For My Camper, Ezra Schwartz

As I approached the Temple Sinai of Sharon, Massachusetts the words of King David’s Psalms could be heard from the street, and the pulsing prayers on Ezra’s behalf were rising skyward. Police and security were stationed every few meters, their faces somber and respectful. I stood outside of the synagogue with hundreds of others because the main sanctuary had already been filled to capacity nearly two hours before the actual ceremony. The tears from above and the tears from below came together, the cold rain chilled our bones. I saw some of my campers; we held each as we cried. When they saw me crying, I felt as if they saw me as inviting them to do the same. We stood together, we stand together.

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To have told you that because you are a Jew, you should have been at Ezra Schwartz’s funeral this past Sunday, would have been asking a lot of you, not to mention, totally not my place. I went because I knew Ezra from Camp Yavneh, and because my heart felt pulled to go. Not only because I knew him personally, but also, because I am a Jew, and because Ezra’s “Jewishness” is what got him killed (in a terrorist attack last week in the West Bank), and nothing more. But I can tell you that there was once a dream placed before us at Sinai. A dream of a people that no matter what would always stick together, and that these people of the book, The Children of Israel are not just a nation, but a family. As if from, the same mother, we are brothers and sisters.

READ: Remembering Ezra Schwartz: He Made Our Lives Happier

As I listened to the eulogies of younger and older siblings, family and friends, and clergy, my toes were freezing cold, but it was really the heartbreaking wailing of people in attendance, that was chilling. Walking along the family and Jewish leaders, as we fulfilled the commandments of ללוות” המת, escorting the dead” and honoring the קדושים, Holy Martyrs of Israel, I was overwhelmed by the unity of the space, despite our many backgrounds, and despite our ritual and liturgical practice, for just those few hours, we were strong, bound and united.