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ONE FOR ALL: A Note From Our Mighigan Teens!

Posted on 11/17/2011 @ 04:39 PM

Today, November 14th 2011, is the second day of BBYO’s Panim el Panim program hosted in Boston. Panim focuses on the training and inspiring teens who are committed to service, advocacy and philanthropy in hopes of improving the world and the well being of humans. BBYO’s Panim Institute has been named one of the nation’s 50 most innovative Jewish nonprofits in Slingshot ’11-‘12, a resource guide for Jewish innovation. All attendee’s have similar passions, strengths and drives. After being blown away by incredibly motivational speakers last night, we didn’t think that the program could get any better; yet, we were wrong. Our first program of the day was presented by Gateways. Gateways is Boston’s central agency for Jewish special education, and they believe every Jewish child deserves a Jewish education. At first, two women came into the breakfast room and handed us a paper with boxes and laminated cards. Our instructions were to walk around the room, meet new people and gather names listed on the cards. The cards had names of notable figures in society who have a disability. Many inspirational “celebrities” who have inspired us we were interested to find out that they have a disability. For example, did you know that George Washington had learning disabilities? To hear that the man responsible for building the country that each and everyone of us feel safe in is mind boggling and inspirational.

After a shift in rooms, we sat in pairs of 2 at different stations to evaluate disabilities and how they really affect people who might do things with a little help. Some of us were blind folded to walk around the room with someone holding our elbow, guiding us along the way. Others of us were trying to draw a star, within the boundaries given, by only looking in a mirror and not the paper in front of us. We all were able to make our way through the stations by help from friends. Through the course of the hour, all 84 teens got a first hand experience on what people go through who have disabilities. Lunch time got everyone excited. It was soon that we were out in the fresh air. We spilt into two groups of 42 people. One of the groups grabbed their food quickly and headed for the bus. The other group had stayed in the dinning hall to create a skit for each of the places we visited on our way through the Freedom Trail. While walking through the Freedom Trail we saw many churches, government buildings and important grounds where people were able to express their feelings toward the fast growing America. Upon return to the hotel, we discussed how we can affect the lives of the people around us, even if we don’t have someone watching over our shoulder. With the free time we were given, there were kids who choose to spend their time helping the homeless men and woman around the city. Kids choose to donate their money, vs. spend it on items for themselves. During the Freedom Trail there was extra food, as a group we consolidated what we had left over from lunch and we asked those whom looked like they could some food if they would like an orange, or a cookie. We were soon lead into the discussion of what we can do to change the things we see around us, and make the world a happier place. Our group of 80 kids evaluated the problems that have occurred and are occurring right now around the world, and the faces that really showed their cause was a problem.

BBYO’s Panim One For All Summit was very inspiring to us Jewish teen leaders of our community. We are so excited to be able to have had this opportunity and now, go home to teach and impact our communities. If you ever are in Boston and you want to do some sight seeing, we recommend you walk the Freedom Trail to gain knowledge on historical locations throughout the Boston area. Lauren Yellen (15) and Lexie Sittsamer (17) Farmington Hills Michigan

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Seeing Two Sides of a Situation

Posted on 11/16/2011 @ 04:00 PM

Read more about the Panim el Panim experience through the eyes of a teen participant Eitan Redlich, Ida Crown, Chicago, Illinois

I am a Zionist Jew. I am devoted to the land of Israel and support its views. Before Panim, I thought all Palestinians were radicals. I thought there was only one side. I was blind. Today I came in contact with a Palestinian for the first time. We went to McPherson Square to talk to homeless people. Occupy DC was at McPherson square protesting on various issues.

In the middle of mcPherson Square I heard a man speak Hebrew, and I called out to him in Hebrew, "Shalom!" We started talking. After about two minutes, I asked where he was from in Israel. He paused, and I could tell he was uncomfortable. He then replied, "I'm Palestinian." At first I was shocked. Stereotypes went flying through my head. I didn't know how to respond. Then he started to tell me his story. He told me how his brother was killed by the Israeli Army. He told me about how he has every right to hate Israel and the Jewish people as a whole -- yet, he stays positive. He refuses to categorize people in groups, such as "Jews" or "Palestinians" or "Terrorists. He believes once we categorize we let go of any chance of individuality and having the ability to form a relationship.

He gave me a metaphor that really hit home for me: A Jew and a Palestinian are on a boat. There is a hole in the bottom of the boat. Instead of trying to figure out how to solve how to fix the hole, they both yell at each other about who poked the hole in the boat to begin with. By being stubborn and refusing to figure out how to plug the hole, they both drown.

This Palestinian man did not change my opinions about Israel; I am still a strong Zionist. However, I now see that there are two sides. I now see stereotypes are unfair and often untrue. I am no longer blind.

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Making a Difference with Panim el Panim

Posted on 11/16/2011 @ 02:00 PM

Read more about the Panim el Panim experience through the eyes of a teen participant, Sarah Isaacs, Ida Crown, Chicago, IL

Today, on Panim el Panim we began our day bright and early with a legislative debate about the Middle East with Justin Logan, the Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and Matthew Duss, the Director of Middle East Progress at the Center for American Progress.

