Visions of Israel
I recently made my fourth journey to Israel. Each trip has had a large impact on my Judaism and my connection to Israel.
My first trip, with NFTY in Israel and my URJ Crane Lake Camp family, was followed by a trip with my college Hillel, where we volunteered in several Ethiopian-Israeli communities. I traveled to Israel after that with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, when I was able to gather tools to shape my vision of Israel in the context of the media and how policy is shaped. However, my most recent trip made the greatest impact on me, and until recently, I have been struggling to comprehend this journey.
I have been part of many communities and appreciate the support I have received from each one. Last September, I joined a new community when I began my new job as assistant director for URJ Crane Lake Camp. Soon after I started, I was accepted as a Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellow. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I envisioned the program and my fast-approaching trip to Israel as just another opportunity to visit Israel and meet more people; I would soon realize that the fellowship was so much more.
In religious school, I was taught about the importance of Israel to the Jewish people. I believed this. Through my recent educational travel experiences, I realize that my connection to the land and what it represents is not only a personal connection, but one that takes a communal form. My connection to Israel is built upon the depth of my relationships with people-those I knew before, during, and after my trips. I have always built these connections in an intentional way, but it has taken me since my 2008 NFTY in Israel trip to recognize this.
On my flight home to the States, I had a lot of time to think about my Fellowship experiences-how fun it was to use themes of theater to tell my personal narrative, the historical walk in Jerusalem's Old City, debating Jerusalem's realities of religion and politics, shaping creative spaces, learning how graffiti is an important form of expression in today's world, understanding empowerment within Ethiopian-Israeli communities, and eating at a café that was built to employ and make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth. As I tried to grasp the effect that the week had on me, it was every one of the conversations and times of reflection that I thought about. The Klal Yisrael Fellowship's program in Israel was powerful, and I am confident that the remainder, including webinars and a final trip to Budapest, will solidify its omnipotent effect on my life. Through my experiences, I recognize that the bridge standing between my personal life and my work life is getting shorter: my experiences at work have a direct correlation with my personal growth. I am thankful for this 'cause and effect' relationship.
Working year-round for a URJ summer camp, my intention is to bring the voices and actions from my experiences into my daily work. I am grateful for the opportunity to build my connection with Israel, and, most importantly, for being able to meet so many amazing leaders within the Reform and Progressive Jewish movement in the context of Israel. My appreciation for the diversity of Judaism across the globe has been enhanced to an indescribable level, and I look forward to continuing to share this impact. I grew close with my cohort of fellows in a short amount of time, and I believe that it was our common interest in leadership and a quest for making a difference in our communities that bound us as one. One group, one common vision of community, one Israel.
Brett Hausler is the Assistant Director at URJ Crane Lake Camp, and is a Roswell Klal Yisrael Fellow. Brett graduated in Spring 2014 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Social Thought and Political Economy.