Please enjoy a d’var Torah this week from Rosh Shoafim 2015, Daniel Warshawsky.  A lifetime Ramahnik and alumnus of the Nativ program, he is a senior at Indiana University majoring in Telecommunications and Jewish Studies and minoring in Marketing.  Last semester, Daniel was an inaugural Nachshon Fellow, and next fall he is planning on making aliyah with Garin Tzabar Reflections on Thanksgiving by Daniel Warshawsky

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Every year, my parents, brother, and I fly to the East Coast to celebrate the holiday with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s the only time that we all get to see each other during the year, and you can literally feel the love and joy that exists around the room. We are all so different from one another, yet we share a deep love and respect that is, to me, what family is all about. Right before dinner, like many families, we go around the table and express what we are most grateful for this year. It is very emotional and very heart felt and often lasts a long time. We talk about family, good health, God, our education, our community, Israel, our friends, and more. This year, however, as I began thinking about what I am thankful for, I could not help but think about Ezra Schwartz, z”l, and his family.

As you know, last Thursday there was a terrorist attack in Israel that took Ezra’s life. Ezra went to Jewish day school and Jewish summer camp. He was involved in USY and was studying in Israel on a gap year program. Each summer, Ezra spent his time at Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire. While I didn’t personally know him, Ezra was one of my roommate’s campers a few summers ago, and he was a camper of one of my friends when he went on USY on Wheels.

When I learned of the terrorist attack that killed Ezra I was heartbroken. I could not imagine what it would be like to lose someone so close to me. As I was sitting in my Jewish History class in Bloomington, Indiana, one of my first instincts was to reach out to some of my own campers from Ramah.  I wanted to see how they were doing, to tell them how much our summers together have meant to me, and to tell them how thankful I am to have been able to be their counselor and their friend.

When I spoke with some of my other friends from Camp Ramah, I learned that many of them had the same reaction that I did. It was one of those moments when I realized how much working at camp means to me. We often talk about how much of an impact a summer at Ramah can have on a child, but at this moment, I truly learned how much of an impact my five summers as a staff member have had on me.

So this Thanksgiving, when it is my turn to describe what I am thankful for, I will talk about Camp Ramah.  I will talk about the impact that Camp Ramah has had on me and how much my campers and counselors have meant to me. I am so thankful for all of the incredible relationships that I have built through Ramah, and for the second home that we have created together in Conover, Wisconsin.

This Thanksgiving, take a moment out of your holiday to express to those closest to you what you are most grateful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom.