I’m so proud of the amazing Greater MetroWest participation in the annual summer family camp in Cherkassy, Ukraine. For years now, a team of Americans and Israelis have traveled there as part of our commitment to renewing and enhancing Jewish life in this amazing community.
But being part of the experience isn’t just about giving. It’s also about receiving. And this year, several of the Israeli and American participants themselves celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at the camp with local Ukrainian Jewish campers.
The wonderful Danielle Rockman Greene, who has participated in the camp as a representative of Greater MetroWest for seven years, gave the terrific dvar, below, at the ceremony. It’s worth reading because it says so much about being a Jewish adult, growing up in a Jewish community, and understanding what’s important. I’m grateful to Danielle, to the campers in Cherkassy, and to all of you who support our efforts to build Jewish community.
What does it mean to be holy?
Being holy has everything to do with the choices we make each day — choices not only related to Judaism and God, but choices we make regarding ourselves and other people.
Each year in camp, we learn from those having a bar/bat mitzvah about what it means to be holy, as they read and teach us about the Ten Commandments.
Among other things, we learn to respect our parents, not to lie, not to steal, to observe Shabbat, not to kill, and to always remember that we have and believe in only one God.
And of course, the Torah teaches us in Vayikra, its third book, to love your neighbor as yourself.
This is holiness, and this is camp. You don’t have to come to camp for seven years to understand that this is a holy community.
However, having been here for that long, I have had the honor of watching all of you grow into holier and holier people with each passing day. Even I, I believe, have become a holier person because of all of you.
Aside from the relationship you have with each other, your commitment to Judaism and to the Jewish people is something else that only elevates your level of holiness.
You make a choice to have this bar/bat mitzvah year after year and that is beautiful and that is holy.
All of the bar/bat mitzvah celebrations I have been a part of here have been special and life changing.
But this one is different because I have known many of you since you were 5 and 6 and 7 years old.
From the time you were young, you have had the power to make holy choices: to use kind words, to help others before you’re asked to help, to visit the sick, to respect yourself, etc.
I have seen all of you do these things.
But now — as you become a bar/bat mitzvah — you have a responsibility to do these things and to make holy choices.
I hope you always remember that there is no one like you and that there will always be an opportunity to make someone smile.
No one can take this away from you, and I encourage you to use this power as often as you can.
I know all of you are up for the challenge because you have been raised by a unique community that refuses to die.
And as people, you were born with hearts that will always be ready to do the right thing.
I really feel like a big sister to all of you. Watching you grow has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I am so proud of each and every one of you.
Please know that no matter where you go in life and no matter what you do, you will be supported by me and all of your madrichim.
No matter what, we will love you and will always be people you can call home.