The following is a transcript of a speech delivered during Saturday morning services by Zak Kadish, NFTY Ohio Valley Programming Vice President, at NFTY Mechina, the regional board training event, last week.
356 days ago, the lives of my brother Ethan Kadish, my family, and myself were changed forever by a freak weather incident, a bolt out of the blue. When my brother was struck by lightning, our entire world was shattered, replaced by an impermeable darkness and fear for the future. Since that fateful day nearly a year ago, the darkness has lifted, and hope has returned to our lives. When once we could not even see Ethan open his eyes, we now see emotions—love, happiness, sadness, and laughter—emanating from them. When once Ethan could do nothing but cry, he now laughs, and the sounds that he makes give us hope that he will one day regain his voice. He is attracted to colors, especially shades of yellow, and explodes with joy to every song from all of his favorite Disney movies. And for those of you who are curious, that does not include “Let it go.” Trust me, my sister has tried. He stays busy with therapies, thrice-a-week summer school, and watching the U.S. dominate in the World Cup. He has a lot of stuff to do, and ends every day (usually) with a smile on his face. But why does this matter? Who wants to know about the nuances of injuries, therapies, and recoveries? It matters because even while disabled, Ethan has accomplished things that are nearly impossible to achieve. Worldwide, his story has brought together communities, lent strength to those looking for inspiration, and united people behind a single cause. The lessons that he has taught everyone have been taught, all while he lies in a hospital bed, or sits in a wheelchair. He has transformed my life, our lives for the better, and has taught us the oft-forgotten lesson to never take things for granted. I thank him now for all the lessons he has taught me, and the lessons he will continue to teach in the future.
I would like to now take time to appreciate many of the groups and individuals who have been incredibly important to Ethan’s ongoing recovery. First and foremost, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, for providing unsurpassable levels of care, which we could not be more pleased with. I thank all of his doctors for their expertise and the gentle care that they to gave Ethan and my parents. To the members of Team Ethan, especially Jen Smilg, Laura Berger, and Brett Stern for helping to schedule fundraisers, for providing us with meals (which I am pleased to say are no longer needed), and for providing emotional support through these very tough times. Finally, I thank NFTY. I thank the regions that have donated proceeds from events to Team Ethan, I thank the camps which have suffered the “cold-water challenge” for my brother’s sake, and I thank each and every one of you who has kept Ethan in your thoughts and prayers, you who have offered words of support and encouragement, and provided shoulders of support, ears to listen. This journey thus far would not have been possible without each and every one of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything this amazing community has provided for me and my family. As we sing the Mi Sheberach, we think of my brother, Ethan. We also think of the families of the kidnapped Israeli teens, and the strength and renewal of spirit they so desperately need. And we think of all who are injured, all who are sick, all who are in need of healing. May this Shabbat be a Shabbat of peace, of rest, and of healing. Shabbat Shalom.