I’m wrapping up the school year with a diverse set of coffee dates, which last week ranged from H. to S. I had never met H. before someone connected us a few weeks ago; I’ve known S. since his first visit to campus at CI. Yet as disparate as these relationships are, I found myself provoked in similar ways by both of them.
H. began her GW journey this year, following an intensive Jewish experience abroad for the 2011-2012 school year. S. is deeply devoted to his youth group experience, still working with the organization that was so important to his teenage years. Each got so much out of these incredible Jewish spaces, feeling enriched, enlightened, excited by their Jewish lives and communities. And then they went to college; each has struggled (as so many of their peers have) with the disappointment of hoping to capture the same feelings from high school and being let down that they couldn’t easily replicate these communities.
I see this happen to many students I work with; it’s human nature after all. If we eat a delicious meal at a restaurant and then try to re-create it at home, it rarely tastes as good. If we go to an amazing show and then look up the songs afterwards on YouTube, they rarely evoke the emotion we felt in the original moment.
I have the utmost respect for educators who create incredible high school moments for Jewish GW students. But I also wonder what work we all need to do – high school mentors, Hillel professionals, college students – to build better bridges between a 17 year old experience and a 21 year old one. How can the amazing meal in the restaurant forge a new relationship with food, cooking, and entertaining at home? How can the incredible concert experience be leveraged into new musical endeavors and a desire to see more shows?
How can the path to Jewish adulthood be a fluid one, rooted in strong high school experiences, carrying through to college, and continuing to blossom after graduation? What experiences or memories have you had that can be viewed as a launchpad instead of an end point?