Mincha Moments Make Miracles


It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

–Brother David Steindl-Rast


I’ve recently thought that if I ever write a book, the “Acknowledgments” section will be larger than the book itself.  For real. I joke a lot, usually, but I’m completely serious.

This week was fraught with travel challenges as I attempted to make my way to Rwanda for my longest trip yet. No less than two cancelled flights, and nightmare re-bookings. My colleague and fellow board member, Christy Lamagna, and I made many friends at Newark airport, including a soldier, a waitress and airplane captain. Really, business cards were exchanged. In the end, however, the moved flights made us miss the Alumni Reunion at the Village, and I am sorely disappointed. Hopefully I will get to connect with Alumni when I finally get there. And Christy couldn’t change her schedule, so I’m solo. For the first time, I think. And on the way to the airport (for the third time this week) I thought a lot about all the help I have had to get to this moment, traveling alone 7,500 miles to a place I consider home.  It’s a miracle- or maybe it’s fate, as my nephew Gus would say.

Gus became a bar mitzvah two weeks ago, and he is very wise indeed. In Jewish tradition, 13 year-old children are able to read from the Torah (the old testament bible) and do a teaching. It is considered a “coming of age” ritual. Gus’ parashah, or “reading portion”, was about fate.  Gus explained that we are all on a path- but he believes our choices DO affect this path. And it is not a straight line, its more like a tree, with a trunk and many choices as branches, going every which way as choices are made, and we “grow” in the process. (And clearly I also learned Gus is very, very bright and more than ready for his bar mitzvah.)

I’ve taken his thinking a bit further. Trees don’t grow alone. They need sun, and water, and nutrients. They weather hurricanes and bask in glorious sunshine. They hopefully age gracefully. Birds and bees pollinate to help them create the next generation. They get to listen to the wind and the rain and the animals, and they create symbiotic relationships. They may or may not feel joy, but in the right conditions, with a lot of help, they truly thrive. (And in a little shout-out to the housing industry- location, location, location always helps. 😉 )

I’m not sure I was in the right place at the right time, but it is what it is. I have been thinking about choices and how I got here. What put me on this path? Did I really choose it?  Who, or what, sent me in this direction?  And this got me thinking about that trajectory, and the hundreds of people who have influenced me along the way, many of whom likely have no idea how much impact they have had on my life. Every single person in my life has stewarded me to this moment. And when I sit here thinking about the path, names and faces pop up over and over again. It is overwhelming, frankly. A massive acknowledgement section.

I had the pleasure of spending time with Debra Gonsher Vinik when she was doing her documentary, “Beauty in Their Dreams” and was filming in the Village.  At 2pm, her phone alarm went off. She apologized and said that was the moment very day she and her husband had their Mincha Moment, or moment of gratitude.  Say what? Really, she sets and alarm!  Being grateful is humbling. Being grateful reminds you of joy during the hard times. Appreciating the good people in your life helps bring you energy to move forward, and reminds you when (and who) to ask for help. So your branches can grow. And there are hundreds of people like Debra in my life who have been there to help move me, and ASYV, forward. Not to mention the other aspects of my life. And I hope beyond hope I have given back to everyone who has given to me. If I haven’t yet, I will. Promise. Because I am so eternally grateful.  If you have no need of me, at the very least, I will pay it forward to someone else.

The mango tree in the Village seems even more relevant to me now, representing all of our growth through the years, kids, staff, volunteers and friends alike, all feeding a mission which bares incredibly sweet fruit.

I can’t wait to sit under that tree, like all who have gone before me, and watch it grow.



Seeing is Believing: How Far We Have Come

Well, I’m still at it. I’m still loving these kids in Rwanda. One would think it gets old, you move on, try new things, set new goals. Yet no, here I am. Still traveling across the world to visit kids I barely know, and then get to know, because that’s how it works. Going to Agahozo-Shalom requires a certain commitment, one not even identified before leaving go go there… it is implied and never planned for… it is an emotional understanding which only comes after a visit. And I wish I could explain it to you. But I cannot. You just have to go to understand, be transformed, and then SEE. I can at least promise that to SEE is forever. You will never forget, and that is priceless.  Sadly, after 13 visits to Rwanda I still am unable to articulate the experience of hugging a Rwandan child. And I have accepted, to some degree, I never will. Unless you go and feel it for yourself- then we can make a connection. Until then, I will tell their story as best I can.

