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Posts Tagged ‘Kfar HaYarok’

In 1982, I received the gift of a lifetime. I was given wings to fly and a safe place to call home. For the first time in my young life, I found solace in the land that my people had called their homeland, Israel. And I was able to close my eyes at night without the fear of being woken by loud screaming or crashing sounds.

For one year, I went to an amazing high school, traveled the country, and found what I thought would be my permanent home. While it wasn’t exactly what happened, it was the most trans-formative experience in my life. With every ounce of my being, I believe I am healthy and vibrant because my brother and his wife gave me the gift of a lifetime; they made it possible for me to go to school in Israel.

Israel provided me with a safety net that had never been afforded to me. I had friends and family that loved the wounded teenager and supported me so that I could emerge into a stronger human being. Kfar HaYarok, the High School I went to, provided me with tools to stretch and to grow as a young woman and a future leader. I am the woman I am, in part, because of my time there.

Thirty-five years later, I am coming to grips that as of Monday Israel is no longer open to me…not really.  It is the country that has closed it’s doors to people who are holding her accountable for her actions and who are consciously choosing to boycott Israel on small or large scales. People that love the land, but feel strongly that the Occupation should cease to exist. The Knesset has voted to close it’s doors to people that question. Israel is no longer open to the Jewish people (at least not all). Sigh.

For now, I need to walk gently not with those that read my blog, but for myself. As I sit here mourning the loss of Israel in my life, I am struggling. Will I ever visit my family again, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hike Ein Gedi, climb the hills of Safed, swim in the Mediterranean? Or will I stand with those that actively support BDS and peaceful/non-violent protests?

Before the Knesset ruling, I supported boycotting those that perpetuate the Occupation, but in this moment, I am doing my best to refrain from going to a more dramatic place. Perhaps I will end up there, but tonight, I will just sit with the deep sadness that comes with losing an old friend.

l’Shalom – May we find it in our day!

Note: When I was a child, I was forced to withstand some pretty horrific family dynamics including child abuse; it is all that I knew.  Just because it was my norm doesn’t mean it should have been. I feel the same way about the Occupation.

 

 

 

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david-steinerSometimes we are blessed to meet people who inspire us to be the best people that we can be. You know those people that know just when to call regardless of what is going on in their own personal life. Or maybe the person that understands that in order to make a change in the world they have to be that change. Or maybe that person is someone who knows what they have to do in order to stretch, to grow, to evolve – and does the work! Or perhaps, the person is a dreamer who never stops going after his dreams.

David Steiner was that person and now he is gone. Killed doing what he has done first the first day I met him in 1982 when we were in Kfar HaYarok, a kibbutz style high school in Israel; he died touching people’s lives and making a difference. He died in Uganda while on a beautiful mission of his own creating. If you want to know more, here is an initial link that can lead you to more information. (http://abc7chicago.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-killed-in-uganda-crash/1673697/ and http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-filmmaker-david-steiner-killed-in-uganda-bus-crash/)

David and I lost touch after I left Kfar HaYarok, we weren’t initially close as teens, but he was someone who could light up any room he entered. Even as a teen, he stood for what he believed in and did the work that needed to be done.  In fact, one of my favorite memories of him was when he worked in the refet, with the cows. If memory serves me correctly, he woke up really early to take care of his calves and then was there whenever the mamas were birthing their babies.  David was always where he needed to be.

One of the clearest memories I have of David is that he made every person feel like they counted. And I do not believe that ever changed. Even when we re-connected about six years ago, he became present and available like no time had ever passed. He was so much better than I was at keeping in touch and managing his life.

In this moment, I am devastated for his loved ones and for all of us that at one time or another were touched by David’s presence in this world. I feel like my heart has been crushed, so I can’t imagine how his closest beloveds are coping.

Life isn’t always an easy package to navigate. We change. We grow. We evolve. If we are lucky, we honor how the new road emerges. We develop the skills and work tirelessly to be the best we can be. That is how I see David.

While I was licking my wounds at a failed marriage, job instability, and not living up to my dreams, David chose to consciously live life by opening his eyes and diving into the possibilities with the brilliance that made him the amazing human being he was.

And what I will miss more than anything is the possibilities that he represented. I always felt like spending time with him now would be amazing!!! We didn’t have the opportunity to reconnect in person, but we shared ideas, writings, and life from a distance. We were in touch. I was in closer touch with him because he would often pick up the phone or message me to ask my opinion, share an article, or make sure he was thoughtfully navigating a sticky situation.

At the moment, I am feeling a deep sense of loss. The heart-wrenching pain in my gut is paralyzing and yet I know I need to water some of the seeds that David planted. No problem there, I can’t stop shedding tears.  David found so many ways to make the world a better place. My hope and my prayer is that I can embody one spark of the passion and beauty that fueled David’s essence.

