In one word? Incredible. That was my response when a colleague asked how the weekend went. A small smile crossed her face when I responded and when I asked why. She said, “I had my answer before you said anything. As soon as I asked about the weekend, your eyes lit up and huge grin broke out across your face.” She’s right.
I’m a veteran at teen Shabbatonim (weekends). I’ve been involved with NCSY for nearly ten years and have had my fair share of singing as Shabbat ebbs by the light of the havdalah candle, inspiring lectures, teens ready to take on the world and all of Torah. And I was still amazed by this past weekend. It was unbelievable.
85 girls from Makom Balev programs across the country, among them Sderot, Netivot and Nahariyah, gathered together in Gedera for a beautiful Shabbat, with guest rabbi Rabbi Yaakov Shimon from Pisgat Ze’ev. 50 of the girls stayed up until 2am on Friday night listening to shiurim and talking to the rabbi. On Shabbat afternoon 65 girls went from class to class to class to class to class. They wouldn’t take any breaks. We brought them juice and water because they wouldn’t move. They asked questions like:
“I want to want to keep kosher and my family doesn’t. How do I do it?”
“I want to keep Shabbat, but my father puts on the TV and when I walk in the door he asks me to join him. What do I do?”
“My parents want me to go to army, but I want to do Sherut Leumi (national service).”
These were girls who want to move forward so badly. These were not the girls I had met a few years earlier. This weekend showed me so clearly how you can really change lives. I was there with my kids, my boys. My oldest is 11. And they all have plans for the future. One tells what unit he will be in when it is his turn to serve in the army. Another tells me how he will be a rabbi just like me when he grows up. We start with these kids in sixth grade. They didn’t have any aspirations or hope for the future. They didn’t speak of what they could accomplish and the positions they would hold. Now they speak of finishing high school, going to college and helping the next generation of Makom Balevers.
These girls were demanding! I was falling asleep, even with my nap. And they sat there, wide-eyed and hungry for more, picking up every crumb of Torah and demanding a banquet.
Better start cookin’!