January 2016 was my longest visit thus far.  It is hard to explain the feeling of joy and of sacrifice at the same time. There is a constant internal conflict: Whose kids need me more? I had the wonderful good fortune of bringing my family to Rwanda a few weeks back, and I must say I think my family understands and accepts my absences more than ever, now that they have seen where I go, met who I serve and understand what I do.  At least I hope so, because I miss them all so much when I am gone. I would like to think they understand why I feel compelled to leave, after visiting the Village themselves, and spending the day learning about the history and the people, it would actually take effort not to care. Maybe someday I can convince one of them to comment. Unlikely, but one can dream.

I am happy to report I was able to share this visit with many, and I am hopeful ASYV has some new friends. Building the ASYV family is critical. I have learned over the past few years, sadly, that no one is indispensable. No One. Life always goes on. So my goal is to spread the word about these amazing kids who will, someday, change the world. I hope if you are reading this you will be an ambassador for them as well.

This trip I had the pleasure learning all I could from the Smith Brothers. Stephen Smith, the CEO of the Shoah Foundation and James Smith of Aegis Trust. Their work on peace and reconciliation education is critical to the future of the world. Which I realize after typing it is an enormous mission. How fortunate our group was to have these fine gentlemen as our scholars. The message they impart is huge- we are all needed to make a difference going forward. Our voices regarding peace in this world count more than we could know. Facilitating peace negotiations is way more important than making more guns. We had the surprise of meeting the delegation from CAR (Central African Republic) doing just that- we met human beings negotiating peace in real time, leaders trying to prevent a genocide. And it was humbling. I am hopeful the leaders of CAR will get it right this time. Acknowledging the crisis beforehand is half the battle. Stephen and James taught me the importance of doing this kind of work. We must support these efforts as a collective voice; the Smith’s may be amazing but they cannot do it all alone.

I am happy to report the Village is continuing to thrive. And while I’m not surprised, I am continually blown away by the Rwandan staff who consistently find solutions to challenges, and whose commitment to our kids is beyond inspiring. Even those staff who have moved on to other opportunities still continue to love and support the Village. Such big hearts they have for these children. We could learn a lot from the commitment the adults- role models- make for these kids. I love that we all embrace our core values, and put the best interest of the kids first.

I could go on and on, talking about meetings and visits and fun moments, but most of it I have mentioned before in one form or another. I will, however, mention experiences worth noting, as they are really unique, at least to me.

One of our guests turned out to be a Rabbi. She asked if we could have a small Shabbat service. I checked with JC, and we then turned it into a bigger one- at Village Time. From what I understand, when the Village first began, we had a lot of Israeli staff, and Shabbat service was common. But that was before my time, and before most of the current staffs’ time. So for this wonderful woman to go up on stage and explain Shabbat, and brig up Mama’s to help light the candles and bless the kids, well that was incredible to me. At dinner I asked this kids what they thought. They said they liked it, thought the singing was pretty, and appreciated being blessed. I guess a blessing from anywhere can’t hurt.

Upon my departure I am required to go to the dining hall at lunch and make a farewell speech.  I hate to leave, and I always leave the kids with a message of hope, and pride in their hard work, along with promises to be back soon.  Afterwards, I sat down with some of the new girls to eat lunch. And they were crying. Because I was leaving!  So I asked JC later what that really was about, after all, I do know them a bit but not all that well. JC said that it’s what my leaving represents, and that they are not able to articulate their appreciation. They cry because they cannot explain or express (because of cultural reasons, week English, lack of understanding of their feelings or all of the above) what they feel and they know I represent someone or something good, and I care.  I think I have never somehow put together that we often cry because there are no words to suffice. Anyway, it was a first for me. And I am grateful to all the kids who came up to me and said goodbye.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Anne. She is all over the Village, in everything we do and much of what the kids say. We all believe in her messages. Two years later she lives on, through the kids, the staff, and all who visit and take her messages forward. And I am grateful to have her here.

So much has happened in two years. But everyone at ASYV aims high.  How far we can see is only limited to the mountains on the next horizon. We have had to walk far and climb a few- but the view on the other side will never end, as long as we keep walking, and climbing.

Good thing I picked up some new boots.


