By Emma Herman
Shabbat is more than just a “day off” for many Jews around the world. It’s often referred to as a day of physical and spiritual joy which is used to rest and reconnect with family and friends. On Shabbat, we remember our past, honor our present, and pray for our future. I can think of no better way to express the beauty of Shabbat than to share with you a unique experience I participated in called, “Shabbat to Remember.”
Each year at BBYO’s International Kallah summer program, participants have the honor and privilege of welcoming Holocaust survivors to camp for a weekend coined, “Shabbat to Remember.” As a youth-led movement, teens are handed the reigns to take ownership of many of our programs, and this Shabbat was certainly no different. Over 250 teens came together to plan, execute and participate in all aspects of this magical weekend. From designing the atmosphere in our chadar ochel (dining hall) to scripting an impactful Kabbalat Shabbat service, no stone was left unturned. As a teen coordinator of International Kallah this summer, I felt immense pride watching our community come together to take part in this remarkable experience. Having heard from seven Holocaust survivors this summer, we all acknowledged a responsibility to bear witness and pass down each of their stories for generations to come.
Seven of my fellow teens delivered an incredibly meaningful D’var Torah during our Shabbat to Remember Shabbat morning service and I’m excited to have an opportunity to share it with you. I hope you find meaning in it as well
Ari: This week’s parsha is Pinchas. At the start of Pinchas, G-d instructs Moses to conduct a census of all the Israelites following the mass devastation of the plague which struck at the end of last week’s parsha.
Miriam: Moses begins telling the Israelites about the laws of property and how inheritance should be passed down from father to son. In a rare turn of events Moses is challenged on this. Five women protest that they should be allowed to inherit their father’s property even though they are not men. Amazingly, G-d agreed with them and tells Moses to change the law to include women.
Ella: Moses then turns to G-d and acknowledges that he will not enter the land with his people. He asks for someone who can lead the Jewish people so they won’t be “as sheep with no Shepherd.” Moses recognizes the importance of having someone to carry on his legacy.
Maya: Prior to his death, as a self-aware leader, Moses recognizes the need for the Jewish people to have a new authority figure. A new individual who could keep the story, values, and traditions of the Jewish people alive even when he wasn’t around. Moses recognizes a future beyond himself, the bigger picture.
Hannah: Joshua becomes Moses’ successor. In the parsha Shalak, Joshua and 11 other tribe heads were sent to judge the land of Israel. While the others cowered in fear in the face of terrifying giants, Joshua remained faithful to his ideals and believed that G-d would save him.
Sam: The incredible, wise, courageous survivors here with us today, have faced the unspeakable and yet continue to uphold their values and engage with their Jewish identity. We are so unbelievably lucky to have them here with us today.
Maya: Like Moses, they hold wisdom beyond our understanding, an ability to persevere through the hardest times, and a devotion to Judaism and life even when it wasn’t easy. They are storytellers and we stand here today as their successors.
Ari: We are the last generation who will hear these stories from the source. Listen closely, and soak everything in.
Miriam: We must take the mantle of passing down the narrative.
Ella: But this is ours! Make videos and testimonials. Flood social media with facts and information to educate the public. Push the knowledge to our children and grandchildren so we can truly embody the phrase – “never again.”
Sam: Such senseless hatred should never have happened to the Jews, Armenians, South Africans or anyone else. As the generation who hears from survivors, we know the devastation and pain that hate can cause, and we never want that imposed on anyone,
Miriam: As Jews, we must love the stranger among us, and protect them if needed. Stand up for the weak since we have been in their place. Now we are the listeners, but in 10 years we will be telling their stories. Let’s use this special opportunity to learn and grow as both Jewish activists and Jewish people!
Hannah: This Shabbat is called Shabbat to remember. We aren’t here just to listen and discuss, we are here to remember our people’s shared history and be able to tell it. Just as Moshe and Joshua passed the Torah to the people, we must tell the stories and spread the ideas of love, kindness, and respect to the world.
All: Shabbat Shalom!
Emma Herman lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland and recently graduated from high school. She is a teen coordinator at BBYO’s International Kallah summer program in Lake Como, Pennsylvania, and most recently served as International Shlicha (vice president of Jewish enrichment) during the 2018-2019 school year on BBYO’s International Teen Board.