Katie Matanky, MMY 5769-5770
Throughout my year and half at MMY, I did exactly what Rabbi Katz predicted - I got more confused than I ever expected. (Does he still say that on the first Shabbat?) Somehow I not only learned more than I ever had in my life, I learned how much MORE there was to learn, way more than anything that would be confined to the classroom. During my year and a half, the classroom magically expanded to include my whole world. I learned from my teachers, from my tour guides, from bus drivers, grieving mothers on Yom Hazikaron, makolet owners and those third cousins of my father’s great-aunt's neighbor's brother's wife who I obviously went to for Shabbat - because we were “family”. This was Israel, and for whatever reason, it became home for me. Over the course of my time at MMY, I began to envision my life here in Israel.
Making Aliyah became fact - not a question of "if," rather a whole bunch of questions of "when" and "how". I vividly remember a time in high school, after a short but amazing summer program in Israel, coming back home to Chicago and writing down (so I even have proof!) "I can be a real Zionist and live in America." And I might still believe that (a whole long discussion that I'm sure would be fascinating and intellectually stimulating to discuss in an MMY classroom) but it changed for me after MMY. I remember writing it and feeling it at the time, and then I came to Israel for more than just a summer program and I changed. I wanted to be here for good – l’ad – as Rav Kook would say.
And so the journey began.
Rabbanit Esther Rivka Wagner with her daughter Malky,
and her grandchildren,
Rabbi Shalom Weisberg (current MMY faculty), and Michal
On the 17th of Iyar, May 25th, 2016, I paid a visit to Mrs. Malky Weisberg, who graciously invited me to her office on the Yad Vashem campus. Little did I know the significance of that date.
Rabbanit Esther Rivka Wagner (nee Willig) A”H, Malky’s mother, had passed away just two months prior at the age of 92. Rabbanit Wagner, a holocaust survivor and an impressive woman of her own right, had been a long-time MMY witness on our annual Heritage trip to Poland. Her passing was a tremendous loss for all of us too. Just two weeks after her passing, MMY 5776 embarked on yet another voyage, attempting a glimpse at a horror that was. With all this happening in succession, one after the other, I reached out to her daughter to try and connect with the history and memories that much of the MMY family feel so intimately a part of. I sat with Malky, and asked her to give me a taste of the inspiring life of her mother, and the legacy that she left behind.
When Malky spoke, there was no pomp or ceremony. She spoke simply, yet poignantly, and I began to get an idea about the woman who raised her. She started at the very beginning of Rabbanit Wagner’s story, providing me with background and painting a picture of the piety of her mother’s origins. Forty-five minutes later, we were both crying.