At this time of the year, the spring is starting in the Land of Israel. We are being put to a personal test, each and every one of us in their own private circle and well as part of the public sector, and every one of us is asking themselves how we tackle this challenge at our door?
As the head of the Ariel Youth Movement of the Religious Zionist Movement, a community with 15,000 youths, children and their families, I choose to share with you my own personal challenge, and I hope that as community leaders we can possibly find healing and even benefit as an outcome of this crisis.
This presentation is relevant to every one of us. Because today, each and every one of us is the head of a community, at home or in their neighborhood.
In the coming days we will be celebrating Pesach also called Chag Hacherut, the Festival of Freedom and Liberty, and so let us begin with the value of liberty and it’s meaning. What is freedom? What is liberty?
In Judaism, contrary to common belief, liberty is not the freedom to do whatever you wish but rather to choose goodness out of your own free will.
The Torah tells us about Moses’ tablets: והמכתב מכתב אלוקים הוא חרות על הלוחות And the writing is G-d’s writing, engraved on the tablets. The word ‘engraved’ in hebrew is Harrut. But Chazal, our sages, tell us to read it: Heirut – liberty and freedom. In other words, staying strong to our own values is what brings liberty and freedom. And you would most probably agree with my interpretation, that exactly these values are the ones that we can realize in the current complicated situation: family values, values of mutual and personal responsibility in all venues of life.
Not every country understands the concept of voting and the “right to choose”. As democratic countries, Israel and the US know what it means to vote for a government. But I wish to discuss “the right of voting for life.” Every minute of our lives we have the challenge to vote for life, to choose our actions and reactions and decide the quality of our lives, and this is recognized especially now, in our situation.
As a movement consisting of thousands of young men and women, how has the Ariel Youth Movement chosen to meet this challenge?
First of all we created an internet website which describes the various activities we are engage in during normal times.
This website has been well-received by the parents as well as the student members, providing and proposing activities to be done at home. We prepared projects in which each child receives a mission to pass on to another member of their family. This instills the feeling of leadership in the youngster – transforming them from passivity, causing them to actively participate. This creates a virtual community.
Secondly, as a public service we established a fleet of cars with loudspeakers on their roofs. The cars travel throughout the country playing music, stopping in different neighborhoods, benefiting and uplifting the spirits not only of our members but those of all the neighbors as well. This way we are able to stay in contact with our members – and of course we are always careful not to violate any safety regulations.
In the public sector, we set up a fundraising project for our community to donate to other communities in need, communities outside our organization.
About 1,350 of our community members responded to this call to help fund Yad Sara’s free “Avir L’Neshama” respiratory equipment distribution which is sent to all those in need of them, and we have begun extending this fundraising to harness even more communities to this cause. In doing so, our community contributed to the international struggle of saving human lives, by allowing the distribution teams to work safely while out in the public, without endangering their health.
We are inspired by diligence of these people, in such challenging moments as this one, when the entire world is in chaos. Confidence in the good will of people and their ability to act positively, is what guides us now.
We have been granted the privilege of belonging to an ancient people of 4000 years, who’s forefathers have taught us throughout their existence to look forward optimistically, to pray and work together for the future of our communities and children.
The Piaseczna Rebbe, who lived and was killed in the Holocaust, taught his students that “the greatest thing in the world is to do good for someone else”. At one moment of despair, when all hope for life was lost, and the pain over what he saw and the darkness that enveloped his life became overwhelming, a young student of his recalled those words to him. The words of the Rebbe. After hearing his own words in the mouth of his student: “I began to care about those around me, strengthen their spirits and take care of their welfare as much as I could, and so I remained alive.”
That young student can teach us the power of education, of the values that community leaders can impart to community members, and his recalling the words of his teacher can show us the power of these values in preserving our essence and life.
The same holds true for the exodus from Egypt. Our nation has gone from darkness to light. from slavery to freedom. This was the case during the Babylonian exile as well. Many of our people chose to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the land. The same is true in many cases even after the Roman exile. Groups of Jews began to immigrate from Yemen and Eastern Europe to Jerusalem and those groups grew, with increasing numbers from all corners of the world. Until finally the State of Israel was created. The national home and land for all of us in this country and abroad. And so we will also come out of this challenge, and discover that we have become a stronger, much stronger community.