Friday, July 23, 2010

Parashat Va'Etchanan - Tikvah, Machon, South Pacific, and The Shma.

Ari played the role of the commander.

Sophie had a magnificent solo.

Joey played the drums in the orchestra.

Ashley had a speaking part.

At the end, the Rosh Aidah held up the plaque in front of the entire camp.

And then the entire audience stood and sang the camp song.

Sounds like just another musical at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.  

Yet, it was not.  This was the combined Machon - Tikvah musical.  Ari, Sophie, Joey and Paula are all members of the Tikvah Aidah.  They and a few other members of the aidah had specific parts in the play.  The entire aidah was part of the combined Tikvah - Machon (entering 10th grade) chorus for the show.    When the plaque was brought up, it was held up not by one but by two Roshei Aidah - Kashmir Kustanowitz (Tikvah) and Gita Karasov (Machon), standing together as one bundle of incredibly proud energy.  And when the show was over and people went to congratulate all of the participants, there were tears in many eyes.  It was a beautiful thing to see.

This summer, there is an incredible level of partnership and mutual affection between Tikvah and Machon.  Tikvah campers are integrated in many of the Machon programs and activities.  Machon campers constantly seek out chances to work with and be friends with campers in Tikvah.  Whether it is in shiurim (classes) or on the sports fields, the warmth and genuine pleasure the two aidot get from being together is constantly visible for everyone to see.  We know that this is a mutually beneficial relationship, that both sides give a lot one to the other and that they learn from one another.  It is beautiful.  And it is as it should be: genuine, mutual, and natural.  This relationship, the synergy and positive connections between Machon and Tikvah is not about a typical group - Machon - giving to a special group - Tikvah; rather, it is about two groups that truly value the gifts that each group brings to the relationship.

If only this were the nature of things all year-round.  If only the entire world understood that in the Shma - which we read this week in Parashat Va’Etchanan - when we are told to “teach them to your children,” the commandment is to teach them to all of our children, not just the typical ones, but the ones with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism and other conditions, equally, to challenge them according to their abilities, and to help them make connections to their heritage and spiritual inheritance.  We must understand this not as an option, not a favor, and not as a gesture of good will.  It is a commandment, an obligation, and the expectation is to include every member of the community, with both their gifts and limitations, in owning their yerushah - their inheritance - Torah, Mitzvot, Gemilut Chesed, etc.  Every one our children is beautiful, is a gift, is part of our collective future as a People and they deserve equal attention and opportunity, being challenged according to their abilities.

When we reach that point, the point when talking about the equal and mutual relationship between Tikvah and Machon campers, between Tikvah and Machon staff, between the Rosh Aidah of Machon and the Rosh Aidah of Tikvah, the relationship between a “typical” camper and a “special needs” person, is not unique but is the norm, we will know that we are well on our way to being  “מתקן עולם במלכות שדי” “repairing the world so that it is an appropriate place for the Divine Presence to dwell.” May we see that time quickly and in our day!

Yasher Koah to all of the campers in Aidot HaMachon v’Tikvah on an outstanding performance of South Pacific and for being teachers to everyone in camp on how all people should relate one to another.

Shabbat Shalom.

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