We all know THAT girl. That girl who's always blabbing about social justice, politics, and the world to anyone who'll listen.
I'm totally her. So today was my heaven.
From 11:00am to 4:00pm, the Order split up into different Limmud sessions, which were opportunities to learn about everything from Israeli dance to healthy snacks to domestic violence and Israel advocacy. The first Limmud I attended was on the Syrian refugee crisis, where I had the opportunity to hear from an Iraqi refugee currently living in Vienna named Amar. He was accompanied by a boy my own age who went to Syria, the environmentalist-turned-refugee advocate, and the founder of a major news organization that reaches millions of people per day. I then went to two sessions on politics, led by leaders from both the Republican and the Democratic parties. I know that I could not possibly express this in a more cliche manner, but my life has been wholly changed.
My Limmud on the Syrian refugee crisis brought out my emotional side. Millions and millions of innocent people have been displaced from their homes due to both the government that is supposed to protect them and a terrorist group that kills its own people. Whether you believe that the United States should fling open its doors to every refugee or whether you believe that the country should accept none, this crisis is horrifying. And it has to be horrifying, not simply because of the lack of humanity. It has to be horrifying because it was not long ago that we Jews fled our countries in similar numbers, in similar desperation, with similar struggles. The service I attended this morning did not include a Torah service- but this session was just that. I remembered the value repeated in the Torah time and time again- va’ahavtem et ha-ger, you shall love the stranger, and I realized that at its core, the refugee crisis is not one about politics or even religion, but about love and compassion.
But love and compassion only go so far. In my next session, I learned how to take my feelings about major political and moral issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis, and turn them into real actions. Hearing from both Democratic and Republican political leaders was extremely beneficial in broadening my prospective about party policies and bipartisanship. The speakers both mentioned a variety of policies that I strongly support and consistently dissent, but my political takeaway was nothing compared to my moral take away. I already know where I lie on the political spectrum; I would even go so far as to say that everybody who knows me knows where I stand. But what I did not realize was how Judaism and its values had on the people that make this country run.
I'm "that girl." That girl who's always blabbing about social justice, politics, and the world to anyone who'll listen. Today, I learned that it is okay to be "that girl." Today, I confirmed that I'd rather be "that girl" than anyone else. Because the people I learned from today are "that girl"- or guy, and they shake the world ever single day.
Alanna Sereboff, NRE: Baltimore, IC Press Corps 2016