How Summer Programs Changed My Life

February 17, 2022
Levi Hancock

Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, USA

Class of 2023

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This past summer, I attended ILTC and Kallah. Originally, I was only supposed to go on ILTC, but I had such a good time at ILTC that I decided to sign up for Kallah just a few days before it started. ILTC was such an amazing experience, and I met people that I’ll be friends with forever. However, the story I want to share occurred during Kallah.

For those that don’t know, Kallah is the summer program that occurs right after ILTC, and they’re both experiences at Perlman, so everyone there that was going to Kallah who had just attended ILTC was already pretty cloe. So, when new people came, it was kind of hard to leave my comfort zone and meet new people. I always wanted to hang out with the people that I knew from ILTC, but that wasn’t always the case. On the first day of Kallah, I met a girl who we will call Amanda for the purpose of the story. Amanda was from Texas, and she was very funny and seemed like a really nice person. We were in the same pod, so we ended up spending a lot of time together for the first couple of days. Amanda and I got along really well for the first couple of days, but our friendship was elevated to a whole new level after the Life Cycles program.

The Life Cycles program is a program where you go through all the stages of Jewish life. It started with our Kallah coordinators getting fake married. Then we moved into different stations that represented birth, bris, B'nai Mitzvah, etc. In the end, we all came together for the last stage in Jewish life: death. My dad passed away when I was very young, so this was a very emotional stage for me. It was always hard for me to believe in God because of his death; I always found myself wondering why bad things happen to good people, but that night my whole perspective changed.

We were getting ready to head into the Amidah, and the Rabbi told us that instead of saying the Amidah we should ask God for something, whether it was a concrete object or a sign. I remember repeating in my head the whole time, God, if you’re there, give me a sign. I need to know that you're with me right now. I didn’t really expect anything to happen, but it was worth a try.

After the Amidah, we moved into the Mourner’s Kaddish. Eric, the song leader, told us that as he points his hand around the circle we should say how a person that we lost is related to us. So he started playing the music and moving his hand around the circle, getting closer and closer to me. I worked up the courage to say “Dad”, and about three people down from me I heard someone say “Mom.” My heart stopped. Who could this person be? I looked over and I saw Amanda. We shared a look and then put our heads down.

After the service, everyone was hugging and comforting each other, but I only wanted to talk to one person: Amanda. I found her and we started talking. I asked, “Were you the person who said mom?” She said yes, and I told her that I said dad. I was so broken up inside after the service, so we just sat there in silence for a minute. Then I asked her when it happened. “6 months ago,” she replied. Here I was crying about something that happened 12 years ago, and she was sitting there without a single tear in her eye saying her mom had died just six months earlier. This was so touching and inspiring to me.

The more I thought about this event, the more I realized that she was my sign from God. It was fate that I signed up for Kallah and she did too. It was so unbelievable to me. She had so much courage and so much joy after just six months. Amanda and her story got me through Kallah and helped me find God. Kallah isn’t for everybody, but if you’re looking to find meaning in life and build upon your Judaism, then it’s definitely the place for you. I hope you all think of this story when you think of signing up for a summer program because it just might change your life.

Levi Hancock is an Aleph from Liberty Region and goes to the same high school that Kobe Bryant attended.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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