We Are Family, I’ve Got My Mishpuchah With Me

Traveling home is never fun. Besides being a long journey back, the truth is, I hate to leave. There’s never enough time. I want to spend more time getting to know the kids and working with the staff. Maybe that’s not only because the kids are so great, but because in the village every day contains a clear success. It’s awesome watching it happen. It’s moving and emotional and validating. As hard as everyone works, the rewards are huge. I watch as lives change in front of my eyes, and I suppose I’m addicted to that success. Next time, I’m staying longer.

The end of this trip was quite heavy. Our visiting group went to a church which is a memorial site. During the genocide, people were lured to churches as places of safely, and then systematically exterminated. The churches have been preserved so the genocide and the people will not be forgotten. The clothing of the dead is draped on the pews. Bones and skulls are preserved. Coffins line catacomb-like rooms. I had been before, and it was still hard to take. But it seems like the right thing to do to pay my respects each time, somewhere, just like in Israel. Forgetting is not an option.

We then went to the genocide memorial in Kigali. I have been many times. I took that time to reflect on the week, and the past year. Sitting in the sun, in such a spiritual place, I was overcome with emotion. I’m not sure if it was just the events from the past week, or the immense pressure I feel to succeed every day (felt even more intensely in Rwanda) but I kind of lost it. A healing cry, filled with sadness for all that has been lost, especially Anne. I wanted to leave my tears in Israel, but I don’t think I did. Not sure I ever will leave the void of her loss behind me. But maybe that’s a good thing. I never cared about being a success before- it was always private and personal so it didn’t matter, only I was the judge. But this… Is different. There is no other option but success. I am thankful daily for the staff and kids who make it look easy. It’s not. But successful it is.

In the evening we went to family time. Every house has family time several times a week to discuss issues and concerns, successes. It’s a time for reflection and connection for the kids and their brothers or sisters. I went to the Steve Jobs house, a group of senior 6 boys who have grown very close, and who all seem to be completely exceptional. Blaise, our Stand Up singer, Joel, our entrepreneur winner, Bonfils our debate champ and dynamic village time speaker, to name a few. We talked and asked and answered questions. We asked them what had the most impact on them at the village. We got a mix of answers, but many of them said their family, their brothers and sisters. Always nods of agreement. So-and really, I thought this out as clearly as I could while they were speaking- when they were finished I told them that there is a word in Yiddish which means “family” or the family you choose. Mishpuchah. And they are my Mishpuchah and they are each others. I told them this is a real thing, after all, Jews have a word for it. And while I’m amused at the idea that I have introduced Yiddish to these guys, I realize that as poorly versed in Judaism as I am, I have delivered some kind of Jewish message or connection each time I’m with the kids. And it is intentional. For Anne. This connection was so important to her. I may not be the best Jewish scholar but I’ll continue to try my best. Points of connection to the Jewish world for these kids is critical for making friends and creating understanding between cultures. I wish I could spend more time here teaching those things. Maybe next year I’ll teach the the word, schlep?

Monday I met with our wonderful fellows, who have been in the village for 3 weeks and are already a critical part of village life. They are “cousins” for each house of new kids, and it is a hard transition time. But they are a fantastic group, and seem to have embraced their roles as leaders and family. I also had the opportunity to meet with JC. JC has become one of the most dynamic leaders in his role as director. He has become the face of the village. The kids adore him, and he has created a hard working and fun loving team in his staff. I could not ask for a more thoughtful and caring partner to more forward on this journey. He is a wonderful “papa” for this village. Everything, everyone, is in place. And as it should be.

Now, being home, I realize how much of my heart and soul is in that village. Not a day goes by that I do not think of them all, worry, and try to make things better. I have a lot of money to raise, a lot of time to commit. And, thankfully, a lot of love to give. You get what you give. I am lucky. I got Mishpuchah in Rwanda.


Oh I Love the Way You Hold Me, By My Side You’ll Always Be

In February, after Anne’s memorial, Danielle and I were on the plane home and Danielle looked at me an said, “Laurie, how are we ever going to convey to anyone what we just experienced?”  And I answered, “You can’t. You can try but you can’t. It’s just you and me who understand.”

Even now that is still true. And every day something happens and I can’t even think how I could ever even explain how meaningful or amazing it is… every day is an emotional overload.  And just when I think it can’t get any better it does.

