Alternative Winter Break AWB, Miss Debra, and Lessons for Life
By YJ Israel
From Alternative Winter Break Participant Jacob Rogatinsky from Hollywood, FL
I am glad to say that day one of AWB New Orleans 2013 was a great success. For those who may be a little unfamiliar with how the program works, the volunteers are split into three groups so that we can help out in several city locales at once. Today, my group (Team Transform) was delighted to meet Mrs. Debra, who spends her time at the Lower Ninth Ward Apostolic Outreach Center. An outgoing lady who likes to share her experiences, she told us how her childhood affected her decision to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina. She also urged us to realize that rebuilding the city does not just end when organizations like FEMA leave, but that it requires help from citizens and outside volunteers.
So, how has Mrs. Debra helped rebuild her community? As a Master Gardener, she took it upon herself to start a garden in her dear church’s once empty four-acre expanse. She uses this endeavor as an opportunity to teach others about sustainable living. But more importantly, she taught us the importance of cooperation between different communities. Think about it this way: we live in a global society where information is dispersed around the world in a matter of seconds. However, we are simultaneously separated in the sense that we forget about the news as soon as it stops circulating. We have to realize that just because Hurricane Katrina- or even Hurricane Sandy or the shootings at Sandy Hook- is no longer in the news, it does not mean that the victims no longer need our support. Whether we support with monetary donations, physical volunteering, or simply just raising awareness through social media, we need to understand that we are not truly global until we can peacefully cooperate together.
Now I know that I am way over my writing limit, but this brings me to one more point. Volunteering with AWB has shown me the importance of different religions, races, creeds, and ethnicities working toward common goals. We, the Jews of America, must initiate these interactions, especially considering Israel’s current situation with neighboring countries. Going back to this idea of our global community, we cannot truly be global until we eliminate the detrimental sectionalism between countries of the world, like in the Middle East. We are an influential group in the United States, and the United States is influential around the world. We have the power to initiate change for the better, but only if we have support from others. Through programs like AWB, the future generation of Jewish Americans can learn to voice itself in a way that benefits the global community.