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Following the Yellow Brick Road

Posted on 10/22/2014 @ 10:00 AM

In Kansas City, I bought a postcard with a picture of the Wizard of Oz with the caption “There’s No Place Like Home.” I buy postcards in each city I visit, so I didn’t think much of it when I made the purchase. I liked it better than the postcards with images of tornados and farmland, so I spent 99 cents and added the postcard to my collection without a second thought.

I sat on the plane flying home to Toronto and pulled out that postcard, reminiscing about the old friends I had seen, the new friends I had made, the memories and laughs that we had shared – and realized that I didn’t really want to leave.

Home is many things. It is place, it is people. It is physical structure and it is arms wrapped around each other. But it has taken on a new meaning for me these past few weeks: Home is the feeling of not wanting to leave.

This year, so far, I have traveled to 13 different cities. I’ve been to 10 different states on 9 different visits. I’ve seen 7 regions, 6 councils and, in every single one, I am welcomed with open arms, immersed in the chapters and felt like I have always been a part of their community.

I just completed the “Mid-America Tour,” where I visited the 4 councils that make up Mid-America Region. Visiting North Star Council in Minneapolis, I was reminded how important it is to focus on building the future now when I attended a program joint with their BBYO Connect teens. Visiting Omaha Council, I was reminded of how important it is to remember our roots and the place from which our Movement stemmed, and I was enriched in a Jewish community full of so much history.

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Amanda Hanging Out with BBYO Omaha Council

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Amanda Standing with a Memorial for AZA's 60th Anniversary in Omaha

In St. Louis Council and Kansas City Council, I was infused in fall. The backdrop of these visits were pumpkin patches and trees bursting with every fall color fading into one another like a rainbow. St. Louis held a “BBYTober-Fest” event filled with lots of fall fun, and Kansas City restarted an old tradition of hanging out on Saturday nights at a local diner – something an alum of the community reminisced about earlier that morning.

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Amanda at St Louis Council's BBYTober-Fest Event

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Amanda Enjoying Kansas City with Some KC BBGs

After all of the new connections formed, inspiration shared, and passion reignited, Mid-America has a special place in my heart. My visits were warm, like being wrapped in a cozy flannel button-down on an autumn day. It was like being at home, and not wanting to leave.

As I returned to Toronto, I spent my first evening back home attending The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Major Donors Dinner, where the keynote speaker was Alan Dershowitz, an author, political commentator and past professor at Harvard Law School. As I thought about all of the new homes I had just built on my most recent visits, Professor Dershowitz reminded me of my most important home of all: Israel.

He spoke of the situation Israel is facing, and how the world twists the facts to make Israel look like the bad guy for practicing her right to defend herself. He profoundly put it: “Israel uses its soldiers to protect its civilians, Hamas uses civilians to protect its soldiers.” He told us how scary the future could look for Israel if we stay silent, but we were reassured that gathering here tonight was the best way to Speak UP for our Jewish homeland. “You need to make sure that the North American Jewish Community is strong, because that is our most powerful military weapon.” Professor Dershowitz helped me see the crucial role BBYO plays in protecting the future of Israel, and I am so thankful to be a part of an organization that does so much to keep our home safe.

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Amanda Standing Beside Two Influential Jewish Role Models - Alan Dershowitz, middle, and Judith Finer Freedman, right (who she sometimes calls Mom)

Never forget that every voice can make a difference, and we must always follow the “yellow brick road” to protect the places and the people we call home.

Until Next Time,
Amanda

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