We completed our management trainings which were quite productive, then headed off to tour the water system improvements.  We have had major water issues since the beginning of the village.  We need quite a bit of water for 500 people and all the staff and visitors. We were fortunate to have raised money at our Stand Up event in May for the project along with grants from a few generous donors.  So it’s quite and undertaking doing all the work in such a remote area.  We got to hike along the paths where the bore holes are, and see them actually drilling one.  Lots of kids were watching all the drilling, and more came out of nowhere when we showed up. It was a happening.  Big drilling trucks and workers, water spilling from the drill site, it was a lot of action for this little neighborhood of huts and banana trees.  Good news is we will have the water we need soon enough, and I know pretty much all there is to know about water systems.  (Honey I took lots of pictures!  Woo-hoo! Tell Bruce!)

After that, and then I say after I mean immediately after because schedules are tight around ASYV and boy, were we all a little beat up from the trek, we got to see the finals of the Wheaton College entrepreneur sessions they did with our senior 6 kids all day.  Wheaton’s President brings some students to Rwanda for about a week, and they spend the weekend here and do a whole day seminar for the kids.  It’s fantastic!  Three groups out of 15 were chosen to present to us and the judges. I am proud to say all the projects were really good, and the winners were very excited. I am looking forward to the day when their custom pen company produces ASYV merchandise to sell.  We shall see… I’m told the spokesperson and leader of the group Jo-el is a former street kid, who actually has to go home with a staff person on the holiday breaks, as he has no where else to go.

Immediately after that we all went to welcome the our new class, the Enrichment Year.  These kids are at all different levels of English, so I’m not sure how much was sinking in, but they seemed to pretty much get it.  Our group consisted of myself, Danielle our executive Director, Jeff a board member and also a Liquidnet employee who volunteers to do our trainings, Barrett ASYVs Communication Manager, Jen and Natasha who are Liquidnet employee volunteers, and Bill who also volunteered to do our training.  JC introduced us all and then let the kids ask us questions.  Fortunately the questions were pretty easy, but thoughtful. JC then asked me to speak to the kids, and I welcomed them and encourage them to take advantage of every opportunity they re given and to try new things… then we gave them all copies of the core values and a bracelet.  However, JC made them line up to meet us all.  So I hugged, welcomed and asked the name of 125 kids.  Some are shy, and hug gently, and have a hard time with eye contact. But some hold you like their lives depend on it…which I suppose they sort of do?  I was thanked and smiled at- if you force the eye contact and smile you get a smile back- and I have to say it was, yet again, an experience I am having a hard time articulating.  So many had hope and admiration in their eyes.  We are saving lives while teaching kids to dream and healing the soul with love.  We are there for them and that’s that.  I know they have no idea yet that this is true, and they all still have that shellshocked look. But we will be.

On a personal note, a hug, for me, is a true gift.  It’s love, comfort and compassion in a physical form. You can always tell how much someone cares for you when you hug them. Rwandans are some of the best huggers on the planet.  There is some kind of healing for me each time I’m here, embraced by these kids who only have a hug to give.  I love this place.

Take your Candle, and Go Light Your World

I awoke to cows mooing, kids singing… and a baby crying?  Turns out many people have moved in close to the village, and someone has a young family.  The village draws people closely, as we do a lot of hiring of day workers and purchase food from local farms.  On the drive up to the village you can see the changes, so many more new huts and even stores and such. Small ones but there none the less where nothing had been before.  The road was smooth this time, I imagine It had to be worked on since there is so much traffic going our way…last time it was so bad we got a flat.  The village continues to impact the world around it in a positive way, growing community.

Yesterday we did our yearly management training with the staff.  All I can say is that there is not a more engaged and enthusiastic group in the world.  Everyone is eager to share and learn.  Our staff are as wonderful and committed as our children to learning and growing.  Bonaventure, our school principal and Issa, our director of informal education, both told me separately they couldn’t wait, that they loved these days. I have no doubt their love of learning has rubbed off on the kids.

