I write this entry on a plane from New Orleans to Detroit (wireless at 6,000 feet! How cool is that?) on my way back from the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. This conference is essentially the largest gathering of Jews in the world to talk exclusively about Jewish issues.
[check it out: http://ga.crosstechpartners.com/] .
I was one of the 600 Hillel students present at the conference, a member of the 40 comprising the Pittsburgh student delegation (the 3rd largest group there, only after Univ. of Michigan and Maryland). It was rather mind-blowing to be the in same room with some of the most important Jews in the world. As was it life-changing to spend three days in New Orleans. But more on that later.
What prompted me to pull out my laptop during some of my few tranquil hours between the craziness of the conference and the inevitable rush of my return to school was a conversation I had with the two girls sitting next to me, Lauren and Maya.
They are both Cornell students, and (besides people) we have a lot in common. They are both active in Hillel; Maya is a fellow Bogeret (alumna, in Hebrew) Nativ, and Lauren a Birthright alum; Lauren is also a Communications major. Before and during take-off, we swapped stories about our weekends and what we thought of the conference. We compared public transportation stories from school— they were very impressed that Pittsburgh students get to ride the city buses for free (We love it too!). Lauren and I discussed Birthright and how truly impactful it is, while Maya and I reminisced about Nativ. In short, all the same things I’ve talked with most other college students at the conference.
Just before going to sleep, Lauren said, “It’s crazy— this whole plane is GA. If you’re not GA, you’re totally lost.” True— all around me are college students joking, reading, sleeping, talking about classes and planning their weeks, discussing programming and making lists for Hillel (we really do live this stuff 24/7).
I’ve been around this group all weekend. And this is not my first rodeo; I did plenty of these conferences in USY, on Nativ and have attended AIPAC sabans. But then, as I was sitting here almost falling asleep, I was overwhelmed with how special this is. How special to be a Jewish college student, and how incredible that all these 20 year-olds from campuses across the country are so similar. It's comforting, in a way I haven’t felt in a long long time.
It also makes me feel like I am not so alone on the often difficult trek of leading Hillel. Being on this plane made me realize that we are all going through the same thing, and that my challenges and successes are analogous to those of my peers across North America. We all have this vast common ground, we are all very much the same, despite how much we tend to concentrate on the differences. That’s huge, but it’s even more remarkable when that huge-ness is condensed into the microcosm of the 50 or so seats on an airplane.