Since his childhood, Yonim Schweig has worshiped nature. He beloved to hike and tenting along with his household and stroll in pure environments the place he might really feel the solar on his pores and skin and listen to birdsong within the bushes.
A graduate in environmental research from UC Davis, he abhorred waste. So when he noticed a plastic yogurt cup dangling within the blue water of Lake Winnemucca in Nevada final summer time, whereas on a tenting journey along with his household, he ducked in to get the chunk. of trash.
“I really feel morally responsible,” he informed his father as he walked in the direction of the lake, then began swimming in the direction of the floating piece of plastic. It was a windy day and the cup stored blowing out of his attain. He swam and swam and swam, going deeper into the frigid alpine lake. Ultimately he grabbed the piece of litter and began paddling in the direction of the shore.
However fatigue and the extraordinary chilly overwhelmed him. Regardless of the most effective efforts of relations – in addition to a couple of paramedics who have been mountaineering close by and a helicopter rescue group – Schweig handed away on July 13, 2020, a day earlier than his twenty first birthday.
Information of his demise was hit onerous within the many communities of which Yonim was an element: UC Davis, the place he had resided in a multi-faith neighborhood; the yeshiva in Israel the place he took a sabbatical 12 months; Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, the religious dwelling of her trendy Orthodox household; and the Bay’s Jewish Group Excessive Faculty, the place Schweig had created and constructed a Residing Roof, a 10-by-10-foot house crammed with drought-tolerant succulents and grasses, for his predominant challenge.
Over 1,000 individuals attended his Zoom memorial service final summer time.
As his mother and father, Tania and Muni Schweig, his associates and different family members mourned him and tried to make sense of his demise, they regarded for a approach not solely to commemorate him, however to maintain alive his spirit of curiosity, his deep spirituality. and its dedication to the setting.
“I did not need to simply create a scholarship,” stated Tania Schweig, college principal at Oakland Hebrew Day Faculty. “For him, I felt it was necessary to go deeper into what he was saying. It could not be in regards to the cash. It needed to be the content material, the expertise. “
So now, 9 months after her son’s demise, Schweig and a group of volunteers from throughout the nation are organising a scholarship program for Jewish highschool college students. The Einayich Yonim Scholarship will give Grade 10 and 11 college students the chance to delve into Jewish moral ecology and take into consideration methods to grow to be brokers of change for a greater world. The 18-month program will embody month-to-month seminars on Jewish ecology, group discussions on Torah and environmental challenges, and workshops on expertise similar to mindfulness methods and communication via variations.
Within the second half of this system, college students will work on a neighborhood impression challenge that brings collectively the abilities they’ve realized and the concepts they’ve explored. Every pupil will probably be paired with an grownup mentor, who can information them via the method and assist them obtain their objectives.
Whereas a lot of this system will happen nearly, college students will collect in the summertime of 2022 for a week-long retreat in Northern California to share Shabbat, commune with nature, and forge deeper connections.
This system will probably be free for individuals and will probably be primarily based on donations and grants, most of which haven’t but been collected.
The Einayich Yonim scholarship takes its title from Shir HaShirim, the tune of songs, and einayich yonim means “your eyes are doves.”
“On the Yonim Memorial, we talked about how all of our eyes are to be Yonim’s eyes now, that we’re to see like him and hold his imaginative and prescient to himself,” Tania stated. “It was actually acceptable to make use of that title.”
Tania stated the thought for the scholarship program had developed organically as associates and acquaintances provided to assist her commemorate her son. Initially, she considered internet hosting a youth convention on the setting, however wished to create a deeper, life-changing expertise.
Once I learn his story and discovered how he died, I felt deeply modified in methods I could not clarify.
Ilisa Capell, vice chairman of management improvement at Prizmah, a North American community for Jewish day faculties, is a part of the scholarship program advisory group. Though she by no means met Yonim, she knew her mom professionally and heard lots about Yonim after her demise.
“Once I learn his story and discovered how he died, I felt deeply modified in a approach I could not clarify,” Capell stated.
Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, Tania’s skilled mentor, was one other one that helped begin the scholarship program.
“It is loopy that I’ve by no means met Yonim as a result of I have been concerned on this world for 9 months,” she stated, “I really feel like we have been on this mission to convey out the sweetness, purity and depth of this younger man. on this planet.”
To take part within the scholarship, college students might be of any Jewish affiliation, however should have a powerful Jewish id and a few expertise of Jewish studying. They need to be serious about exploring their Jewish spirituality and still have a love of nature. Nominations can come from educators, rabbis or neighborhood members, or the scholars themselves.
“We do not have an ideal candidate in thoughts,” Capell stated. “We’re searching for individuals who need to discover, who enter this subject with a powerful sense of curiosity. It isn’t a hypercompetitive scenario that I can enter. I virtually really feel like persons are going to decide on for themselves. “
Tania stated she hopes this system will entice teenagers like her son – considerate, artistic and dedicated to Jewish spirituality and the setting. She is definite that Yonim had necessary issues to show the world and that his concepts have to be stored alive.
“He is not going to have his personal kids; he did not write a e-book, ”she says. “I really feel this huge accountability to ensure that his educating stays on this planet and that different persons are delivered to life.”