When I was sitting down to write this, I wondered what would be a good thing to write about. There were so many fun and interesting moments where I connected with my peers in the cohort.
The moment I chose is the moment the program started, not the first day of my internship at Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance or the day I signed on to Zoom the first time, nervous to meet my supervisor. The moment the program started was when I stepped into the room in Temple Israel and was greeted by my soon-to-be new group of friends.
After so much anticipation and only seeing people’s names on the first or second email sent out meeting the cohort, I was finally going to associate people with their names and see who I would be spending twelve days with this summer.
As I walked into the room for the first time, I was greeted by a group of enthusiastic people standing in a circle playing “anywhere the wind blows,” an ice breaker. Then we sat down and started the first lesson. Throughout the first day, I learned that I was surrounded by equally passionate and smart Jewish teens. While some of my peers knew one another and went to the same school, there was never a feeling of exclusion.
That day we went to Food Link and sorted frozen fruits and veggies, counted boxes in the freezer and refrigerator and got to know each other. Everyone was open to conversation and immediately wanted to know where you were from, who you knew, and what internship you were doing among other things.
The next day we met (the second cohort day) was the same, but this time we were meeting more people, and joking around. Once the day was over we did Kabbalat Shabbat, led by Rachel and Justin. During this Kabbalat Shabbat we shared a round of appreciations, and most if not all of us appreciated one another for being kind, welcoming, friendly, and being easy to talk to. This was a moment that stands out to me because none of the compliments seemed fake, and the people saying it were genuine.
During the service itself, we listened to some songs on Spotify and sang along to it. This was another moment of connection that I’ve never felt before, with people coming from all denominations, sharing this moment and pausing from the stress of the week, just to be together.
Reflecting on these two days, five weeks after that first Wednesday. I realized that I never have met a more open group of smart, passionate, friendly people who I’ve connected with that instantly and have felt more comfortable being around after such a short period of time.
Teen JUST-US and the cohort has taught me to be more outgoing. This experience has given me friends and a knowledge that even though we are all young we can be the change that is needed, all while being friends and connecting through Judaism and social justice.