Friday, March 12, 2010

Reflections on the Week

Shabbat is just around the corner, but I have to say I'm not in the calm state of mind I usually am in right now. Yesterday was a range of emotions; for the first time, one of the little girls I've been playing with broke out of her shell and hugged me, her voice choking out, "I ain't letting you go." It was one of those deep, heartfelt hugs you don't get to enjoy often, especially from a kid you met less than a week ago. Her and Lareisha, my other mentoree, have really opened up in the past week; unfortunately, the day when I felt the breakthroughs in our relationships was my last day, and it will probably the last day I'll ever see them. If I've learned anything on this trip however, it's not to obsess on those societal injustices that just corrode your soul; it's much better to observe and convert it into simple motivation and nothing more. That was one of many lessons I learned from our speaker last night, Rabbi Leonid Feldman. A Soviet Jew from Kishinev who escaped from the communist regime in the 1970s by the protests of American Jews and his own 11-day hunger strike, he anchored the trip in Judaism in a way that was engaging, as well as original. I won't go into much detail; I plan on inviting him to UVa to speak, so that my community can hear his story, and his unique message towards the Jewish tradition. Surprisingly, the most brilliant part of the trip so far for me (in addition to the kids themselves) was the discussion our UVa group had after Rabbi Feldman's talk. As with the Rabbi, I won't go into much detail, but it's only because I don't think I can capture the brilliance, the compassion, and the heartfelt empathy and analysis I saw my peers engage in. If I could, I'd write down every sentence to keep and motivate myself in my middle-aged years (G-d willing). Despite the intense poverty and the personal guilt I feel, I feel so blessed that I have a group of 12 shining models to develop my doubts and frustrations in a conducive, and frankly, beautiful way. Thanks, guys. You all have meant a lot to me.

Ben Bissel

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