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We’re All Sh’lichim. The Rest Is Commentary

Posted on 04/25/2014 @ 01:02 PM

שלום לכולם מארץ ישראל!

Hello all from the Land of Israel! I hope you each had meaningful Pesach holidays. For me, our annual call-to-action of ‘next year in Jerusalem’ was actualized, and I made progress forward in a decade long game I have going – celebrate every major Jewish/Israeli holiday in Israel. With four left until chag bingo, Passover moved me closer to ‘winning’. Next week, I’ll commemorate Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, for my first time within the borders of the Jewish Homeland. Five different times in my life, I’ve commemorated Yom HaShoah from within Poland.

This week, BBYO’s North American delegation for the March of the Living departs, while at the same time, Tamar Sternfeld, Rachel Meytin and I are in Israel at a Jewish Agency/iCenter seminar to amplify BBYO’s Israel education efforts and strengthen our embrace of Israeli Sh’lichim at BBYO’s Summer Experiences. And, today, six Israeli Sh’lichim that represent a growing summer staff network for BBYO, eager to meet and inspire thousands of Diaspora teens at CLTC, ILTC and Kallah, will officially be matched with us for Summer 2014.

So, where’s the thread through all this? Here goes.

This week’s Parsha is Kedoshim from the Book of Leviticus. It bears a long list of moral expectations and ethical teachings to prepare them for their future independence of establishing, building and stewarding a thriving ‘Jewish’ community. The portion is rich with specifics, and the details can be overwhelming. When Rabbi Hillel was asked to teach the Torah while standing on one foot, he said, “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.” Okay, so love your neighbor as you love yourself. Got it.

This morning I found myself sitting at one of Tel Aviv’s busiest intersections just taking in Israel. Taking in the people, the Israelis. Jews. Judaism. Taking in Jewish life. I thought about how crazy it is that something as simple as there being a Jewish café in a Jewish mall in a Jewish city in a Jewish state 70 years ago was beyond the wildest dreams. Do the average ‘millennial’ Israeli teens, born and raised as Sabras, ever appreciate that what is here is special? Do our U.S., Canadian or other ‘global’ Jewish BBYOers realize what they have today is special? Do we, as Jewish professionals and influencers of Jewish identity consider that enough? Do we consider it at all? I’m overwhelmed again.

Here is how I understand both the Torah portion and Rabbi Hillel’s summary: We, as Jews, are all Sh’lichim. The role we play as proud, committed Jews is to serve as emissaries, ambassadors, living narratives intended to engage, inspire and strengthen Jewish pride, knowledge and commitment through every kind of relationship we can muster.

The teens on the March of the Living will be Sh’lichim to their peers and broader communities as they share what they witnessed. Tamar, Rachel and I, alongside you this summer, are Sh’lichim of Diaspora Jewish life to Israelis, who need to learn as much about the opportunities and challenges of Diaspora Jewish life as we need to learn about Israel. And our Maccabi Tzair Sh’lichim will bring warmth and information from our eternal homeland into our lives, too.

While the commemoration in Poland resonates with me deeply, this Yom HaShoah, I will relish in the fact that on Holocaust Memorial Day my feet are firmly on the ground in Eretz Yisrael embracing Diaspora and Israeli Jews alike as we collaborate across generations, cultures and time zones to prepare for summers of life-long relationships that will permanently bind young Jews to our People, to our homeland and to each other. From Pesach’s tales of wandering to Yom HaShoah’s testimonials of destruction, let next week be a moment when we each reflect on the significant role we all play in strengthening the ‘Jewish nation’, every day across North America and around the world. We’re all Zionists. We’re all Sh’lichim. The rest is commentary.

P.S. All that’s left are the High Holidays and Sukkot … who’s game?! (This Shabbat message was written by Ian Kandel, Director of AZA and BBG)

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