by Deborah Gordon Klehr, presented at Shabbat Services, July 29
I have long felt a deep connection to Israel. Although I had been there on family trips several times already, it was my trip in 1994, when I studied in Israel on a high school program that was especially meaningful. I felt then that my connection to Judaism and to Israel was something that I was choosing—not something just given to me by my parents. And yet, the connection to Israel and fellow-Jews handed down generation to generation is something that has always impressed me, humbled me, and made me feel a spiritual and deep connection to the Jewish people. Specifically, there’s this feeling when I’m at the Wall in the moment where I feel like a link in the chain of all of the generations before me who came to pray in the exact same place. I may still struggle with who or what God is, but standing at the Wall, I feel a kinship to other Jews and also a connection to the presence of God. It’s a larger-than-life feeling of a bond that transcends time, especially linking me to those who fought so hard to be Jewish and to live in Israel. I must confess that in the comfort of my own home, it’s easy to lose the spiritual moment, and I think about how unfair it is that women get a smaller or separate section at the Wall; or that I can’t go there dressed in shorts…but when I stand at the Wall, among young soldiers, great-grandmothers and tourists alike, I feel strength from our faith, from our history and from our People. In the four times I’ve been back to Israel since my high school program, I still get butterflies at the Wall and an overwhelming feeling as I think about generations upon generations of our ancestors who celebrated and fought for Judaism, maybe even using the same words and prayers that we use today. In addition to studying in Israel at the Alexander Muss High School, I have traveled to Israel with 3 generations of my family: both sets of my grandparents, each of my parents, and most recently with my husband. Each time is a special experience—a profound moment or set of moments—where I feel a connection to our Homeland and a connection with the family member with whom I am traveling, as we experience Israel together.
I’m counting the days until I am old enough to handle our son Noah on such a momentous trip. (By the way, he’s not 2 yet.) But it’s my hope that Noah will love Israel and Judaism in part because he learned to at our proverbial dinner table, but also because he chooses to find the connections that are meaningful to him. Of the many things I wish for our son, I want him to respect our tradition, to celebrate our history and appreciate this legacy, on his own terms. And if he doesn’t get that special feeling at the Wall, I hope he will learn to find meaning in the experience of being in Israel, loving Israel and feeing that connection to his parents, his grandparents and our homeland. And I fervently hope that he will grow up in a world where Israel is not threatened, but rather a proud, thriving modern and ancient land. Shabbat Shalom.