Parashat Vayeishev
Jacob Cytryn, Director

This week’s parashah begins the 4-part novella of the Joseph saga, the longest single narrative in the Torah.  At its core, especially this week and next, are dreams – Joseph’s own and his interpretation of others.  His uncanny ability to parse the future sets up the dramatic tension that propels the second half of the story.

I just returned from a short visit to Israel where I had the opportunity of catching up with many members of the Ramah Wisconsin family, specifically current and former staff members.  I will return to Israel in late January to follow-up on these conversations and interview candidates for our 2014 mishlachat; this trip was an opportunity to begin conversations earlier in our year:  to lay seeds that will hopefully begin sprouting just slightly down the road.

The most rewarding conversations I had were with six members of our Israeli staff from last summer who are all interested in returning for a second summer in 2014.  Each conversation was a variant on the powerful founding dreams of our camp.  As we spoke about possibilities for next summer, I asked each of these young, bright Israelis how camp had impacted them.  Each, sitting in a slightly different place on a variety of spectra that help define Israeli society (class, religious affiliation, geography, ethnic heritage, etc.), answered that Ramah helps frame for them a relationship with Judaism, an appreciation for Judaism and Jews outside of Israel, and a sense of their own growth as emerging adults.  Each conversation was a shot in the arm:  a singular voice contributing to a swell of affirmation for what we do.

Returning yesterday, the confluences of history are scattered all over the news headlines.  This Shabbat that we read about Joseph’s dreams and their divisiveness is surrounded by weeks where we recall classic founding visions of America by the Pilgrims, Lincoln, and Kennedy, and prepare to celebrate the dream that has guided us through so many dark periods of Jewish history:  the light and affirmation of Chanukah.  Into the darkest weeks of the year I take with me the power of my experiences in Israel, the imprints left on the Israelis we invest in every year, and the power of an evolving Judaism in dialogue with its times.

Shabbat Shalom.