by Rabbi Lauren Cohn, Camp Coleman Faculty
One of my favorite parts about being on faculty is working with the Mishlachat, the Israeli delegation, and helping them lead Shabbat Morning Services. Every summer 20 or so Israelis come here, and magically, and suddenly, the distance between Israel and tiny Cleveland, Georgia is infinitely reduced. The members of the Mishlachat hold leadership positions, are counselors, specialists, and Israeli scouts. Their presence here is nothing but profound. They infuse camp with such ruach (spirit) and pride for Israel; they teach the camp kehillah (community) about Modern Israel as opposed to Biblical Israel (which is for many all that they have previously learned); they make campers and staff members want to go to Israel because they put names, faces, and love with the word, notion and abstract of Israel.
Every year, as the Mishlachat and I sit together for the first time to work on the service, I am humbled by their humility about leading camp in a creative service, where they write many of the readings. They are reluctant to participate. Many of them have grown up in secular homes; the idea of praying is foreign. What is more, the idea of their being leaders of prayer is unfathomable. But with some convincing, they agree to participate. Some read from the Torah for the first time. They write their parts, deeply apologetic of their English, which is always better than our Hebrew, and they share their stories and their lives of Israel. And therein lays the magic and the beauty. When they talk about their time in the military, or share their families’ stories of how they came to Israel after the Holocaust or helped to fight for Israel’s independence, or speak of a remote and peaceful place in the desert, their stories become our stories. Their Israel becomes our Israel.
During the Mischlachat service, I watch the Israeli delegation, as they sit together, the sun shining through the trees, reflecting on their proud faces. They’re proud of who they are and where they came from, and what they have just done. And hopefully, they’re proud that the gifts of being themselves – and sharing themselves – have made everyone else’s life richer.