Israel is at war for her existential survival.
Caila is at war to be seen. I recently watched Caila at a community Bar Mitzvah where she tried so hard to join group of girls that she knows from our community. After a few superficial “hi Caila” they simply forgot her. She was simply a shadow that followed them. She was not a person with feelings, hopes and ambitions. I applaud Caila for trying so hard. It must be torturous to want to be included and not know how to be successful. I could not even watch the situation without crying.
I don’t blame teenage girls who are struggling with their own challenges and identity. It’s hard enough to be them in an age of Tik Tok and Instagram. However that makes me even more exasperated as I know there is no easy solution to the impossible challenge of including a child who desperately wants to be included but is not their equal.
When Caila reaches out to kids for plans to go for coffee or pizza, they are perfectly polite and give her an hour of their time. None spontaneously reciprocate. My heart cracked in two halves last shabbat when she got all dressed up for synagogue. There were no teen’s her age, they were all sleeping in after hanging out until the early hours of the morning in the streets and parks. That’s what teens in Israel do on Friday nights. It’s not Caila’s reality. On shabbat loneliness is her companion. She wondered around after shul and left the kiddish before it began.
Giving comes naturally for many of us. We are happy to drop a coin in beggars cup. However are we willing to sit with the beggar, to talk to them, to give them dignity? Taking responsibility for others, however, is the true challenge of giving.
In this weeks Torah portion we learn that Joseph is called a tzaddik - righteous person. What makes Joseph stand out from other great Biblical figures is his willing to take responsibility.
Perhaps the time has come to switch the model where we teach our kids to do acts of chesed - kindness to acts of responsibility. With that mindset the Caila’s of the world would be given dignity for their differences not just a high five and a fake smile. Responsibility in an inclusive world means we embrace and value diversity in children and families. It is about ensuring that everyone feels a sense of belonging, has the opportunity to participate, and can reach their full potential