Friday, May 31, 2013

"EIE you changed my life" Ethan Ehrlich

This morning I woke up and read this on my youngest son's Facebook:

From the trip to Poland
"over the past four months, i have had the most amazing time of my life. I made countless memories, l'm sure lifelong friendships, and have totally changed as a person. I have been apart from you guys for around 12 hours and i already miss you guys more than i can bear. I love you all so much."

I couldn't be happier or prouder.  Ethan has been in Israel on EIE, the Reform Movement's High School in Israel semester program.  I know Ethan had a transformative experience although we did not hear much from him over the 4 months.  Weekly phone calls and sporadic emails and some Facebook postings; he didn't blog, post many pictures but we did have a great visit when I participated in the Parents Pilgrimage.  Reading this post this morning I knew, as I knew all along it was all worth it and then some.

I believe it is important to be grateful and to acknowledge those who have made Ethan's journey possible.  There are so many people I don't know where to begin.  

First to Ethan's chevre in Israel; I have written before you are an exceptional group of young Jewish adults.  I am intimately involved in the URJ's Campaign For Youth Engagement and I have seen the numbers and data and know that only a small percentage of Jewish youth take advantage of this program.  You are our ambassadors for being engaged in all things Jewish and Israel. Your relationship with Israel will change over the years and don't be afraid to wrestle with the issues and most importantly keep your relationship with Israel fresh.

 Remember your time together learning, experiencing and being a real Kehilah, community and take this experience to engage your friends and spread your enthusiasm.  Many of you will be at URJ camps this summer and I know you will have the opportunity to talk to the next generation of EIE participants.  

Todah Rabah to the faculty on EIE all of the teachers, (special thanks David Alon, Ethan's Jewish History teacher) Jewish history, Hebrew and secular studies!  You made sure our students kept up with their studies over the semester. You made Jewish History come alive, made sure our kids were learning and speaking Hebrew and still had time to work on Chemistry, Math and English.  

From EIE Aviv, (spring) 2013 Year Book

Baruch Kraus and David Solomon you are the Roshei, heads of this program and know how to keep things moving at just the right pace.  To all of the Madrichim if Baruch and David are the heads you are the lev, hearts of this program and I know from first hand experience it is not always easy but you certainly made it look like a breeze and fun to boot.  Todah Rabah.

At the Kotel
To our cousins and the many families who took these students in with love and care.  Ethan was able to experience an Israeli wedding and a Pesach Seder with our family.  Todah to Ronna, Miko, Omer, Tzhava, Yogev and Raanan for welcoming us as always to Israel, your home and your simchas.

To all the parents who sent your students on EIE; some of you are colleagues in the Jewish world and some of you  had never been to Israel until the Parents Pilgrimage.  I know I echo the sentiments of all of us when I say we are thankful for this group and the friendships that were formed.   

I could go on and on but need to leave soon to meet Ethan in Paris where our family is gathering for a fun vacation.  I know it will not be an easy entrance into the real world.  I am very glad Ethan will be at OSRUI this summer in our Avodah Corps with some of this chevre.  I can't wait to hear all his stories in person with even more pictures.  

I am passionate about teaching and experiencing all things Jewish, Israel and Hebrew.  EIE wraps it all up in one for me and am so glad Ethan had the time of his life.  I have not yet read Ron Wolfon's 
Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community but it's on my list of books to read.  I bet EIE is a great example of Ron is talking about and is certainly a way in which we can make a change in our own Jewish communities.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I love Confirmation!

My words to our Confirmation Class of 2013/5733

I love confirmation, the service, the students, their families; the whole experience.  I think back and remember that most of you were consecrated here not to mention all of your years in Religious and Hebrew school. This is my 23rd Confirmation class and our 60th confirmation class.  I can’t wait to get your picture up on the wall and for you to come back and visit all of us and see that picture.   
We learn in Psalms: From all of my teachers I have learned

 This year you have been my teacher and I have learned from you. I invite all of you back to be Madrichim in our school and to continue to study and learn at Lakeside.  One of you has already come back as a Madricha in our Hebrew school.

As a group you have participated in many activities including playing musical instruments including guitar, cello, and you enjoy the fine arts, sing in the choir and do theater crew.   You participate in sports, tennis, biking, basketball and track and field. You dance all types of dance and you are active in BBYO.  You love Jewish camping, especially at OSRUI and I hope that you will all go to Israel one day.

You have participated in many mitzvot including mitzvah day at Lakeside Congregation when you went to the food bank with Rabbi Serotta or stayed here and tie dyed t-shirts.  5 of you went with Rabbi Serotta and Anita Pildes on our annual New York trip.  You had some great stories to tell us when you got back.  Some of you are the oldest in your families and some of you are the youngest or the only in your families.  Your parents are active members of Sisterhood, teach in our school, have sat on the Religious School committee, worked in the Religious School office, organized PADS and our trips to the Beth Emet Soup Kitchen, been  outstanding ushers at B’nai Mitzvah, blown Shofar, sat on our Board of Directors, have been confirmed at Lakeside, I was at the confirmation of someone’s Mom, as a guest, not as a teacher.  Tonight we are so glad that all of you are part of the Lakeside Family.

Students you have all volunteered for me and pitched in at the Religious school when we needed help, which is more often than not, especially for the Purim carnival.   I am proud to be here with you tonight, of all your speeches of what mentches you have become.  I can only hope that Lakeside and I played a small part in your development.  I wish you and your families, Mazel Tov. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jaffa Oranges and Mitzvah Day

Jaffa Oranges from Anton's
Yesterday in my Kitah Aleph class I gave my Jaffa Orange lecture which I first heard from a fantastic teacher, Chana Reich.  I remember observing Chana teach almost 30 years ago at Temple Emanuel and she would take out a Jaffa orange in her Hebrew school class.  She would tell her Kitah Bet students that this orange was grown in Israel and that the sun in Israel had sweetened it and that even the infrequent rain in Israel for which we pray daily helped it  grow.  I had tears in my eyes at the end of her speech and of course her students couldn't wait to get a taste of that orange.  

Kitah Aleph
So yesterday I did my best Chana Reich impression and  brought a whole case of Jaffa Mandarins.  I gave the speech about Israel, the mandarin growing there and that I had just gotten back from Israel.  Of course by the end my students couldn't wait to get a taste of Israel. They even asked to take home the extra's for their siblings.  When my teachers saw that I had Jaffa oranges they all smiled because I think it makes them think about Israel.  

Mitzvah Day Collections and t-shirt
What does this have to do with Mitzvah day at Lakeside you say?  I not only like the taste of Jaffa oranges but I like the idea of supporting Israel by buying these oranges.  I hope that you come out to Mitzvah day at Lakeside and help support some great causes.  We have a tie dye t-shirts project that will benefit  Be The Match, we have project Linus making blankets.  We also have out of the building experiences at the Northern Illinois Food to help process 1,000 pounds in 2 hours.  It's not too late to sign up we could use a few more volunteers for all of these worthy causes. The schedule for the morning is: 
 8:30 am is Registration with a light breakfast, followed by T'filot, at 9:00am and then we move out to do our projects.  I know everyone has a good feeling when they finish doing Mitzvah day.  Try it out and pick up some Jaffa oranges on your way!