By Rachel Shapiro
A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend USY’s International Fall Board Weekend, a summit for of all USY’’s international and regional leaders. It’s an amazing gathering where USY leaders get to meet each other, engage in leadership training, plan for the year, and bond.
After a particularly meaningful, but exhausting meeting, during which we decided which charities the money that USYers raised throughout the year would be allocated to, we took time to relax and go for a swim in the hotel pool.
We all ran up to our rooms and threw on clothes that we could wear into the pool. As we all arrived in the pool area, the few hotel guests who were there left and we jumped in laughing, talking, and swimming around.
Eventually, as USYers do, someone began to sing in Hebrew. As more and more of us recognized the tune, we joined in. Eventually, we had started a giant ruach (spirit) and slowach session in the middle of the pool, singing songs from the B’kol Echad with passion and energy. We made a giant circle and sang and danced together at the top of our lungs.
We could feel the pool shaking below us. Every time we reached a point where we would have clapped during a song, we would hit the water with our hands, and the pool would go flying around us. When we got to Dodi Li, a call and response song where the responder is asked to echo the leader, the leader said to sing like we were underwater and we actually dunked under the water.
During Eili Eili, a song by Israeli poet Hannah Senesh, as we recited “Eili Eili shelo yigameir olam/ hachol v’hayam/ rishrush shel hamayim,” “I pray that these things never end: the sand and the sea, the rush of waters,” we could actually feel the rush of the water with our hands. It was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Before the pool closed we sang B’shem Hashem and wrapped our arms around each other, swaying back and forth. Surrounded by all of these people I was so close with, some of whom I had just met, singing one of my favorite slowach songs, in the middle of this hotel pool in New Jersey, was a moment that I don’t think I will ever forget.
It really summarized what USY is all about. One of the most spiritual, incredible moments of my life so far wasn’t some grand affair or planned out moment. It was as simple as spending time with my closest friends, celebrating our Judaism together, in a way that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else.