This year Issa prepared a video of what real footage of our recruitment effort.  Members of the staff, after receiving lists of 10 suggested vulnerable kids from the mayors of each of the provinces (total of 300 kids, there are 30 provinces) travel to the home sight of every single child in consideration.  The purpose is to check and make sure the child is really and truly vulnerable, and to ask questions about their situation and get to see what the living conditions are, as well as the guardians.  So we watched a video of our staff hiking and climbing into the Rwandan hillsides, sometimes walking for 3 hours in order to find a certain kids home, and then the kids themselves in their home environment, doing whatever it is they do. On child was digging a latrine. Others were entering small huts, talking to our staff about what they do… non smiled.  And I kind of lost my mind.  Not only because these were actual images pf some of the kids who had just arrived two weeks prior to the village, but because I was blown away by the dedication of our staff.  It is incredibly hard work to find and evaluate these kids. The entire process takes 10 months to complete. I had not been aware of the complete commitment involved to find these children. While I had known the realities of our children, and seen it with my own eyes, I had never visualized the challenges our staff faces while seeking out the kids.  There are so many easier ways we could populate our classes take kids close by, or don’t live in remote areas, or who are less vulnerable but we don’t do that. Our staff is completely committed to finding those kids who need us most. So, the board chair burst into tears in the management meeting. Excellent.  Well, sometimes you just can’t keep it inside anymore.

The good thing is, we now have a visual record of some of the children who have come here, and we will track their progress.  I look forward to sharing this with the world, so everyone can see the impact. They chose random children to film, so we shall see where they go. It will be an adventure for us all.

Friday night is Village Time in the village.  It’s a chance for the kids to perform and entertain one another.  Right now we only have our new kids (Enrichment year) and our oldest kids (Senior 6).  Last night it was the Enrichment years turn to entertain us.  All I can say is, how these kids have the incredible courage stand in an amphitheater and present anything to so many people… I don’t know where the strength some from. I know when I come next year I will be seeing some these kids up there again, doing it even better.  One young man, Bonfils, who is Senior 6, told his younger new brothers and sisters, “ASYV is the opportunity to choose. Live according to the choices you make and be accountable.”  He was not coached, he did not have notes.  He can give this advice because he lives it every single day.

Last night at dinner, I got to chat with Henry.  He has graduated. He has applied to McGill University and is hoping to attend in the fall.  His twin brother, Eric, will be staying here and applying to University in Rwanda, as someone needs to stay and care for their caregiver, their grandmother. I told Henry about this blog, and that I would give him the link so he could see what my impressions of him have been of he and ASYV.  So Henry, if you are reading this, know how incredibly proud I am of you and your beautiful brothers and sisters. Your hard work, compassion and positive spirit will take you wherever you want to go. I believe in you, and I know everyone reading this believes is you too. You have all our wishes for a fantastic future.  Thank you for changing my life, as ASYV has changed yours.  You have paid it forward already. 🙂

Well, it’s beautiful  new day and I have to get a (cold) shower and start the day. Wishing everyone a mwaramutse (good morning) and murakoze cyane (thank you) for all your love and support.

Count on Me Like 1,2,3

Well, they did it.  They went and graduated, the Indatwa class.  These kids are the kids I remember most from my first visit 31/2 years ago. My kids are all grown up.  All who I spoke to are pretty clear with their plans. I am so proud of them. And they still have dreams even if right now they will just be working and waiting to hear the national exam scores. So many good things to look forward to for them.

The graduation was lovely. I got to sit next to the Minister of Education at the ceremony, who is a really remarkable guy.  He is so interested in our kids themselves, not just the program.  He really enjoyed himself, as did the Minister of gender and Family Promotion, who was in tears by the end.  She held my hand as we walked to have photos taken with the kids, and thanked me and everyone for all we do for the kids. The government is happy with the results.  The kids speak for themselves. The Education Ministers office wants to talk about how we can incorporate our methodology into the entire curriculum of Rwandan schools. I think the is the meeting I have set up for Monday. Yeah. No pressure.

I still feel every day like I’m living in someone else’s skin.  I look in the mirror and I don’t know who that person is anymore. It’s incredible to be pushed forward by Anne’s hard work. I often cannot believe ASYV has made such a positive change this significant this quickly. I suppose successful ideas take off that way. The fact that I have to represent is insane. I’ll do my best.

I got to meet with the Mama’s today, my favorite thing to do. I don’t know how they manage so many kids (16), but somehow they do.  I suppose I connect with them as a mom, and I respect the work they do so very much. They are all feeling confident and could tell us now about all the different ways the Village philosophy heals kids.  They are really a marvel. And all so kind.  One mama said of her position,  “ASYV is not a job, its a mission.”  And she said she loved her job. Doesn’t really get better than that.  One mama told us after the first break of this past year, when the kids returned to school one guardian said to her, “What did you do to him? Why is he acting so good and kind and busy?  What’s going on over there?”  They love them, keep them busy, treat them respectfully and build trust. The kids really respond to the philosophy, even if not at first. It’s kinda crazy.

