One of my favorite projects in my work at GW is supervising the uGeW Initiative interns, a group of socially connected students charged with connecting with their peers and responding with great Jewish opportunities. This group stretches me professionally in the best of ways; I’m pushed to consider group dynamics, professional development, and how we bring our personal stories to our work.
Some interns thrive in this experience; they naturally build a list of contacts that energize and inspire them to build Jewish community on campus. Others end the year with questions that stay with me: Was this job a good fit for this student? Could things have been done differently – by me and by her – to create a stronger space for success?
One such student, R, finished her internship with what I perceived to be a sigh of relief; she seemed weary of doing the job and I felt that she was never truly happy with taking on the experience.
And then I made a big mistake.
Instead of practicing what I preach – to create open doorways for GW students to explore their Jewish identities – I think I shut the door on R. I mistook her less-than-thrilled experience of the internship with a lacking interest in staying connected, whether with Hillel, with myself, or with Jewish Life at GW.
After bumping into each other at Rosh Hashanah, we promised each other a coffee date. We sat together in the Ivory basement, eighteen months after the internship had ended, and I sat in awe of a wise young woman in front of me. Where I had remembered a lacking intellectual zeal, I saw a woman thirsty for knowledge. Where I had remembered a student who struggled with a job description, I found a woman who has pursued unbelievably impressive professional opportunities across the city. But mostly, where I recalled a woman who seemed to turn away from Jewish Life on campus, there is (and always was) a woman with a strong soul & a clear thirst to grow in her Jewish identity; I just wasn’t offering her the right opportunity to do so.
Are you holding grudges, recalling a person in your life who might not actually exist? What apologies do you need to make – in the form of an open invitation to connect – that will allow you to return to a relationship worth pursuing?