Sunday, March 12, 2006

Richard Joel Speaks

Better late than never...

Richard Joel spent Shabbos in Washington Heights two shabbosim ago. It was quite the scene. Drew has a pretty good summary of the shabbos.

On the subject of Birthright, Joel said something very interesting. Yiddish, he said, was important because it gave Jews everywhere a shared story, something which we are missing today. Something else has to take its place, and part of that was Birthright. It gave people who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to participate in their story, a chance to do so.

I'll share one quick story he told, which was very moving. On the first night of the first ever Birthright trip to Israel, a number of students asked Joel what they should feel when they went to the kotel (Western Wall) the next morning.

[Disclaimer: This may be a little off, so please correct me if needed.]

He replied: You may not feel anything. Different people are touched by different things. I can't tell you how to feel, but I can tell you this; Our great-grandparents almost assuredly didn't know each other. They lived in different shtetls, eeked out a living in different ways and spoke different dialects of Yiddish. But, there were two things that they had in common. They yearned to go to the Kotel. And they knew they never would. And tomorrow, at 930am, you will.