Hopes for a Shabbat Shalom

Since Wednesday I have been at Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp (Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps) in Malibu. This is my 8th summer spending a week with not only our campers from TBS, but with campers from all over Southern California and Arizona. (I’ll share more thoughts later about why it’s so great to send our kids to Jewish camp, but for now, our thoughts are with Israel.)

I spent today with the older campers at CHK engaging in a discussion about the matzav, the situation, in Israel. All of them were aware of it before they came to camp but now, with a no screen rule (meaning, they are not allowed to have their phones or connection to the internet), the campers and staff are disconnected from the news so that we can be fully connected to our own camp community. While it’s good to be disconnected from our devices our thoughts and hearts continue to turn to the east with friends and family who are in Israel.

There is a collective concern in our community for the 50+ campers now in Israel and for the many shlichim, Israeli counselors, who have worked at CHK in years past. The Israeli staff with us this summer are concerned about their own family and friends, some of whom are on the front lines at this time. Everyone has a connection to Israel. And being people of action, they want to know what can they do? A question we all ask.

For this Shabbat, here are a few things for all of us to consider doing:

  1. Join in the efforts by the URJ to bring relief and support to those in Israel by visiting: http://urj.org/israel/ and stay informed locally through our own Jewish Federation of Orange County.
  2. Stay informed, but also know when to take a break. I’m just as addicted as the next person to Social Media, but sometimes the amount of information becomes overwhelming. This Shabbat, rather than spending time reading all the posts about Israel, TALK to your family and friends about what Israel means to you. Rather than connect via the internet, connect personally. I promise, the internet will be there after Shabbat is over.
  3. Add an extra Shabbat candle to bring light to a darkened time and include a prayer for peace. Either the one below or the words of your own heart.

I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom from camp and together, we all pray for peace for all people, in Israel, for those in Gaza and for all people throughout the world.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Heidi Cohen

As we gather this Shabbat…

As we gather this Shabbat, each in our own community, we will be united in our grief and pain over the violence this week in Israel. We weep, as our mother Rachel wept: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping! Rachel is weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for them, for they are no more. (Jeremiah 31:15)

To our prayers this Shabbat we add a prayer for Medinat Yisrael – the State of Israel – and for her people, our brothers and sisters.

From Psalm 122:6-9

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you prosper! Let there be peace in your homes, safety within your borders. For the sake of my people, my friends, I pray you find peace. For the sake of the house of the Eternal our God, I will seek your good.

Eternal God, grant blessing to the State of Israel, created to fulfill an age-old dream and to be a haven for the oppressed. Protect her people with Your grace, shelter them with Your peace, and grant them deliverance from the violence that surrounds them. May they live in harmony with one another and with their neighbors. May the bonds of faith and fate that unite the Jews of all lands be a source of strength to Israel and us all.

Libi B’Mizrach – My Heart is in the East

Libi b’mizrach – My heart is in the east.

It has been an intense nine days. It even started before that with the tragic killings of three Israeli young men and a Palestinian boy, all by extremists on both sides. We as Jews can’t say we don’t have extremists too, that would be ignorant.

For nine days rockets have been and are being directed into Israel from Gaza. Israel attempted peace by leaving Gaza in 2007 in hopes that the people within that area would begin to build a foundation for living independently and in peace with its neighbors. However, instead of building homes and a responsible government, Hamas has built a society that longs to bring terror to Israel, and in their words, “replace Israel in its entirety with a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled state.”

We turn on the news and we cannot avoid hearing about what is taking place in Israel and Gaza. Yet, having lived in Israel and knowing the people and the land, we must not always rely on what we see on all the major news channels. (Even John Stewart, a nice Jewish boy, frustrated me last night! – not saying that he is the most reliable news source, but there are enough people who use him for their daily dose of news rather than parody. But a cultural influence just the same.)

All of us need to have part of our hearts in the east. All of us need to feel some kind of connection with the Jewish people and the Jewish state who at this time hear the sounds of sirens going off many times an hour depending on where they are in the country. All of us need to be aware of what Israel means to us as Jews and the world. All of us need to be connected. We cannot let Israel be or feel alone. Our hearts should be in the east.

I’ve recently downloaded the app, Red Alert: Israel. It alerts me on my phone that a siren is going off in Israel because of an impending rocket. Yes, you can turn the sound off, however, there is something about having the sound on while in meetings, Torah study, and yes, even Shabbat services last week. It provides a slight feeling of being disturbed in the middle of an activity or even the middle of the night and know there is less than one minute to get into a shelter.

Read the news coming out of Israel. Read the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz or Times of Israel, all very good sources that will give you a good sense of what is really happening. Join the Jewish Federation Family Services of Orange County who have partnered with the Reform and Conservative movements, and make a donation that will help provide emergency aid to Israel’s citizens and soldiers.

This is not the time for us to just think, ‘Israel is on the other side of the world. What happens there doesn’t really affect me.’ Yes, it does! It affects all of us.

At this time we have a number of our youth touring throughout Israel on TIES and Birthright. They are all safe and having an amazing time. Their leaders are in constant connection with security and their schedule is always being adjusted depending on the moment. And as I’ve said to the parents of these youth, I would not hesitate to have my children there right now. I know they are safe and I know that while there is so much intense action happening, life continues in Israel. People are going to restaurants for dinner, friend’s houses for Shabbat and studying. Yes, life is interrupted by sirens that call them into shelters, but then, when the all clear is sounded (many thanks to Iron Dome), life continues.

Libi b’mizrach, my heart is in the east and I hope all of our hearts are there as we pray for peace for all people! May it come soon! Oseh shalom bimromav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu!