Last night, the Lone Soldier Center held its final shabbat dinner for the month of July. Sitting at our table were many familiar faces from the first dinner. I had a very nice time talking, singing, and laughing with volunteers and soldiers I’d worked with these past two months.
Although it was my final dinner with the center, that certainly didn’t mean the learning process was over. Yael, a former lone soldier from Chicago, mentioned that a lot of people came to the comedy show on Thursday, despite it being “the three weeks.” From the confusion on my face, she could tell I needed an explanation. Currently, it’s the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, which is a holiday marking the destruction of the temple. While I had always thought Yom Kippur was the most somber holiday in Judaism, I found out that Tisha B’Av is also a day of mourning.
Before dessert was brought in, two guests stood up to make a speech about Michael, or “Mikey” Levin. Having been good friends of Michael’s, each guest made a short speech thanking the center for their work. Each talked about how Michael touched many lives, and had a gift for bringing people together. “When you were with Michael, he made you feel like the most important person in his life,” one guest said. “If Mikey were here tonight, he would have loved this.” After watching A Hero In Heaven, a documentary about the life and aspirations of Michael Levin, I wish I could have met him. Hearing everyone at the center talk about him this summer has made me miss him, in a strange way. I’ve never met him, his family, or members of his unit. Somehow though, I feel as though I’ve gotten to know him a little through the mission of the center: to bring people together, of any background, to care about soldiers needing a home away from home.