On our last active day in the Big Easy, Young Judea sent teens to four more areas. With other chanichim, I went to Lantern Light, a beautiful outdoor area connected to a Church that provided meals, bathrooms, and showers. Walking into the wooden complex, I realized that the deep brown looked just like the Beit Knesset (outdoor synagogue) in Sprout Lake, where we worshiped every morning. I hadn’t realized how spiritual Lantern Light made the area they used for the homeless.
It was shocking to see how the less fortunate changed attitude as they walked through the door.
Lantern Light did not throw meals together and scramble to get the less fortunate out.
Lantern Light did not have intimidating security making the men and women feel like cattle.
Lantern Light did not act like a “shelter,”
Lantern Light was a friend, a community.
The men and women were no longer homeless, we were all just celebrating the holidays, and YJ provided another opportunity for me to grow more comfortable with confronting the issues at hand, and opening myself up.
As a Jew I sometimes feel innately defensive about my beliefs and my Jewish friends and family, and I get nervous when YJ is involved with other religious groups. I worry that conflict would arise especially dealing with a religious holiday. However, the members of the Christmas Party did not challenge my Judaism, they reinforced it. Helping them reminded me that as Jews we always have, and always will offer help and love to those around us.All the men and women told me one thing when I explained to them about Young Judaea, they all told me to “keep the faith, don’t lose faith,” but I told them not to worry, Young Judea would never let that happen.