Please enjoy a D’var Torah this week from Rosh Machon 2015, Isaac Katz. Isaac is completing his undergraduate work at the Ross School of Business of the University of Michigan, where he will earn his BBA this Spring. After the summer, Isaac will begin working for Rosetta in New York. Isaac is a lifetime Ramahnik returning for his fourth summer on staff and first as a Rosh Aidah. Reflections on Yom Ha’atzmaut by Isaac Katz
Reflecting on Yom Ha’atzmaut (which was on Thursday of this week), I am so grateful to have always been part of a community that celebrates Israel’s Independence Day. Growing up in Skokie and now at the University of Michigan, I’ve experienced incredible enthusiasm and engagement with Israel throughout my life. But aside from physically being in the land, I have always felt most connected to Israel when I am at camp.
When in Israel, I am amazed by the way the land itself feels holy. Similarly, camp creates an environment that elevates campers and staff and enriches their lives with Judaism. At camp, campers and staff regularly use Hebrew words and phrases, creating a comforting and home-like environment, similar to the feeling I get when I’m in Israel. And through Jewish learning and prayer, we share practices and spiritual commonalities on a daily basis.
But by far the greatest impact on my relationship with Israel has been through interacting with the Mishlachat. Every summer, dozens of Israeli Shlichim arrive in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin, bringing their culture, experiences, and knowledge to share with the campers and staff. The Shlichim provide an unparalleled experience, where campers and staff of all ages can learn through organic interactions and genuine conversations. Beginning with my first summer in Shoafim, the Mishlachat have played an integral role in every summer, as role models both socially and educationally.
One particular memory that stands out is from my Nivonim summer. On a Friday night after Shabbat dinner, my Aidah sat in the Ohel Yitzhak and our staff introduced Jerusalem as our Shabbat theme. To kick off the Shabbat programming, we hosted several members of the Mishlachat from across different Aidot in camp. Each Mishlachat member shared their personal connection to Jerusalem and discussed their opinions on potentially dividing the city through a peace deal. Sitting in that room, I was amazed by the diverse perspectives and stories shared, and I will always appreciate the honesty displayed by the Mishlachat.
After Nivonim, upon completing their time at camp, campers have the incredible opportunity to spend six weeks in Israel with Ramah Seminar. While at the end of our camp experience we reach this climax of ascending to Israel, we spend our many summers as campers with Israel being brought to us. I look forward to another summer of learning and exploring my relationship with Israel along with our multi-national, educational, and inspirational Jewish community in Conover.