Stranded in Mexico during a pandemic
Meet a member of our team who we haven’t seen in many months due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we’re still missing her, you can get to know Chaya Castillo.
Chaya is the coordinator of our Bnei Anousim and Hidden Jews of Poland departments, in addition to coordinating the conversion processes of our Machon Miriam students and the activities of the Ma’ani Center.
I joined the Shavei Israel team in early 2018 with a stack of tasks and projects that I was developing with great enthusiasm, Both 2018 and 2019 were intense and dynamic years. Starting in 2020, we were all very excited about the new Machon Milton English-language conversion program. Then two months later I received bad news about my father’s health. My dad was in intensive care in Mexico and without hesitation I decided to travel to see him, with the full support of Shavei.
Thankfully, that story has a happy ending, as my father recovered and I thank God for this miracle. But that was the beginning of another terrible disease that was in the process of hitting the world. Covid-19 was just beginning to be very serious indeed, and soon began to spread everywhere. This forced countries everywhere to make drastic changes and limit us in many ways, including limiting my ability to travel and return to Israel.
I always say that what brings crisis for some, brings opportunities for others and our faith must prevail above all. I told myself, that this is also for good, so I took the time to get closer to my family with whom I have not lived for almost 13 years.
I really wanted to return to Israel and come back to my life, but circumstances stopped me and that is how I remained trapped in Mexico for four months, expecting over and over again to return and disappointing myself every time my flights were canceled due to the situation which was as difficult in Mexico as in Israel.
In this time I learned a lot but the message I want to share with you today is to live each day with gratitude and that will bring you joy, It’s true that many things are difficult, but there are many others that we must appreciate, such as the family itself and friendship.
I miss my job in Shavei very much, now that I am happily back in Israel, and in the mandatory two-week quarantine that each Israeli who comes from abroad must be in. I have moments when I think about how we can continue helping all those who yearn to return to their roots in Israel and proposals such as online classes and interaction channels have emerged.
For example, just this week I participated in a class organized for the Ambato community in Ecuador and it is so enriching to share knowledge of Torah with the audience and see this wonderful return movement to which more and more people join and to which we will continue to support despite this pandemic.