Rav Yair: How the Summer That Wasn't Meant to Happen, Happened.
July 9, 2021 | Achuzat Sarah
This is my 6th summer with KH. Every summer I know what to expect. The challenging beginning. The heat. The sweat. The music. The energy. The soccer. The tears. The pictures. It’s always expected and always special.
On May 1, COVID still made everything unclear. I met three past KH volunteers named Isabel, Lizzie, and Maital. They were talking to my wife and said, "There is zero chance KH isn’t happening this summer. It needs to happen." I listened to these words and thought "Ok, even if we just have three volunteers, it’s better than nothing- we need this, and the homes need this." From that moment Andi, Michael, and Ezra made every effort possible, every email, phone call, zoom meeting, to make this summer happen.
Currently, I’m sitting on the soccer field in Achuzat Sarah with the entire home singing songs in unison and the fact that this summer is even happening is simply mind-blowing.
We have a song we started off the summer with called You never know. I've always understood the song to mean that even though situations might seem all bad, there's always a silver lining. But looking at this circle now, listening to the sound of song around me, the words of this song have a new meaning. You never know doesn't mean "Even if things seem hard, it's really all for the best," but rather "everything you thought was impossible can be possible."
So how did this summer happen? How did we end up with 20 of the most motivated, talented volunteers? Why are teenagers waking up early before they needed to? Why is every staff member and child at Achuzat Sarah saying they wish KH programming could happen all year - even though this year is anything but normal??
There are so many answers but I'll stick with one, in the form of a story. The story of Odelia. A 12-year-old girl who lives at Achuzat Sarah.
A few weeks ago, Odelia had the opportunity to come with us to T'zfat, and jumped at the chance faster than anyone else. She was so excited to go, and once we got there, she asked us to daven for her mother who was very sick. We spent that night singing, davening, and witnessing a young girl making the most of the opportunities put in front of her. Odelia may not have had many tools at her disposal to make her mother better, but she recognized that at that moment, she had a surrogate family who would put their hearts and souls into davening for her.
Unfortunately, this past Tuesday night, Odelia’s mom passed away.
24 hours later, the loss and pain still very fresh, I found Odelia sitting on the grass with the volunteers, staff and all the children of Achuzat Sarah encouraging them to sing and daven together for her mother. Odelia had embraced her family at Achuzat Sarah, and allowed us to help her shoulder her burden, and soften the loss she was experiencing just a little bit. Odelia managed to find a way to create something beautiful and powerful from a negative situation. In a sense, she took illness, loss, and death - cement, if you will, that could have suffocated her with despair, and used it to build a "home", and engender hope, with song, friends, and a surrogate family at Achuzat Sarah. The same incredible energy I observed in Odelia, I've seen everywhere I look this year, which is why I believe this miraculous summer actually happened.
The KH Coordinators, Becca, and Uri, took every curveball thrown at them - every bit of cement - and turned them into opportunities. The KH Volunteers, the counselors - just out of seminary and yeshiva - have been incredibly resilient, teaching themselves skills whenever needed and creating beauty out of demanding situations. They didn't run away, they didn't shirk responsibility, they didn't say it was too hard. They showed up and created opportunities where there were none before.
This is how the summer that wasn't supposed to happen...happened. Because everyone involved, from the kids to the coordinators, is dedicated to the core to taking whatever comes up and making it powerful and actionable.
I'm grateful to have been a part of this summer and this energy and want to wish an enormous Yashar Koach to everyone who has helped make it happen.