Family Education

Reflection on INCLUDE Special Needs Family Camp Reunion

On February 14th, we hosted another incredible Special Needs Family Camp Reunion.  We received a lovely note from a participating family, which we share here to offer a window into the important work of Inclusion.

Thank you so much for such a wonderful afternoon yesterday.  My husband and I were discussing the whole event on the way home.  Our family had such a good time -- all of us!   It was really wonderful to be in the environment of "family camp" again and to see people who we care so much about.  It was also a joy to share the wonders of camp with the new families.  I hope the day impacted them in such a way that they avail themselves of the opportunity to attend camp.  

I know from experience that it will enrich their lives.  I believe it is our responsibility as "seasoned/more experienced" parents to share with others our experience, strength and hope that, even in the darkest moments, it does get better.  We can live joyous, Jewish lives and be embraced by those who completely understand, through good times and bad. 

We are a blessed community.  I am personally grateful to this program for continuing to create this space and place for us.  It's the camp experience which I credit for teaching me that, although raising my son has been my greatest challenge in life, pushing me well beyond my limits, that it has also been my greatest teacher.  My son has taught me what really matters in life -- love, patience, acceptance, understanding, kindness and resilience, plus much more.

JKids High Holy Days Edition

This Tisha b'Av Felt Different

By Rabbi Joshua Fenton

This Tisha b’Av felt different. On the saddest day of the year; that cursed day on which just about every evil perpetrated against Jews throughout history is remembered, this year in light of the fighting and dying it felt even worse. 

I didn’t go to the synagogue this year on Tisha b’Av. I stayed home, preferring to work over joining the community in what felt like another day of mourning. The thing is, it’s felt like Tisha b’Av for a while now. Watching videos of riots in Europe, reading stories of Jews around the world attacked, hearing the news report how the Jewish state was killing Palestinian civilians, it’s been feeling like Tisha b’Av for a while. 

And it’s not just me. Yesterday afternoon and evening I began to read post after post on social media reflecting people’s deep sense of mourning this year. So much so, some even expressed the desire to stay in mourning a bit longer. Tweets I read suggested folks weren’t ready to let the day go while others spoke of how the day was holding on to them, #stilltishabav. This year Tisha b’Av didn’t begin with the three weeks. We didn’t slip deeper into despair during the nine days. We were already there, since the beginning of this most recent fighting in Gaza, we’ve been there. I’ve been there.

And I think that’s a problem. There is a reason that Tisha b’Av happens only once a year. That same reason is why we don’t have additional days of mourning to commemorate the crusades, Spanish expulsion, Kmelnitzky massacre, and all of the other atrocities remembered on Tisha b’Av. It’s enough. How many sad days should there be? 

This was an argument made in the Knesset when first discussing whether or not there should even be a Yom Hashoah. There is already a Tisha b’Av, some said, and how many sad days should there be? How many days of mourning do we want to freckle our calendar? 

My favorite halakha of the Shulchan Aruch, my favorite piece of Jewish law, speaks about Tisha b’Av. It pertains to the fast of Tisha b’Av when it falls on a Sunday and answers the question, what one’s last meal before the fast should be. 

Traditionally, the last meal before we fast is the meal of mourners, a seuda mafseket or interrupting meal. It’s a meal that gets us ready for the sorrow of the following day. The meal consists of hard boiled eggs rolled in ash, eaten while seated on the floor. The imagery is powerful. When one first hears of a loss, before the period of mourning technically begins, the mourner has a meal. Something to get food into his or her stomach before the sorrow descends. A last ditch effort to build up our reserves for what is sure to be an exhausting experience. The law speaks about that meal when it comes on Shabbat. If the fast of Tisha b’Av is on a Sunday, how can we eat a mourners meal, a meal of sadness while it is still Shabbat? 

The answer the Shulchan Aruch gives is marvelous and instructive. The instruction is to “set a table fit for King Solomon.” If you were to ask my children what that means, they’d tell you it would have to be a meat meal with parve ice cream afterwards. What else could a king ask for? What this law highlights is that the joy of Shabbat cannot be limited by the mourning of Tisha b’Av. The most sorrowful day of the year needs to be contained. It can be radioactive in it’s ability to affect and infect all those around it and we must therefore resist the urge to let it. It’s also a halakha/law that if the fast of Tisha b’Av falls on Shabbat, we push it to Sunday. The day must be contained.  