We then gathered together to discuss different aspects of the Arab Spring and how we, as a community, can learn from it to take action.

After a tour of the Capitol, Library of Congess, and the Smithsonian Mall, we all headed down to McPherson Square to interact with the homeless and some protesters from Occupy DC. Each of us walked from this program, called "Street Torah," with a new appreciation and understanding of homelessness. I learned that each of those people (both Occupy DC and the Homeless) are just that: People. I admit that I had never paid attention to the homeless before, but after talking to people tonight, I realized that my original assumptions about the homeless were wrong.

One homeless person I spoke with tonight was named Robert, who took it upon himself to take care of a dog he found on the street to save her life. Robert, a man with almost no possessions, took it upon himself to take care of another. It taught me to look at the homeless in a new light, it showed me that they have the same needs and emotions as me. Most of all, it showed me that they deserve attention and love.

After that inspirational experience, we came back to the hotel and prepared to lobby tomorrow. Panim el Panim is on the way to making a difference!

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ONE FOR ALL: Some Thoughts From Aaron Welcher

Posted on 11/15/2011 @ 02:43 PM

Good Afternoon All, Hi, I am Aaron Welcher from Indy Brae Sheath #246 and as you may know I am currently attending a summit on Equality through BBYO Panim Institute. At the summit we have been talking about different types of people so as youth we can learn how to bring acceptance into our communities and the world. To kick off Panim yesterday we talked about how we view the things and they may not always be right. We watched a video about a lady who already had prejudices and how she assumed her salad had been taken by an Africa American man.

From here we had a program over gender and sexuality. With this we were taught about different terms that helped explain different views on gender and sexuality, but more importantly we learned about how gender is put into two boxes; Boy and Girl. These boxes are supposed to be the perfect girl and boy but that when you don't fit into this box and when we keep theses boxes around then people aren't going to be able to be themselves 100% because they will are afraid of being judged. Here we also learned that there are people with gender identity issues and that it isn't just as simple as male and female. Many people feel as though they are neither, or genderqueer. With the terms we were informed that queer isn't a bad term, but a term used to describe someone who doesn't define themselves as just "gay". I think the greatest point of this program is that we need to become better informed on gender and sexuality and the boxes of stereotypes we are creating in our communities.

The last big program for the night was put on by Robert Lewis, Vice President of The Boston Foundation. He wanted to help inspire us as teens and the next generation to start creating a just community with equal opportunity. He also told us that we all have the potential to be the kids who will change the world, but to do that we need to inspire others too, because no one can change the world alone. This concluded our first day. The spirits here are high and the leadership is strong. All communities should be looking at the teens coming back on the summit because we are going to be ready to make a difference. Aaron Welcher Indianapolis, IN

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ONE FOR ALL: A Note from Jackson Block

Posted on 11/15/2011 @ 02:12 PM

"Hate" is a complicated word. At a first glance, the short word might look easy to comprehend; however, when describing it, it continues to stump me. As I walked through Holocaust memorial near the Freedom Trail, questions about this four letter word popped into my head. How could a simple word skew someone's mindset? How could anyone "hate" someone so much to kill them? How could anyone kill another person? I was completely baffled.

As I reflect as I write this blog, I still am baffled and will be for awhile, but that is why I am at the "One For All" Summit. I am here at the Summit to build a community, to equip myself with the resources to speak up! against indifference and inequality, and to reflect on the big picture. All aspects, which I feel are captured in the below quote, play a pivotal role in life and the program. "First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me" (Martin Niemöller). At first, I believed the quote conveyed a moral lesson that everyone should learn: if you stay indifferent when others need you, then others will not be at your side when you need them. While I continue to believe in this axiom, the asterik underneath the quote at the memorial site brought me to the question of hatred and people. The tiny asterisk revealed the history behind the author, Martin Niemöller. The asterisk with few lines of writing explained that In the early start of the Nazi totalitarian regime, he was an anti-Communist and supported Hitler's rise to power. The idea shocked me completely and caused for a internal as well as external dialogue.

In my mind, I asked my questions about killing, hate, and the Holocaust. Meanwhile at the same time, I talked to my best friend from New Orleans about the predicament. She insightfully told me to think about the situation through another perspective in which the author changed. As soon as she brought up the idea, my mind began rushing. I began to focus on the power of people to transform as we talked while crossing the street. Soon, I realized that with new insight and an alternative perspective, "hate" could easily be changed to "love" or to being "nice." While the shift sounds weird out loud, the premise behind the belief is clearly possible. Hate, which most often originates with ignorance, can be changed through education. We, as 80+ teens from across North America, have not only seen that but also know it as a fact. A fact, in which, we, teens of the summit, have been working for in the past two days and will continue on for a lifetime. Fraternally submitted with undying love for "One for All", the Aleph Zadik Aleph, Rodney Dangerfield AZA #2516, and RESPECT I remain, Aleph Jason "Jackson" Jorel Block Valencia, CA

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