Thank You For Everything
Dear David Project Family,
Wow! I cannot believe that it has been three and a half years with The David Project. The end of my time with the organization, department and family has been bittersweet. Above all, my departure has given me an opportunity to reflect on the experiences and opportunities my work with The David Project has offered me.
My junior year at Michigan State University was truly revolutionary thanks to The David Project. It was there, that an on-campus intern reached out to me as a leader in our Student Senate and asked me out to coffee. As someone with absolutely no experience with Israel and the Jewish community, I saw the application for Israel Uncovered, our 10-day Israel experience, as simply an opportunity out of left field that I could not pass up. I was told by staff that I would have the opportunity to connect to Israel in my own way – and they were right! My first time in Israel was, of course, incredible, but two lessons stick out to this day.
I went to Israel knowing that it was a region of intense political, social and ideological discourse and challenges. However, I was consistently surprised to see just how important the aspect of community was to Israelis. Gay or straight, Ashkenazi or Sephardi or Mizrachi, I learned that Israelis aim to create a community that is welcoming, warm, supportive and honest. They love the world and the Jewish people, with a beautiful intensity that helped me understand how a society can be under such pressure, but continue to thrive while pushing itself to address the challenges that the nation faces. This resiliency helped me understand the importance of community around the world, opening my eyes to the importance of community building and sustaining my own identities as a Chicano gay man.
Second, I learned that the role of an ally is crucial to any social movement. It was at Yad Vashem that I learned the stories of my peers’ relatives who survived the Holocaust which helped me understand my connection to Israel as an ally. If I love these leaders I was surrounded by, then I will care for their well-being and the well-being of their nation. It was also thanks to these open, intelligent and nuanced leaders that I realized that supporting one community’s security and safety in no way meant not supporting any other communities’ best interest.
I moved to Boston in January 2015, weeks after I graduated from college, as a changed man. I was no longer nervous setting foot in a Hillel, thanks to my family at MSU Hillel. Instead, I was seeking the opportunity to help students leave their own comfort zones and get to know other communities on their campus. Thanks to my support system at The David Project, my family, my friends, and the professionals and students I met along the way, I was able to continue to apply the lessons I learned while helping students learn their own lessons.
To the 20+ campuses I had the chance to work with, 3 buses of Israel Uncovered that I staffed, 3 summits I helped manage and hundreds of student interns I have had the chance to meet and work with: Thank you. You have truly changed my life.