusalem, the bus had already been full with mothers, children, and fathers excited to come home for Shabbat.  The woman coming on to the bus had 7 children. The bus had only 1 seat left.

 I had sat in the front so I could feel the force of the hills as I entered the Shomron, but had not expected the surprise I would receive from my position.  Onto my lap came a 2 year old girl, hair in pigtails, smiling at her other siblings who were similarly occupying the laps of 6 other strangers that had accepted the responsibility of “seating” for the remainder of the trip.  

As an au pair in Israel, babysitting became a team effort.  Mothers I came across in the park would instruct me on keeping the baby warm, feeding her enough. I was never at a loss for advice.  At first, I took it as an insult. Eventually, I took their advice with appreciation and knew they only had my charge’s best interests at heart.

Here in Boston, I spend many of my Shabbats with an Israeli family at their house. I am welcomed in as a family member, invited over during the week, and I have an open invitation for a bed if I ever get sick in Boston and don’t want to be alone.  I call them my “adopted family” and I don’t think they realize how much of a blessing it is to have found them here in a city far from my home. 

Whether it be in Yesha or  it be in a different city in the United States, I never feel uncomfortable going to a fellow Jewish families house for Shabbat. Always, I know I feel at home. How is it that I can feel so comfortable in a complete stranger’s house? That I know I will be taken in with open arms and treated like a family member?

The Jewish people is more than a nation. The Jewish people is a family, and if Israel is the physical embodiment of the Jewish soul, then it makes sense that I feel comfortable with a stranger’s baby on my lap, or walking in to a stranger’s home, because, in reality, these people are no strangers. They are my family.

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A Summer Camp Shabbat

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I’ll never forget Friday nights at Camp Barney Medintz.

Regardless of how many times I would shower during the week, I always felt cleanest on those Shabbat evenings.  Maybe it was the white shirts from my first year that turned into sundresses in my last years, or the extra time I would take getting ready simply because I knew that somehow that night was special, or the half a day on the cabin calendar that was allocated to Shabbat preparations, but something at CBM changed on those evenings.

I can attribute my impressive knowledge of folk rock to the programs given out as I walked into the Chapel.  The song lyrics contained in those papers defined my American Jewish Summer Camp experience. Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews Band, and Harry Chapin provided a soundtrack to searching for my cabin in the giant chapel and looking forward to the chicken, the brisket and the opportunity to sit with our brothers and sisters that would always follow during dinner.

I can’t deny the closeness I would feel to my camp friends as we swayed together, our arms on each other’s shoulders, singing Debbie Friedman covers and CBM classics.  For once, all of Barney was under one roof, all of our voices joining in song, celebrating another week that had passed at our Summer place.  Miriam’s Song rang loud and clear and we danced with our own imaginary timbrels as the song leaders played their guitars next to the lucky unit that got to guide the service that evening.  The setting sun was the only reminder of the passing of time as we forgot that each Shabbat brought us closer to the end of our perfect summer.

Now that I have ceased to be a camper and finished my term on staff, I often am reminded of those special Shabbat evenings nestled in the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains.  When I have campers of my own, I plan on sending them to CBM, my special place, if not for anything else but simply so they too can enjoy the beauty of those Friday evenings.  I hope that on CBM Friday night dinners, they sit with each other just as I did with my own brother. I hope they’re not afraid to join in when the song leaders sing Hallelujah, and most of all, I hope that they invite me to a parent’s weekend because no matter what stage of life I am in, I’ll always want to return to those Friday nights at Camp Barney Medintz.