A Life Lesson Learned From Travel Camp About the War

By Mark Weintraub

I have had a crazy week at the JCC. This includes the financial audit, reviewing our new google ad campaign, a monthly “Capital Capabilities” planning call, meeting of our “Outdoor Task Force” to plan for the Natural Outdoor Play Space, meeting our 2014 Gala Honorees, meeting a representative of a bank’s charitable foundation to discuss increased support , meeting with staff to brainstorm on new ideas for JCC programs and just running the JCC.

And then there is our JCC Travel Camp Shaliach Martin Abadi. Martin is a young Israeli in his early 20’s who my wife and I hosted at our home. Martin came to the JCC right after completing his military service in the IDF as a Commander in a Paratrooper Unit. No simple task, jumping out of planes into dangerous territory to defend Israel. It takes courage and discipline.

Since the war started in Israel, Martin would come to my office to update me on a daily basis. How many soldiers we (Israel) lost, where rockets were landing and where they were intercepted. Because I could get the same news from TV or the internet and I had this crazy week, I half-heartedly listened to Martin, thinking about the next item on my “to do” list.

One day this week, Martin opened the door to my office during an important meeting. I was kind of disturbed and thought it a bit rude, but then remembered he is young and Israeli! I signaled for him to come back later. He interrupted again to inform me about a soldier named Liad Lavi who died last Shabbat from injuries suffered in battle.

Liad Lavi was born and raised in the Eshkol region. He was accepted to an elite paratroopers unit. He was an excellent soldier and and started moving through the ranks. He also was a great person with a big smile who everyone loved. Liad made a conscious decision not move up the army ranks because he would have less connection to his soldiers.

Liad Lavi served for 4 months as a paratroop commander with Martin Abadi.

Shortly after hearing Martin’s story, I received an email forwarded from Doron Rubin, our Partnership 2Gether Shalich for the Eshkol Region cancelling an upcoming Federation/Partnership SKYPE call to discuss how we can express solidarity with the Eshkol region.

The reason the call was cancelled: the entire Eshkol community will be attending the funeral and mourning the passing of Liad Lavi.

So, our JCC Camp Shaliach taught me a valuable lesson this week. About the need to stop, pause and remember what is truly important. About our connectivity to Jews across the globe and “Kol Yisrael Areviim Ze Be Zeh” – All of Israel are responsible for one another.

Thank you Martin for giving me a life lesson I will never forget. Consider this email a memorial to your friend Liad Lavi’s life, which ended so abruptly and whom I will never have the honor to know.

Mark Weintraub is Executive Director of Robert and Dorothy Ludwig JCC of Schenectady.