A miraculous Shabbat Dinner: Rabbi Rafi’s Reflection

When our committee of young adults began to brainstorm the theme for a Shabbat dinner, their agreed upon goal was to honour “lone soldiers” by having Seth Frieberg, who served in Gaza this past summer, speak to around 120 young adults. Something truly exceptional happened on Friday night. We ended up hosting not just one but five lone soldiers (along with a parent and brother of one still in Israel) who were recognized for their service by the over 200 captivated people in attendance listening to Seth’s experiences during Operation Protective Edge. The message of standing up for our country and our people could not have come across any clearer as Seth challenged the packed house with the notion that every single one of them can play a role in doing something to strengthen the Jewish people.

This dinner by far exceeded our expectations, in both quantity as well as quality of the experience. The dinner had a beautiful “ruach”(spirit) throughout, and people stayed until close to midnight! Selling out this event once again shows how The House is at the forefront of providing engaging and educational Jewish programming that inspires the next generation to strengthen their bonds with Israel, their own Jewish identity and their role as the next generation of Jewish leaders.

However, beyond the specific events of the evening, there was a very powerful realization that I had while watching Seth speak, which I later shared with everyone, and am excited to share with you as well. Last year our dinner featured Gerda Frieberg as the guest speaker on the  theme of “Rebuilding after the Holocaust”. She spoke not only about her experiences during the Holocaust, but of how her generation passionately sought to rebuild the Jewish people and about the miraculous reality of Jewish continuity following the Holocaust. Although our committee this year didn’t know that Gerda had spoken last year, they happened to have chosen Seth, who is Gerda’s grandson, to speak on behalf of lone soldiers. Realizing the coincidence, I immediately asked Gerda to join us for the evening as well to shep nachas from her grandson. As Seth spoke and over 200 young adults were transfixed by his experiences and commitment, something amazing dawned on me. 70 years ago, Gerda could never have imagined having grandchildren at all or have had any notion of there ever being a State of Israel. On Friday night, Gerda saw the impossible become reality in a tangible way, as she sat and watched her own grandson speak about how he had the honour of defending our homeland. If that is not the miracle of Jewish continuity, what is?!

There are few words to express how powerful that realization was for everyone. Many have shared with me how it will stick with them for years to come, as they work on strengthening their commitment and figure out their role in the unfolding miracle of Jewish continuity.