"Late Night with Wayne" was an interactive and informal get-together for students with Wayne Firestone, the international Hillel president.
Wayne spoke about his first GA: "I didn't know there were so many other people who are passionate like I am and who were excited that I was passionate too." This actually described pretty accurately the way I've felt today, since this is my first GA and everything seems so exciting and new. He then went on to discuss Hillel, saying that one of the goals is that "over time, we want you to have a positive Jewish memory."
I totally loved the fact that the first person called on to share her Jewish memory said "Birthright" as her answer. Birthright is what inspired me to change my concentration from Africa to the Middle East and to become more involved with both Hillel and Chabad at Duke and UNC. Other things mentioned were Muslim-Jewish Interfaith projects, Shabbat dinners, and even important and meaningful Holocaust events, all of which I can relate to, as I'm sure most of the people in that room could.
Wayne praised our generation because we have a sense of community and a social aspect to what we do. He also called us the "Odyssey" generation, citing Homer's masterpiece in which he made a great journey home by first looking into himself. He concluded by saying, "People ask me why I do this. I do this because I am freaking crazy about Jews!" and by telling us that our "questions are too important to go unanswered."
Overall, it was inspiring to think of Hillel having so many different branches today, both domestically and internationally when it started from something small. It just goes to prove that anyone can make a profound difference if they work hard enough.
Samantha Tropper is a student at Duke University.