By Ryan Leszner, Director of Jewish Life
This week, our sister URJ Camp, Camp Coleman in Georgia sent us a tallit, a shawl with four fringes that we wear to remind us of the mizvot that God commanded. It was made in a chug with the intention that this tallit celebrates caring, compassion, healing and love. A tallit just like this was made for each of our URJ camps in memory of those who were killed in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Specifically, Alyssa Alhadeff, who was a camper at URJ Coleman. In the days following the senseless shooting, the Camp Coleman community came together to support each other and comfort each other.
I was particularly moved by a story told by a staff member, that he shared in an article online: “My campers attended four funerals that day, in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas Shooting. But at each one, they held each other. They checked in on each other and came together. Five hundred miles away, in Atlanta, others attended Shabbat services, finding comfort in the community we built together. The staff came together, not just to support our campers, but to embrace the community that had raised us. All of us, together, demonstrating the power to build in the aftermath of witnessing the power to destroy.”
In the words of Rabbi Leah Rose Doberne-Schor: “Take a moment to look at this beautiful tallit – A tallit, is just a rectangular piece of fabric. But it is more than that. There are the fringes and knots on each of the four corners fringes and knots that remind us of the commandments and teachings of our tradition. Beyond these outer symbols at its core the tallit is a symbol of love. Ask any parent who has wrapped their child with a tallit on the day of baby-naming or berit milah or who lays a tallit on the shoulders of a beloved child turned young adult on the day of bar or bat mitzvah. Ask a wedding couple as they stand under a tallit as they bind one another to each other in sacred love. Ask anyone who has sat next to a parent or grandparent and been wrapped in the folds of this sacred fabric at Shabbat morning services. When we wrap ourselves in a sacred tallit we remember that we are surrounded by love, by our love for one another and by the love of the Holy One of Blessing.”
Let this tallit be a symbol of the power of community, and the ways in which we come together in the most difficult times. Let it be a symbol of healing for those who need it most. Let it be a reminder of the that we are commanded to do for the betterment of ourselves and the world. Let this be the spark that ignites a fire in each of us to build a better world. And let this be an example of the work that we can do to support each other and do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord.