Letter From the Heart: Yearning For More
To my fellow Lubavitchers, Shluchos and lovers of the Rebbe’s teachings…
My story is like that of many Chabad girls that share my upbringing and background. This is my childhood, teenhood, and adulthood story that I am proud of and feel grateful to be a part of. My Chabad education from both home and school taught me the importance of self-love, a love for HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Torah, and for Am Yisrael. I have always learned to constantly strive to strengthen my relationship to G-d, myself, and my peers.
I was born and bred in CrownHeights, Brooklyn and attended Bais Rivkah Elementary and High School. I went to the day camps, sleepaway camps, and when old enough I worked as a counselor in the Camp Gan Izzy camps in the states. After my seminary year, I continued along the route of my siblings and friends around me and worked as a Shlucha in Europe for a short period of time.
My seminary year, I went to Israel and discovered something missing in my connection as an individual part of the Jewish nation. I felt connected to our ancestors, to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. I became intertwined with every Jew I passed on the street or bumped into on the Egged busses. My eyes were opened to a new dimension of the love Chabad had inspired in me.
I yearned to explore my connection to the Holy Land, the land of my ancestors, the land that I learned to pray three times a day towards. I have been learning beautiful Torah since I was a young child, but I have never learned it like the way I did while living in the Old City of Jerusalem. I have always loved the chag of Shavuos, but I never experienced it like the way I had staying up all night learning and walking to the Kosel in the morning alongside with thousands of Jews.
With my Jewish identity infused with new depths, I realized that Eretz Yisrael has the ability and power to connect every single Jew to their Jewish identity, to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, to the Torah, and to Am Yisrael. So how could we, the world of Chabad that so passionately inherits the love and pride of our Rebbe, who gives us hope for a wholeness between the Torah, the People, the Land - How can we utilize the power of Eretz Yisrael in our daily lives to strengthen all of our relationships with Hashem and Am Yisrael even more?
When I was in Eretz Yisrael, I yearned to know more about the War of Independence and what it meant to be a “Lone Soldier.” I ached for a greater connection to the land of my people, the land that is mentioned over 600 times in the Tanach in which I learnt from every day yet remained a part of my history rather than a reality.
To many Jews, Israel is but a faraway place, dominated by conflict, or simply irrelevant to their lives. For others, it is too political, or too focused on Aliyah or advocacy. Israel Forever’s aim is to provide nuanced engagement with Israel through interactive experiential learning initiatives helping our fellow Jews to explore, celebrate and strengthen their personal connection.
Chabad Loves Israel is an effort established with great respect to what Chabad brings to the Jewish world. This grassroots effort aims to share with the global Chabad community a myriad of ways to enhance their existing commitment to teaching about and inspiring Israel. And for the older generations, it serves to bring Eretz Hakodesh out of the headlines and into your home, your community, your life, and your heart every day - at your convenience and at your fingertips - to be an active part of making a difference.
If we take on the responsibility of building Kiruv between Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and the legacy of our faith, heritage, Torah and traditions that bind us, we can strengthen the value that Chabad brings to every Jew in the world. Through collaborative exploration of the programs, initiatives and engaging content of Israel Forever, we can awaken in our students and campers a real and tangible relationship with Israel based on the strong values of our Chabad movement. Perhaps, by incorporating these initiatives as Israel Programming into Chabad educational systems, we will not only unite the students amongst themselves but with their fellow Jews in Eretz Yisrael as well.
Michal Baitz is from Brooklyn, NY. She completed her first two years of college at Hunter, and then transferred to Brooklyn College. Michal is majoring in psychology and minoring in marketing. Michal spent a year in Israel at Midreshet Harova and has fallen in love with the country. She hopes to gain marketing tools and experience that will carry her throughout her career.