Why I Do What I Do

Photo courtesy Chabad.org/News
Photo courtesy Chabad.org/News

By Jeff Bicher

Whether it is known as Peoplehood, Am Israel or just one really large family, the Jewish People are connected to each other, not limited by any geographical boundaries. When one is in pain, we all feel it. And when one is happy, we all smile.

On a whim, a group of us booked flights from Montreal to Tel Aviv, joining my friend and spiritual leader, Rabbi Mark Fishman on a Peoplehood solidarity mission. Sitting in our kitchen, surrounded by the proof of our children’s day school education on our walls, my wife and I decided that there was no way that I would go to Israel without her. And equally as important, there was no way that we would be getting on a plane, at this time, for this reason, without our children.

Four days later we boarded an El Al flight and got rerouted to Boston, to pick up some stranded travelers. Enter a very special educator and man. He is a camp guy, still a camp guy, living in Israel. He is returning home after accompanying the body of slain American Ezra Schwartz z”l home. He seemed tired. And couldn’t believe what we were doing. He was touched. I was just honoured to be sitting next to him.

And then this past Wednesday, we landed in Israel, going directly to Jerusalem. On Thursday night, fourteen of us, including my children, went to the wedding of Sara Litman and Ariel Beigle. We answered Sara’s call to celebrate the Simcha with her. As you may know, as she was sitting shiva for her father Rabbi Ya’akov Litman z”l and her brother Netanel Litman z”l, who were gunned down by terrorists just days before, Sara told the Jewish world that her wedding will go on, a week later than originally planned, and the couple was inviting all of Israel.

Before leaving, we explained to our 9-year old son and 6-year old daughter what had happened to Sara’s father and brother. We told them that even though we didn’t know them, somehow we are connected. We explained that Sara was asking everyone to celebrate with them, helping their married life start on the right foot. Our children were so excited to fly halfway around the world just to dance at a wedding of people we never met before.

Whether it is because of Hebrew day school or Jewish camping, our children understood right away the importance of the mitzvah that they would be doing. They took it so seriously. It was our job to dance, so we did. They understood how we are all tied together.

We were lucky enough to make it to the Chupah as well. We witnessed the couple unite, and then danced and sang our hearts out. The experience was not lost on any of us there and I sincerely hope that the family felt the love from all around the world. The wedding party celebrated with so many people that they have never met before, including some of my camp staff, Hillel students, and community members from back home.

And as both a father and Jewish communal professional, I could not have been any prouder. This is why I do what I do. This is why we all do what we do, volunteers and professionals alike. And I anticipate that in the future, when a Jewish educator asks my children to share a meaningful Jewish experience or their Jewish journey, they will remember this experience. If they turn out anything like their dad, I anticipate a few tears as well.

Am Israel Chai!

Based in Montreal, Jeff Bicher is the Executive Director and CEO of Hillel Montreal, the Director of Camp Massad and the Lead of JAB Strategies, a consulting firm helping not-for-profit organizations thrive. jeff@hillel.ca or jeff@campmassad.org