As I waited for my son to return home from Eternal Flame Weekend on Sunday night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing must it feel for these teens to be proud of their roots and their Jewish identity. Something I could not experience growing up in Russia, always afraid of being bullied and insulted for no other reason but being who I am – Jewish.
My heart lit up every time Ira would send me a text message, telling me how much he LOVES and how grateful he is to be in Washington DC to celebrate Shabbat with new and old friends, visit the Holocaust museum, and attend the AIPAC conference.
He sees the joy in Judaism and walked in happily last night through the front door singing “Am Yisrael Chai”.
The room was filled with excitement and I could clearly see the inspiration, enthusiasm, passion and interest that my teen was filled with after being presented with this amazing opportunity to participate in the Eternal Flame Teen Fellowship, to attend AIPAC and learn about pro-Israel initiatives taken place in the United States, the benefits it has for the security of both countries and also learn fascinating facts about Israel as well as meeting interesting and influential people.
My husband and I are grateful for the generous support of the George and Martha Rich Foundation. Many sincere Thanks to Valley Chabad for doing an incredible job of engaging and connecting teens, and promoting a strong sense of Jewish values and traditions.
The solid connection to Judaism that Ira is developing now will be an incredible value for his future. Today’s teens are tomorrow’s leaders and the right foundation today is vital to the prosperity of our remarkable Jewish nation.
We want to express our gratitude to the George and Martha Rich Foundation and Valley Chabad’s Eternal Flame for including our son Dean in the Fellowship and Washington D.C and making him feel welcome. I know he thoroughly enjoyed the trip and made memories that will last him a lifetime.
He is currently taking a course at Pascack Hills High School on the Holocaust so visiting the museum really put things into perspective for him. He was especially moved by seeing the piles of shoes as well as other things that are not mentioned in his class. He enjoyed going to the Shabbat service and lunch at Friends of Lubavitch in DC.
AIPAC was especially rewarding because he was surrounded by so many fellow Jews in one place who are in support of Israel. His favorite speaker was the President of Honduras. One of the best part of the experience for him was meeting and bonding with other Jewish teens from the tri-state area and his conversations with them. He also commented on how good the brisket sandwiches were from the food truck!
For us, we are thrilled because he now wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps and visit Israel on a Birthright trip. Please know we are grateful for the generosity of the sponsors for their in funding this trip and allowing Dean to be a part of an unforgettable experience.
This past weekend was my last CTeen Shabbaton as a teen, and what better Shabbaton than the Eternal Flame Trip? This is the third time I have been on the Washington, D.C. Shabbaton, and this one was definitely the most impactful and special. Next year, I will be taking a gap year to study at a seminary in Israel. The modern state of Israel and the Holocaust are very much intertwined, which made me go through the Holocaust Museum with a whole new perspective. It made me realize how lucky I am that I can call Israel home, when so many people could not. During the Holocaust, millions of lives were taken. Afterward, Israel was finally returned to the Jewish people.
Advocacy for Israel is imperative, and being able to learn about that in Washington, D.C. was very special. The power of sixty Jewish teens coming together from different walks of life and religious observance to commemorate the Holocaust is truly inspirational. I would like to thank the George and Martha Rich Foundation for sponsoring the trip and making it possible.