Looking back on the past five amazing days at Brandeis, I can’t help but to reflect on all the people that I met and all the material that I learned. Sitting in lectures, participating in our group discussions, and working on a cultural artifact symposium project, it all contributed to the overall incredible and intellectually stimulating experience. The Young Leaders Conference on Israel Studies is something that I know I will never forget and I know I will use the information that I have received for years to come. The way that information was conveyed to us throughout the whole conference, from an academic standpoint rather than an advocacy standpoint, truly shed light on a rich culture present in Israel that not many individuals take the time to study or appreciate. It is hard to articulate the sense of belonging that I felt while sitting in lectures with other delegates that I knew had the same love and passion for Israel as I did. The environment itself was very accepting and welcoming to all different peoples from all different walks of life. Having all of these people with varying views really brought new perspectives to the table that initiated some very thought provoking discussion. There were so many denominations of Judaism that all added new outlooks on issues that might have at first appeared to be black and white. For example, in my group we discussed the question of how does one define a Jew and who should be permitted to immigrate to Israel as a Jew, and concluded at the end that there really wasn’t one good answer. It’s conversations like that one that set this conference apart from other similar conferences and that made this program unique.
The highlight of the whole program, to me at least, was when we met in our groups. I looked forward every day to going to my group and participating in whatever was on the day’s agenda. My group, led by the amazing faculty advisors Mr. Chen Arad and Dr. Rachel Fish, had such in depth conversations on every topic brought up, whether it was one of the three case studies or something that we came up with on our own. My faculty advisors themselves made our group even more enjoyable as they seemed to add their views into the mix while still facilitating a functioning and respectful discussion. I also really enjoyed the Israel Story podcast group that came. The podcast itself was an outstanding idea on its own, but the content that was in it made it even more worthwhile. Watching people from wholly different backgrounds that live in Israel maintain a strong connection to Israel in their own ways just enabled me to nurture my connection with Israel even more. After experiencing all that the conference had to offer and learning so many new things, I believe that it is important for all Jewish kids to participate in a program like this one to learn an interesting take on Israeli culture in addition to fostering an even stronger love and appreciation for Israel. I loved every second of being a delegate at this conference and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity and the privelage of attending. I wish all the other delegates from the conference much success in their future endeavors and I hope that this program will somehow play a role in their lives in the future.