Wrapping Up, Heading Out

jlemstreetWith the fall semester fading into the distance and the spring semester up ahead, I’m contemplating my world and embarking on a 10 day, 40:1 coffee date – also known as a Birthright trip.

I find myself thinking, preparing, and planning for the trip in relation to a recent opportunity Hillel professionals had to spend with Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  Rabbi Sacks KNEW his audience, sharing his understanding that ‘university is where identity is made or lost.’  Amongst the many questions lobbed at him, the most eloquent came from a young man from American University.  He asked about God – a concept which sometimes feels like the proverbial elephant in the (college) room.  While one might have anticipated a diatribe from one of the strongest Jewish voices of our time on the importance of bringing God into our lives, Rabbi Sacks believes that approach is bound to fail.  Instead, those engaging students in the coffee shops of America must, “…get down to the ground level and create little epiphanies.”  Epiphanies in one’s world cause thought and action, change and consciousness – in a way that a conversation about about a foreign concept like God might not be able to do.

My job throughout Birthright is about just this – cultivating these epiphanies for 40 rock star GW students.  I’ll clutch my coffee cups through the slick streets of Jerusalem and early morning kibbutz dining halls – and I’ll hope to be a part of 40 unique journeys towards understanding how one fits in with the wider Jewish story of their families and communities.

What ‘little epiphanies’ can you help create this Winter Break?  And what steps can you take, on quiet December & January days, to prepare you for hopeful epiphanies to come when you’re back on campus?

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