Leo Baeck Education Center Madrichim

Written by Writings & Sermons by others — 24 August 2023

This Guest Dvar Torah was delivered by Ofir Miller and Eleanor Haller, two madrichim (youth leaders) who joined Alyth for SWAY (Summer with Alyth Youth) Away Camp in August 2023.

Ofir: Shabbat Shalom my name is Ofir , I’m 17 years old and recently graduated from 11th grade from the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa.

Eleanor: I’m Eleanor, also from Leo Baeck. I’m 17 years old and also just graduated from 11th grade.

First of all, we want to thank Rabbi Elliott, Sam Heller, Abi Brunner, Phoebe Decker, and our host families for inviting us here to the synagogue,  and Sway Away. We are excited to meet the other Sway Away madrichim and thank everyone for giving us this amazing opportunity to meet you all.

We’ve come to tell you about our lives as Israeli teens but even more, we hope to learn from you about your rich,  liberal Jewish lives.

This week, the Parasha is Parashat Shoftim. It tells us about the continuation of Moses’s speech before his death and the entrance to Israel.

He explains and reminds our nation about the rules and orders that we must follow as the chosen nation:
He appoints magistrates and officials , and reminds them that they must use their great power in order to keep the equality of justice, and to be a fitting role model for the rest of the people.

These days, in our country, there is a struggle between Liberal and Non Liberal ideologies with regards to the identity of the State of Israel: in other words- whether Israel should be a Jewish State or a Democratic State.  At Leo Baeck Haifa we created a model for both the Jewish and Democratic identities- representing the role models in Moses’s speech, by staying just and using the value of equality in order to be the guiding light that a lot of us, especially students our age, need today.

Later on, Moses repeats the word justice twice- “Justice justice you shall chase”. We believe that it was important to him to clarify to the magistrates, officials and to the nation that justice could be elusive and hard to achieve. In order to keep the peace within the people, justice and honesty is obligatory – so everyone should know to express a doubt when needed, and not be afraid to speak their mind for the sake of justice.

The parsha starts with the sentence:  “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Eternal your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.”

The magistrates and officials that Moses orders the people to appoint- “Do charity to mankind and save them from calamities”, and play an important and critical role in the rest of the Torah.

From the justice and integrity of those leaders, comes the Leo Baeck Center’s main sentence, which appears on its logo – אמת מארץ תצמח, which means “truth springs out of the earth”. This sentence represents the idea of the reward and consequences of goodness – acts of honesty would bring us peace the same way bribery and greediness would bring us troubles.

At Leo Baeck we choose to follow the path of doing just deeds and kindness in order to encourage generosity and grace within our community.

Leo Baeck instills in us the values of Tikkun Olam (which translates to fixing the world) – being active citizens who try to “repair” or “improve” our corner of the world in many ways. As a part of that program, we, the students, have a day for volunteering outside our school boundaries in order to help, assist, and even improve, the communities around us.

As students of Leo Baeck, we, of course, also volunteer and help the communities in our city.

Eleanor: I’m a Scouts leader, every Tuesday and Friday I go to the Scouts, where I volunteer. Our “tribe”(Scouts den) is called “Shevet Magshim” and what we do is educate young kids about important subjects in a fun way and play with them.

Ofir: I volunteer once a week at a community center near our school, where young kids can come and spend time with their friends. There, with another friend of mine, we play with the kids, provide them with fun activities and make decorative crafts, which relate to a special event that takes place the same week.

We live by the value of Shared Society with our Arab Muslim, Christian, Druze & Bahai neighbors. One example is our school’s community garden – people from different beliefs and cultures come together, cultivate and nourish their part of the garden, while also celebrating different holidays and special days for each culture and religion that is represented there.

In our daily school lives we learn from and with the 150 ASD – Autism Syndrome Disorder students at school, who have the opportunity to express, create and take a part in everyday school life.

Leo Baeck students run a Community Bakery where students bake cakes on a regular basis, and then deliver them to Holocaust survivors & elderly people who are lonely. This program was started because of inspired young students who were given the opportunity to act and create their own way to help our community..

Every year there is a Pesach Seder organized on campus for Holocaust survivors. It is a happy event especially when we dance and sing along with the Survivors.

And finally, we at Leo Baeck celebrate once a year an annual Kabbalat Shabbat at Ohel Avraham Synagogue during Pride month. The event is very special, festive, and brings up an important topic which relates to so many students in our school and people in our community. Leo Baeck fully supports the LGBTQ+ community and the Pride Kabbalat Shabbat comes to show the values that are important     to them in Judaism.

We are very excited and grateful to have been chosen as Leo Baeck Madrichim and be here, at Alyth, in order to strengthen this long – standing friendship between our communities.

We would like to thank again all the people who help, support and preserve this Madrichim program  at Sway Away. And finally we thank all of you here for listening and giving us this amazing opportunity to share about ourselves, the Leo Baeck community, and Israel.