By Sarra Alpert
This past May, a group of camp counselors and I conducted a virtual "accessibility scavenger hunt.” We listed facets of identity that impact a person’s day-to-day experience -- their gender, race, ability, etc. Then, we mentally explored our camps, identifying what might make those spaces less welcoming or accessible to some. Our list became so long that we had to cut it off.
A month later, at the closing retreat for an Avodah fellowship cohort, the fellows reflected back on their year of building skills towards Jewish community leadership for economic justice. Each shared a text or an image that motivated them. One, Emma, made an art piece with the Hebrew letter ayin at its center. She explained, “There are 16 of us, and ayin is the 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I’ve learned that the ayin is silent, only making a sound when combined with another letter or vowel.” She presented this letter as a reminder of why we do this work together: because we each come into our full power when in movement, sustaining and pushing each other forward.
I remembered those camp counselors then, how they’d become even more impassioned as they read their painfully long lists of what we can do better. Work for justice requires both a willingness to look at the worst things we’ve done to each other and an ability to maintain faith in our power to fix it. And as they were learning, and as Emma expressed, the strongest way to do that is to move on to the next item on the list together.
What is one thing you’ve done this week that has shifted your perspective?
Sarra Alpert is national program director at Avodah, the Jewish service corps, and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
This piece was created in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, whose mission is to help Jewish camps achieve their mission: to create transformative summer experiences – and the Jewish future.