Shalom Chaveri (Good-bye my friend), you will forever be missed.

(Note: I want to thank Laura Smolar, a dear friend, who was kind enough to let me know before I found out about David’s untimely death on social media. One of the last things she texted me today was, “Start writing now. . .don’t wait….go, go now!!!” Little does she know how much she sounded like David who ALWAYS wanted to nudge me to reach more of my potential.)

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Everyone needs someone to guide them as they walk through their life.  As a child, I was no different.  While I needed to dodge what was happening at home, I also needed the direction to grow in spite of what was happening to me and around me.   While the elders cared for me and supported me, none of them let me wallow in my pity parties; each gave me tools to survive and ultimately thrive.  The ‘elders’ in my life kept me alive by simply opening the door and allowing me to walk through it.

Where does the journey begin?
Where will we go?
Hours pass, the answers might change
As we keep moving along.

words by Debbie Friedman z’l and Tamara Ruth Cohen

As a young girl, I found drugs more intriguing than most anything else in life.  By the time I was 11 years old, I was enjoying a few of the ‘lighter’ drugs on a regular basis.  At 14 years old, I had tried or was using nearly every street drug available to me with the exception of heroine.  Funny, I distinctly remember that I prided myself on never shooting-up.

And then sometime around the spring following my 16th birthday, I stopped and I let go of all of the drugs that had been part of my young life.  One day, I woke up to the realization that I didn’t want to be like my mother.  During much of my childhood, my mother was a very sick soul and an abusive monster.  I didn’t know what it meant to choose a different path, but I believed that I wanted to be better and very different from the person who birthed me.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that while I was really alone throughout my childhood, there were some angels that touched my life along the way.  The most important person for me was a man named Mike Gimbel.  Mike was real, a recovering addict, a therapist, and someone who believed in me.  And he was the person that helped lead me towards a different life.  Mike probably saved my life by somehow helping me believe that I could change the course of my life in every way.  While he was a social worker, he also reached me by going out of his way to be present when I needed him most.  I remember two or three times, he picked me up in his car and listened as I dealt with the crumbling of my heart and soul.

Mike Gimbel

Mike Gimbel is he man that had the most profound impact on my life, he gave me the tools to save myself.

Growing up was hard, really hard.  The journey lead me to be self-reliant.  There was no one who could really keep me safe or healthy except for me.  Mike was probably the most influential angel, but there were others who took time to make the difference.  One man was a mentor/leader in my Alateen (a group for children of alcoholics) community, his name was Tom Beam.  Tom opened his heart and gave all the love he could to his children.  I don’t believe he had any of his own, but he had hundreds of teens that looked up to him. Even after I drifted away, Tom always remembered my birthday by sending me a birthday card and calling me too.  Without fail for a decade or more after I fell off the Alateen journey, Tom remembered me.  There were years when no one else celebrated my life with me.  To be fair, the good news is that my brother always remembered my birthday regardless of where he was and what he was doing.  So at least I was remembered.  As long as I needed Tom, he would pick me up in his big Volkswagen Van; sometimes he would make sure I was eating, sometimes he would take me back to his house, and sometimes he would just sit with me while supporting me as I navigated my dark moods.

And then there was Goldie Gorn.  Mrs. Gorn was the principal of the religious school where I grew up.  She took time to listen to me and to allow me to cry.  She also gave me a huge gift a few years before her death; she helped make it possible for me to leave my home at 16 years old and go to Israel for 11th grade.  At Kfar HaYarok, my school, I was given wings to fly and the belief that my childhood would not destroy me.  Without Mrs. Gorn’s nudge and my brother’s perseverance, I would not have taken the final leap towards becoming a healthy human being.  Well maybe not that healthy. . . .very few teenagers are healthy, but I was moving in the right direction.

As a teenager, I must have been a profoundly sad being.  Melancholy was part of my every step.  How could it not be?  But these three ‘elders’ believed in me and helped me become the person I am today.  Each elder had several things in common, they:

  • were authentic in the way they walked in the world.
  • listened with an open heart.
  • believe every word that I shared and that allowed me to share a little more of myself.
  • gave me tools to help myself.
  • nurtured me sometimes with love, sometimes with a warm meal.
  • cared not only for me, but for many others.
  • and so much more. . . .

I feel so blessed that Mike Gimbel, Tom Beam, and Goldie Gorn took time to guide me through a part of my life.  I would not be who I am today without having them helping me navigate the journey called life.

My hope and my prayer is that I am walking the walk that these ‘elders’ modeled for me.  As I write this blog, I realize I have work to do.  How about you?

PS – If I lived in Baltimore, I would sit at Goldie Gorn’s grave; I would try to find Tom Beam’s grave and visit his church too; and I would welcome the opportunity to give Mike Gimbel a huge hug and thank him in a very personal way.  I would not have been half the person I am if it wasn’t for these loving souls.

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