Samantha Tropper and friends.
I can identify with Wayne Firestone when he talked about being surprised that there were so many people so passionate about Judaism at his first GA. I had no idea there would be more than 600 Hillel students there, students very similar to me. We may have grown up with different backgrounds and are living in different circumstances now, but we are all united by our shared identity. I know I have had a remarkably different Jewish experience than most of the people at that event, but for all of us, I believe, our Jewish journey is still continuing. I actually don't know when it will be "complete."
I was uplifted by the amount of support shown for Israeli politicians and for the maintenance of the State of Israel, and also humbled by the various protests at the event. They were like a reality check. Though I was surrounded by people united by Judaism, there is still a vast range of personal ideas and opinions within that group, and in the rest of the world outside that group. But though we differ in some of our views, we are all a community within the Jewish world, and even without it, as we are all united by our humanity. I think one of the messages of Judaism is not only to foster a sense of community with other Jews, but also with people who have different views from yourself, which is why Jews place so much emphasis on interfaith dialogue.
The day of service also served to bring me back down to earth, since up until then I had been in a fancy hotel enjoying free food in my Steve Madden pumps. The Lower Ninth Ward was a shock. While there is no doubt improvement, the area is not where it should be five years after the storm.
Interacting with my fellow Jews on both a personal and professional level was a rewarding experience for me. I learned so much about the place of Jews in so many different aspects of the world, which will help me find my own place in the Jewish world.
Thank you to all those who helped organize the GA, the speakers, leaders of workshops, and to those who attended and enhanced my experience even more. Goodbye New Orleans! bient´t!
Samantha Tropper is a student at Duke University.