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.