By Abby Seitz
Israel Education Center Intern
As an Israel Education Center intern, most of
my interactions on the job occur on campus. I spend a lot of time building
relationships with administrators, meeting with professors and engaging
students from all backgrounds. While I enjoy my time on campus, I was excited
to travel to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in
Washington, D.C. as a Hillel International GA Scholar. It was a privilege to
spend three days utterly immersed in Jewish conversation with Jewish leaders
and community members from all over.
I was inspired from the moment I stepped
inside the hotel when I saw colorful pop-art decorating every pillar and wall.
The GA’s theme was “Think Forward.” Throughout the conference, I was encouraged
to “Think Forward” about dozens of topics that are pertinent to the greater
Jewish community. I was asked, what’s the future of Jewish philanthropy? Jewish
life on campus? Jewish conversations and dialogue about Israel? Jewish
education? Jewish outreach to millennials? Jewish journalism?
Throughout all three days, I was challenged
to think about how my peers and I are all responsible for the Jewish future.
The sessions I attended varied -- some were
sponsored by Hillel for students, some were huge plenaries for all attendees,
and some were unique breakout sessions on specific topics. In a breakfast
hosted by Hillel, Hillel CEO Eric Fingerhut asked us how Hillel could serve us
and our fellow students on campus better. He engaged in conversation with us
and thoughtfully responded to every question presented by student leaders,
assuring us that Hillel is currently working on several campaigns that will
promote further communication between students and Hillel International.
Through the GA plenaries, I was able to hear
from some of the most prominent and influential leaders of global Jewry,
including Natan Sharansky and Benjamin Netanyahu. Leaders from Federations all
over the continent also presented their wisdom and experiences.
At other conferences, my favorite aspect has
been a vivid speaker or an inspirational breakout session. However, at the JFNA
General Assembly, my favorite aspect by far was experiencing the strength and
unity of the Jewish community, especially through the smaller communities that
all bring something different to the greater Jewish people.
I empathized with other Hillel student
leaders who face challenges reaching their peers on small campuses. I engaged
in a tough conversation about Israel with a roommate who had a different
perspective. I learned about the infinite opportunities available in the Jewish
communal world from a UJA Federation - New York associate. I reunited with an
old friend from my recent Taglit-Birthright Israel Shorashim trip. I spoke with
several JUF leaders about the work we do in our local community.
The GA’s immersive and inspirational environment
made me realize that my work as an Israel Education Center intern is work that
goes beyond my campus. By educating and engaging my peers, I am contributing to
the Jewish community as one of tens of thousands of other Jewish leaders who
are committed to ensuring a strong, sustainable and evolving Jewish future.