“Wandering is an inherent part of our own liberation,” says Beit T’Shuvah’s Chaplain Adam Siegel, Spiritual Counselor and Community Development Coordinator. He refers to a reading from Deuteronomy in the Haggadah, the text recited at the Seder on the first nights of Passover. Since Adam first came to Beit T’Shuvah, he has witnessed a great deal of wandering and liberation.
In 2008, Beit T’Shuvah’s Partners in Prevention program gave a presentation at Cal State Northridge, where Adam was the assistant director of Hillel. The students were as captivated as he had ever seen them: “You could hear a pin drop,” he recounts. Immediately, he knew there was something special about Beit T’Shuvah.
As Adam pursued his studies in Jewish chaplaincy, he became increasingly focused on finding an innovative place to do meaningful spiritual work. He came to Beit T’Shuvah as a part-time spiritual counselor in 2010 and has been here since. A full-time spiritual advisor since he completed school in 2014, Adam’s role has expanded. Now, he heads BTS’s community service and social justice activities, including development of a Street Torah program. Adam works to connect the Beit T’Shuvah community to the larger community by participation in social action, both on the streets and in halls of government. “Our residents need to know that social justice means more than just laws in books. We feed the homeless, register voters, and support appropriate legislation consistent with Beit T’Shuvah’s mission. We have an obligation to share our blessings with others.” Adam’s enthusiasm about social justice is contagious. A former resident who immersed himself in the works of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel went on to work with immigrant field workers to improve wages and working conditions, establishing the celebrated Fair Food Program.
Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery. Each year, we recall the tale of persecution and slavery, of wandering and of eventual homecoming of the Jewish people. Similarly, we are each on a journey – sometimes lost, sometimes found – wandering toward serenity. With work and with help, our journeys move us toward the acceptance of sadness, toil and persecution and the hope for joy, gratitude and sharing. “We are reminded by the Haggadah readings that we are on a journey. Sometimes we feel lost, but even then we have hope,” Adam explains.
The very last words of the traditional Seder are “next year in Jerusalem.” As the final moment in the Seder, it’s emotionally significant, and it finishes the Seder’s journey from a reminder of the suffering of the past (and present) to hopes for wholeness and freedom for all in the future. We all wander and feel lost at times. At BTS, though, we can connect with one another, with spirituality, and with their passions and share their blessings with others. We can have hope.
Next year in Jerusalem—this year at Beit T’Shuvah.