We took photos with each class this morning (myself, Danielle, Seth Merrin and Jason Merrin) and hugged every single one. It was really sweet.  Everyone was so dressed up, so proud and good looking and so grown up under the green gowns. They posed and smiled like pros. Me, I was just having a bad hair day.  So they will look even MORE attractive. 🙂

Graduations are usually so boring, lets face it. But not at ASYV. Lots of singing and dancing and really wonderful speaking.  It’s so personal. The emotion is real. These kids were not going to have a future, but now they believe in themselves, and know to take advantage of the opportunities life gives them. And they are appreciative. I think the US should open some youth villages maybe…

So it’s late and I must get some sleep. Still here 3 more days and lots to do.  I’m thankful for this village and these kids, and the staff who make the magic happen. I feel confident knowing what good hands the kids are in each day. They always have a place here, and we will always be with them. They can count on it.

I Can See Clearly Now…Gonna Be a Bright, Bright, Sunshiny Day

So it has been raining here for a week. And today there is to be a huge storm, with snow in Jerusalem. But on Monday, the sun was shining, the day of Anne’s overlook Dedication. A spot of sunshine surrounded by rain. Figures.

John and I began the day by boarding a bus with about 50 other guests. We drove north and stopped for a lovely breakfast at a rest stop filled with trees donated by the Jewish National Fund. I probably looked at many tree donations from people I know. I took a photo in case you want to see “your” tree. Anyway, It was lovely.

We then went to Yemin Orde. It is a wonderful place just like ASYV. We got to hear from Chiam Peri, and he told us that Yemin Orde has a lot to learn from Anne and ASYV. That we do some things differently, and very well. He said ASYV inspires them. To me, that is success. And totally awesome.

I kept picturing Anne at Yemin Orde, wandering around with her critical eye, asking questions, and thinking of ways to do things better. Yemin Orde teaches their philosophy to other villages, and they are experienced enough to know that each village has to make it’s changes to fit the culture. They understand that one size does not fit all. I feel this is so forward thinking. They are proud of the improvements other villages make, and are so gracious and encouraging. Chiam is truly amazing. His successor is as well (whose name I’m totally blanking on but I’ll get it eventually) as he said, “when I visited ASYV, that’s when I felt the most Jewish.” I totally relate to that. Go figure.

We had a tour and it’s a great place. Our guide, an Ethiopian Jew who grew up in a youth village, explained to us how important it is to have an identity. How can you be a success if you don’t know who you are and what you stand for? And, most importantly, that who you are is worthy of good things, and happiness, and success. I kept thinking about how often I have felt I don’t deserve things… And I think that has to do with finding out who you are. Guess I’m still working on it. I can only imagine the struggle vulnerable youth would have with that concept.

We then headed north. WAY north. If we had tripped we would have fallen in Lebanon (credit, John). We ended up at Goren Park, a lovely preserved national park, where we went to see the overlook dedicated to Anne’s humanitarian efforts and spirit. JNF (Jewish National Fund) sponsored the ceremony and the dedication, and we learned that usually a family requests to have someone honored, but in this case JNF came to the family and insisted she be remembered this way. Pretty amazing.

The view is outstanding. At first I was surprised it was so far north and out of the way. But now I think it’s just right. Anne’s overlook, way up north, I imagine Anne looking south and watching over Israel, keeping her safe. Corny, but that’s how I’m thinking of it.

There was a lovely ceremony and a boulder with a plaque was unveiled. Very moving. The group spontaneously burst into song. Hard to capture that feeling. We were encouraged to take a stone home so we would always have a piece of the monument to Anne with us, to remember. I admit, I took a handful. And a big one for the Village. Schlepping rocks to Rwanda. Couldn’t have pictured that if I tried.

There was a little reception and kind words were said, memories, wishes for paying it forward, our responsibility, and hopes for a better future, thanks to all Anne contributed to peace and reconciliation in the world. And then the sing along, in between speeches, guitar, kibbutz-like. All good.

The group had dinner, talked, laughter throughout. It was a lovely end to a meaningful day. Meaning Full, really. I feel fortunate to have been included in this celebration… And doubly inspired as I travel to Rwanda tonight. I’ll bring my big rock, and all my heart, my sunshine, for the kids. For Anne.

I’ll leave the tears…rain…in Israel.