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What Can Happen In Ten Years?

Reflections from The Ramah Ukraine Leadership Experience

Guest blogger: Emma Siegel, Camp Ramah in Wisconsin

What can happen in ten years? From 2006 to 2016, we have experienced countless shootings, a growth/birth of a massive terrorist organization, bombings, Apple developing a touch screen phone, a watch, and an iPad, among countless other events.

What occurred from 1939 to 1949 in Ukraine was the desecration and demolition of almost an entire peoplehood, culture and way of life. While standing in front of an intersection which used to be a ghetto, walking to a hub for Jewish and secular learning, and listening to the tragedies that occurred, I was reminded of a statement I heard last night from a local Chabad rabbi.

The rabbi said that living here feels as if the Holocaust never ended because people lost ties to our Jewish world.  What are we, as a connected Jewish community, going to contribute to a people who have become entirely secularized?

Our tour guide, Ilan, told us a story while standing outside of the former center for Jewish and secular learning. Twenty male students had made a promise that in ten years, they would reunite in Israel right before Pesach. After the war, three of the students reunited before Pesach, seven came later, and ten had perished. Half of these innovative, Zionist students were able to return to our homeland. Following this story, Amy Skopp Cooper, National Associate Director, asked us, “Where do you hope to be, and what do you hope to be contributing to the Jewish world in the next ten years?” Walking through the cobblestone streets of western Ukraine, I was struck by the memory of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words ‘as I walked in Selma I felt as though my feet were praying.’ It is only when you stand in solidarity and identify with someone from a different culture are you able to make a difference in the Jewish world and the larger world holistically.

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A fantastic group of high school students from Ramah camps across North America are exploring Hungary and Ukraine through theRamah Ukraine Leadership Experience. They will be serving as counselors at Camp Ramah Yachad, run by The Schechter Institute.

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