Participants of Mrs. Miryam Swerdlov’s Israel touring program for teens write about the life-changing experiences they had visiting Ukraine and Israel.
By F.B. – A participant of Mrs. Swerdlov’s program
Words cannot describe the feelings, the emotions and the growth of these 37 days.
We started in Kiev, and went to the Alter Rebbe’s Tzion in Haditch. The language has not been created yet to explain the pnimiyus hanefesh that was seen there.
Mrs. Miryam Swerdlov prepared us, as only she can, before we went into the tzion, most of all the 44 campers were crying. We felt like we had a yechidus with the Alter Rebbe. We went to Nyezshin, where the same thing was repeated with the Mitteler Rebbe, as well as Annipoli and Barditchev, where we understood that we go in ‘as is’, because Reb Levi Yitzchok is our ‘meilitz yosher’.
Of course before each mokom kodosh we were told about the Rebbe, we learned, we sang his niggun, (‘Mizrach Du’ became a favorite…) and we connected to the Yesterday. The name of our camp is YT”T, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, in each place we connected to Yesterday, to bring it to Today, for a better Tomorrow.
Mrs. Swerdlov is great at explaining and connecting to Yesterday, evoking and waking our feelings through words and niggun, Shosh Rabinowitz took incredible care of our Today – the Hotels, the food, the transportation, everything was planned to the last tiny detail.
The entire trip was a farbrengen. We learned lessons in life, we had shiurim daily, incredible life changing Rebbe Time with our dedicated 24/7 counselors, Ariella Schechter/Florida, Chana Ester Okunov/CH, and Sheina Klein/South Africa. They were true role models, and gave us their full time and attention at all times. Mrs. Swerdlov’s Shiurim and Swerly moments will stay with us forever. How can we forget: “Show up for your life”, “A chosid is a Mesudor”, “The first NO is the easiest”, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, “Every action has a re-action” remember, that wherever you go you take the Rebbe with you.”
When we stood at BabiYar, and saw the Ukrainians, a small part of me wanted revenge on the locals. Did they know how many Jewish lives had been claimed in their town? How many Jewish families suffered through their grand-parents’ hostility? Did the residents of Kiev not hear the gun-shots? And yet, I realized, LOOK AT US HERE, NOW. We are a large group of Chabad girls, back in this country, Jewish, alive, and well- the BEST REVENGE anyone could ask for.
Our first Shabbos was with the Baal Shem Tov in Mezibush. It was a Ruchniyusdiker Shabbos, as we never had experienced before. (Remember our age, we are post Gimmel Tammuz children.) We davened kabolas Shabbos in the Baal Shem’s Shul, and farbrenged an entire Shabbos with him.
Our second Shabbos, in Israel, we davened with the Rashbi in Meron, (the next Shabbos was Family Shabbos off), our fourth Shabbos we farbrenged in Kfar Chabad, and the last Shabbos, we davened where our tfillos all rise to shomayim, we davened with our Ovos and Imohos in Ir Hakodesh Chevron.
At every place, we met the Shliach and farbrenged with him. Of course, we had a great Chssidisher tour guide, Rabbi Choni Goldberg, exclusively, we met with Rabbi Astman and Rabbi Levenhartz in Kiev, Rabbi Wilhelm in Zitomir, Rabbi Horwits from Vinitza in Mezibush, Rabbi Yigal Tzipori in Kiryat Shmona, Rabbis Brod and Bolton in Kfar Chabad, Tova Mordechai in Tzfat, Rabbi Yonni Fein in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Mendelson in Arad, Rabbi Slonim in Mitzpe Ramon, Rabbi Victor Attia and Mrs. Bat Sheva Cohen in Chevron.
The trip was full of excitement as well, as we rafted the Jordan, hiked the mountains North and South, rappelled down cliffs, rode camels, (what a sight, 44 girls on 22 camels, we where a real caravan for an hour in the desert, we jeeped the desert too, learning about survival and the way that Hashem put everything where it has to go. We went to the Museum of the Blind and lived for an hour and a half in THAT world, we volunteered in Yad Sara, we went to Bait Hatfuzot. The lessons were so enhancing and deep. We even stayed in a 5 Star Bedouin tent, as Mrs. Swerdlov called it a 5000 star if you look at heaven……We learned the deeper meanings of everything, everywhere, not a second was wasted.
All in all, YT”T was an incredible experience for 44 very lucky girls. We became family, we were from all over the US, one girl from France, and even a girl from Israel, who said she never saw the land THIS way.
C.V. writes: I am going home with a full fledged flame that I hope will never dim, I learned the meaning of Chabad and the responsibilities that I have as a Chosid of the Rebbe. Thanks for giving me the tools and the experience which helped make me proud! Never will I forget this summer!
What did this trip do for us?
It made us proud to be the Rebbe’s children.
It brought our Yesterday into our Today to bring a better Tomorrow.
We learned the deeper meaning of Everything.
We grew in our Ruchniyus through Rebbe Time and Shiurim.
WE HAD SO MUCH FUN.
It made sisters out of 44 individuals.
It really brought Moshiach closer.
IT WAS WORTH EVERYTHING AND MORE.
Thank you Mrs. Swerdlov, Shosh, Ariella, Chana Esther, Sheina, Rivka, Rabbi Choni, Rabbi Pinya and everyone else who had a hand in this incredible journey.
Interviews for the SWERDLOV UKRAINE/ISRAEL PROGRAM (YT”T) will take place during the chof-beis shvat convention.
Please email [email protected] or call 718.774.1813 for an appointment.