Alumni Spotlight: Greta Rothschild

“I was part of history. Just a Judaean from Kentucky and I became part of the history of Israel.

On the surface Greta Rothschild feels like any Judaean, filled with love for the movement and commitment to the Jewish people, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find someone who was at Tel Yehudah listening to a live broadcast in the Beit Am of the rescue of the hostages at Entebbe; someone who just a few short years later, stood on Mount Sinai at sunrise during Year Course living at Ketura and watched the beginnings of land changing hands in the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty- Greta Rothschild’s memories of Young Judaea are some of the most covered events in world history.

It wasn’t always that monumental and historic, however. Growing up in Lexington, Kentucky there wasn’ta huge Jewish presence, but Hadassah was strong. So when a friend invited her to a YJ club meeting at age 12, she jumped at the chance. Immediately she knew this was the place for her, the place where she could grow and be herself.  Reflecting on her early days in Year-Round clubs and as a camper at CYJ Midwest (later a staff member) she describes herself as “captivated, involved and connected.” That connection stayed with Greta throughout her life, both personally and professionally.
It’s not rare to hear a lifetime Judaean speak with such pride in and affection for the movement, but it is incredible to see the actual effect of Young Judaea on a person. The leadership and programming skills she learned in YJ through the clubs, conventions and camps so deeply impacted Greta that they became the foundation of her entire career.  After 17 years as a Synagogue Education Director, and a nearly full time volunteer leader as the Region President of Chicago-North Shore Hadassah, it’s the YJ role models she had, the peer leadership and programming skills she learned, along with her Zionist commitment and strong identity that stand out in her mind. And like most Judaeans, her YJ friendships have become life-long along with the memories.

Though a lifetime spent in serving the Jewish community and the love of Israel and Judaism are central to Greta Rothschild’s experience in Young Judaea, it’s the sense of belonging and Tikkun Olam, she most values. “L’dor v’dor is so important to me; passing down those values, my love and passion for Eretz Yisrael and joyful Jewish living  to my children, that is incredibly meaningful. A recipient of scholarships for camp and Year Course, I feel Young Judaea has taught me the true essence of what it means to give back.”

Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Hack

Dan Hack has been a proud Young Judean since 2007 when he was an Ofie at Camp Sprout Lake. During his progression through the Young Judaea (YJ) journey, he was a camper at Sprout and TY, attended Alternative Winter Breaks throughout his high school years, and was eventually the Merekez of Bogrim at Sprout. From YJ, Dan has been able to learn about the impact that an individual can have, and how much this impact grows when working as a group, or a קבוצה. This past semester, Dan served as the Development Intern for the Center for a New American Security, where he helped raise money for research attempting to solve America’s most complicated national security threats. Dan would not have been able to get this job if it weren’t for a Young Judean that works there and advised that he should apply.

In his Hadracha year at TY, Dan was in the anti-Semitism Tikun group and his one regret was that his group ceased communication after the summer ended. He continued to have conversations with YJers and others about anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on social media sites, however the conversations were often quite destructive with no real progress being made. The emphasis that Young Judaea places on pluralism helped Dan come to the conclusion that we need a better method of discourse between individuals of varying backgrounds and beliefs. During his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon, he founded a company called Convertsation that has the goal of converting how conversations are held online, and teaching and harboring positive and constructive conversations between students from all over the world. Over the last year and a half the Convertsation team has expanded to ten members who are very motivated to spread this great product throughout the country, and abroad as well. Convertsation is a digital platform for educators to structure multi-party, online conversations for their students.

Through a plethora of features, students have been able to hold inspiring Convertsations where they truly listen to one another and find common ground on subjects they previously completely disagreed on. In a world where political and ideological polarization is rampant as individuals are blocking or fighting any person or news source that disagrees with them, Convertsation is attempting to fix this problem and they know that if students are learning healthy conversation practices from a young age, they will be able to hold more productive conversations as they grow.

Convertsations are anywhere from 20-60 minutes and contain 3-5 students from within a class, or between classes anywhere in the world. At the Convertsation table, there is a resource board to fact check users, a character count to ensure that there is equal participation amongst the members, and open-minded sentence structures for students to fill in and best hear one another. Once the time allotted has ended and the students have discussed all of the questions that the teacher has posed, the teacher will get a robust report consisting of important metrics for growth using artificial intelligence. The report states what students participated the most and least, how many new ideas they each brought, how many resources they used, and much more.

While the problems of polarization, close mindedness, and destructive conversations online are not disappearing anytime soon, Dan believes that the more students that connect and learn through Convertsation, the more likely the next generation will be able to speak to another, and more importantly, listen. If it weren’t for his time in Young Judaea, and the emphasis that the organization places on bringing people together, Dan never would’ve hatched the idea for Convertsation, a project that has turned into his greatest passion.