The 9 Days at Camp Sdei Chemed

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By Ronnie Sugerman:

In spirit of the nine days, this entire week Sdei Chemed has taken more serious trips appropriate for this important time (without limiting the fun, obviously). In the beginning of the week, we went to The Deaf Museum, where we were each given headphones to wear over our ears which took away our ability to hear. Each group was then led by a deaf tour guide, through four different rooms. In the first room, we learnt how to use our whole body to express any sort of action. The second room focused on our face and how we could use facial expressions alone to convey how we are feeling, whether it be happy, surprised, or curious etc. Next, we learnt how to use our hands themselves to show a specific object or verb, for example, shoveling, brushing your teeth, or simply eating. We then ventured to the last room of the museum, where we were each given a special hand gesture unique to our individual appearance/personality to use as a sign for our name.
After the museum, each group sat down with their tour guide for a chance to ask them any questions they might have for them. Every tour guide had their own unique story, whether they were born deaf into a hearing family, or whether their entire family along with them is deaf genetically, each had to face their own unique challenges. Regardless, there was one thing that each guide had in common: a feeling of pride for who they are and not viewing their situation as a burden. 

Each story was extremely inspirational. Not only did it teach us what a blessing it is that G-d has given us the gift of hearing, but more importantly, there is no obstacle in life that is too big to overcome. With a new-found appreciation for The Deaf Museum, and life itself, we headed to our next activity: Leket Israel.

Leket Israel is an amazing organization that collects the leftover produce from farms and fields and distributes them to soup kitchens all over Israel. We were going to be collecting fresh tomatoes from a field grown specifically for Leket’s purpose. We were assigned three rows of the huge field, and had twenty minutes to collect as many tomatoes as possible. We immediately spread out over the field and started picking. After a mere 20 minutes, the entire camp worked together to collect 880 pounds of tomatoes. It felt great to be a part of such a giving organization.

Later, after an awesome night activity of dodge ball, the camp got together and made a bonfire on our very own campus grounds. We all gathered around the fire and sang zemiros and roasted marshmallows. Besides for reaching a spiritual high, we also created a deeper bond.

Later in the week, we took a trip to Yad VaHashem, a Holocaust museum and memorial. First, we were led by our tour guide to a memorial for the 1.5 million innocent children who were murdered in the Holocaust. As we walked through the memorial’s optical illusion of infinite burning candles, we also heard the names and ages of some of the children victims, reminding us that the 1.5 million children who were killed are not just a statistic, but rather each and every child has a unique and special story.
We were then taken to the museum section of Yad VaHashem, where we not only learnt about the Holocaust itself, but also about all the events leading up to the Holocaust, from the Jews’ assimilation in Europe to Hitler’s (curse his name) rise to power. After an hour and half of further education from our tour guide, we exited the liberation room (where Hudie recognized his grandfather in a photo pictured in the museum), and then spoke with our tour guide for the last time. He emphasized that as the last generation to be able to see and talk to Holocaust survivors we have an obligation to make sure that the story of the Holocaust never be forgotten and must ensure that the tragic story does not end up being just another dusty page in a history book. Walking out of Yad VaHashem, we all left with a better understanding of the Holocaust, and with an immense amount of pride in being Jewish.

Next, in our very own bulletproof bus, accompanied by R’ Reznek and his family, we headed to Chevron to visit the Maares HaMachpalah. Once inside, we gathered around Avraham Aveinu and Sarah Emainu’s graves and individually and as a group said tehillim. Afterwards, we sang a few zemiros and heard a speech from Dovid, our camp director, about how important it is for all Jews to get along and accept one and another, and how he sees here in Sdei Chemed, while we come from many backgrounds, we have all embraced each other and already notices the strong friendships that have been formed.

After we hung around in Chevron for a while and davened mincha at The Avraham Aveinu Shul, we headed to our final destination: Kever Rachel. Like before, we said tehillim and sang some zemiros while inside (this time the English song “Momma Rachel Cry”), and a real sense of brotherhood could truly be felt. In Sdei Chemed not only can you have a blast, but you can also feel a real sense of fulfillment while doing so.
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