Just as it is a mitzvah to mourn on that terrible day, and just as it is a mitzvah to join your community and your people in mourning, it is also a mitzvah to move on. When the mourner completes her seven days of mourning, shiva, she is commanded to get up. 

Of course as I write these words, sitting in my office in San Francisco, I have my family, friends, colleagues, and fellow Jews living in Israel speaking to me from inside my heart and soul. They ask me how to let it go. They ask “how can we move on when it feels like the evil and terror that continues to chase us may have only quieted for a moment?” I share that fear and I share that doubt, as does every mourner as they see the end of shiva fast approach. 

My response is to have hope, none the less, that today’s tomorrow will be better than yesterday’s, and that the quiet may build and grow. And to all of us in the states, to my friends who felt a longing to stay just a little longer in mourning and to those who didn’t feel drawn to stay in Tisha b’Av but felt stuck, I say it’s time to move on. It’s time to again celebrate life and possibility, and even if it only lasts for 72 hours, it’s time to get up and walk around the block and hope and believe that these past weeks of war have come to an end and we are all ready to move on. 

Is that a shofar I hear? 

Is There Such a Thing as Causeless Hatred?

By David Waksberg, CEO Jewish LearningWorks

For years we did not fast on Tisha b'Av.  The 9th of Av, a Jewish day of mourning, commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temple, along with other calamities through history.

We didn't fast because, well, it's complicated.  In my youth, I'd learned that we fast on Tisha b'Av to mourn the destruction of the Temple.  In the long run, I didn't think the destruction of the Temple was such a bad thing - Judaism adapted and evolved.  We were again, as Hatikvah notes, a free people in our land.   I'd moved on and I was not interested in a third Temple.

But my purpose is not to explain why I stopped fasting; rather, about why I started again.  This year.

The rabbis attributed the destruction of the Temples to sinat chinam (causeless hatred).  That phrase - causeless hatred - always struck me.  Is there such a thing as causeful hatred?  I get it, causeless hatred referred to hatred without reason (among ourselves).  But when is there a good reason to hate?

But again, I digress.  I came to realize that my Jewish education failed me.  Because the thing to mourn on Tisha b'Av is not the Temple, but the sinat chinam - the hatred that caused its destruction.  The hatred among Jews.  The hatred of the Babylonians toward the Jews.  The hatred of the Romans.  The hatred of England toward its Jews, who were expelled on the 9th of Av, 1290.  The hatred of the Spanish Inquisition that led to, on the 9th of Av in 1492, the expulsion of every Jew after centuries of life in Spain.  The hatred of the Nazis, who began to deport the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto  to the death camps on the 9th of Av, 1942. 

My Jewish education failed me because what I learned about Tisha b'Av was the most basic and least interesting aspects.  I felt scant connection to the Temple and its rituals.  But hatred, pettiness and dehumanization - these were and are all around me.

When has "causeless hatred" been more alive than today?  It was among those Palestinians who kidnapped and murdered Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yiftach, and Gilad Shaar.  Among those Jews who abducted and burned alive Mohammed Khdeir.  It is alive in Nigeria, where school girls "disappear" and Boko Haram has killed more than 3,000 people this year.  And it is thriving in Syria - where the death toll is nearing 200,000 (most of them non-combatants) and in Iraq, where Sunni ISIS fighters are targeting Shia, Christians and other non-Sunni groups - the death toll there is nearing 10,000 civilians during the last 12 months and Christians are being singled out for forced conversion, expulsion, or death. 

Will my fasting today end hatred tomorrow?  Not likely.  But why do we fast in the first place?  To focus our attention and look inward.  So I'm starting with myself - reflecting on the dark corners of my own heart.  I'll see where that takes me.

RESOURCES and RUMINATIONS

Rumination 
 Tisha b'Av and Non-Violence 
by Vavi Toran

Your Kids Are Ready To Talk About Israel. Are You?
from Kveller


Resources 
Discussing crisis with civility
Leaving Baggage and Blame at the Door

A Simple Guide to talking to your friends 
from Stories Without Borders

Useful questions for educators to pursue 
From the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education 
Seeking new insights into difficult questions
Peoplehood questions and the crisis in Israel
Family Feelings