B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp: a magical place in itself. However, for a few days each summer, Perlman is joined by a few special guests who make it just that much more enchanting. During the second shabbos of International Kallah, we were lucky enough to experience Shabbat To Remember (S2R). During S2R, Camp is joined by many holocaust survivors for the weekend so that we may learn from them and hear their stories to ensure their memory succeeds them.
I was fortunate enough to participate as a “grandchild” for Trudy Album this past summer. Meaning, I helped her navigate camp and made sure she was enjoying her stay. I expected this would be a truly memorable weekend. I was talking with the rest of my team just before Trudy arrived, and I offered them a thought, "There aren't many children in the world today who will ever hear a first-hand account from a holocaust survivor. Much less any who will get to literally be a Survivor's family for a weekend. Bathe in every moment of this experience, because you likely won't get one like it again." I can tell by our collective Havdalah tears on Saturday night that I was right; all of us were sad to say goodbye.
But there's one thing Trudy said which stuck with me so much that I feel the need to share it with all of you. It wasn't during her speech, or designated time for talking, but rather quickly before the HaMotzi during Shabbat lunch. First, you have to understand that Kallah is an inherently stressful experience for our minds. Waking up to learn that what you thought you believed you don't actually believe--every day for three weeks– takes its toll on your bearing. I've spent sixteen years getting to know the world, myself, and deciding what I believe. Those beliefs were challenged and shifted every moment at Kallah. In particular, I was struggling with the idea of Tikkun Olam, so I decided I'd ask Trudy her thoughts: "Trudy, I have a question. As someone who has seen first hand the hatred for Jews in the world, do you still believe in Tikkun Olam? How can or why should we go around trying to heal a world that despises us and call it our duty?"
I could tell Trudy was intrigued because she sat back in her chair and said, "Hmm, let me think for a moment." I waited patiently, eager for her response as she continued, "Well, yes, I do believe in Tikkun Olam, and let me tell you why. When we carry out the calling of Tikkun Olam, it is as if we are saying 'even though you hate me, I am helping you because that is what I believe is right' and in doing that, you embarrass them for hating you in the first place."
I then sat in awe of what I considered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be enlightened, inspired, and to share such a special moment with such a special person.
Trudy was generally a pretty light-hearted individual. On Friday night, Survivors got to pick between a story-time type of gathering, and a dance session--Trudy picked the dance session without hesitation and was right up there in the big dance circle with everyone else. She always talked about how happy being with the kids made her, about her family, about how much she loved BBYO and was always extremely well-mannered. She jumped into every situation, looking to get the most out of it. And everybody under the sun stopped to ask questions, take pictures, or even just to say 'hello.'
I was amazed by the insightful perspective she had on such a difficult issue. But right after our talk she immediately went back to just taking everything in with the typical smile on her face that lights up a room. Seeing that approach to life really has helped me live fuller on a day-to-day basis and definitely made my Kallah more meaningful.
Honestly, I did not expect my cold-cuts Perlman Shabbat lunch to stick around in my memory for that long. But the message Trudy shared at that moment truly helped me satisfy some of the eager confusion swirling around inside me about my own Judaism. And it's an incredible tidbit of advice which I don't think is fair to hold for myself–so maybe sharing this is my own bit of Tikkun Olam.
Max is an Aleph from Chazak AZA in the Nassau Suffolk Region
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