A famous man once said, the only thing that stays the same is change. On AJSS, our groups are constantly experiencing that. Whether it is a last minute schedule change, or ever changing weather, every day leads to new experiences.
This week marks one of the saddest days of modern Judaism, but also one of the most life changing. Monday night through Tuesday marked Tisha b’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, in 70 C.E. The Temple at the time was the focal point for Judaism, in which sacrifices and high priests were the pillars of practice. After the destruction of the Temple Judaism began a long conversion into what we know it as today: an emphasis on personal commitments to Jewish practice, in whatever way we choose, as opposed to a centralized structure in one location. Before the destruction of the Temple, there was one type of Judaism. Today, there are countless ways to celebrate our faith.
Just as with Tisha b’Av, AJSS represents a destruction but in this case, a metaphoric destruction of our camper’s preconceived notions. They have been, and continue to be exposed to many new things this summer: a new part of the country, new friends, a new culture, new ways to volunteer, new ways of celebrating Judaism, and new viewpoints on life. Our participants may come back with a new tradition or new idea that they wish to pursue. Or, they may come back with new reasons for believing the ideas they previously did.
No matter which outcome, our participants will come home with a view of life, service, Judaism and America different than when they started. Those views may lead to incorporating something new into their daily routine. Alternatively, those views may lead to changing or removing an activity that they used to participate in, but now wish to focus that time and energy elsewhere. Whatever new enters into their lives, it will be the product of new experiences, discussions and ideals which will stay with them, along with the many pictures taken, for the rest of their lives.
Despite the horrors of Tisha b’Av, the destruction allowed Judaism to change into what we now know. The future of our AJSS participants is unclear. Only time can tell where they will go and what they will do, but the activities they experience and the obstacles they overcame on AJSS will go with them and allow this monumental event to guide them into something bigger, greater, and more meaningful.