About the prompt: We asked each Peer Ambassador to share with us a pivotal moment in their Jewish journey, what being a Peer Ambassador means to them personally, and what value speaks to them. Stay tuned over the next month to hear from all of the Peer Ambassadors.
Check out Zoe's blog post below as she shares about how her Jewish journey impacted her identity and connection to her Jewish community.
I have been going to school at my synagogue since kindergarten. Every year I would learn about Jewish values and go to services, learning Hebrew along the way in preparation for my Bat Mitzvah. However, I was never quite sure if I fit into the Jewish community. I enjoyed having discussions with other members of my grade and our teacher, but I didn’t feel the same sense of connection that I do now.
I went through those first few years not really attaching much meaning to my Judaism, but then my friend asked me to come to OSRUI summer camp with her the summer before 5th grade. I was nervous, the idea of spending 2 weeks away was not very appealing to my 9 year old self, but I decided to go. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The first moment I stepped into camp, I felt a new connection blossoming. I spent those two weeks making so many Jewish friends: celebrating Shabbat together, doing activities together, and exchanging addresses so we could stay in contact after the session was over.
From that moment on, I did everything I could to replicate that community that I had at camp. I went to OSRUI for the next 4 years, looking forward to the next summer the second I went home. Once I went to high school I joined my temple youth group, Oak Park Temple Youth (OPTY), which introduced me to NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement. I went to NFTY events where I was introduced to Springboard and the JUF as a whole. I went on Springboard trips where I met mentors and friends who introduced me to the JCC Jewish Student Connection chapter at my high school.
I have had a whole web of activities and experiences, all connecting me back to one of the most important parts of my identity. I am now a leader at Oak Park Temple and have a strong connection to my Jewish community and identity. As I am finishing up my year as a Peer Ambassador and getting ready to graduate, I am most proud of my work connecting with my community, especially my younger peers.
About the Author: Zoe is currently a graduating senior at Oak Park River High School and belongs to Oak Park Temple. She is very active in the Jewish community and loves trying new programs and meeting new people! She also loves hanging out with her friends, eating burritos, and talking about Harry Styles. She will be a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison next fall!