Year Course Letter to my son upon his return from YC
By Adina Frydman, CEO of Young Judaea Global
10 months ago, you left for your gap year in Israel as a boy, but today when you walked through the gates of El Al Terminal 4 at JFK, you emerged as a man. And not in that bar mitzvah kind of boy to man way, but as a man who has started to spread his wings, and to exercise independence and freedom by making his own choices and living with those consequences.
I am sure it is strange for you to be home, (well, not quite home since we moved to a new house while you were away,) but home is where your family is, the friends you grew up with, your community.
I am sure you feel torn as you have started to lay down new roots, with connections of your choosing, and yet these roots of your origin keep pulling you back. I hope that in time you will see these as grounding roots that keep you firmly planted in who you are and let you blossom into who you are becoming, rather than as roots that hold you back.
This year you tried on different skins, all in the name of figuring out who you are. What an exciting time! I hope you realize this is a lifelong pursuit and that you should never feel that you are all set. Keep that curiosity and hunger for learning, experiences, and growth for the rest of your life. Hold on to friends that push you to grow and challenge your assumptions.
And as for Israel, I hope she didn’t disappoint you too much. I know the expectations were high (at least from me) and the reality in some ways exceeds way beyond anything we can imagine, and in other ways lets us down.
I hope you left inspired by the deep commitment of the people. A commitment to never give up on their dream and to never compromise their ideals for the sake of the dream. A complicated juxtaposition. But as Robert Walter says, we are the “connected critics.”
I hope you find yourself somewhere in that narrative as you get ready to step onto the college campus, which nowadays feels like a war zone for labeled Zionists (and whether you accept it or not, having spent a year in Israel, you may need to respond to the assumptions that come with this label.)
Year Course was not an advocacy training program, by design. However, I do hope that having spent a year in Israel exposed to multiple narratives and encountering a real place with real people that you now have a personal perspective to share, and that you have an entire community of Young Judaeans to lean on if and when it gets tough. You are not in this alone.
And while it may be tempting to disengage and ignore the noise because it’s just too complicated, hold your head up and know that you don’t need to be armed with facts and figures to be proud. You also don’t need to defend and be zealous to show your loyalty. You are no less proud or loyal by being a connected critic but find a way to band with others to work towards making it better. To be a Zionist means to dream of the Israel you want to see. Don’t settle for the status quo and don’t give up on her. Embrace an aspirational Zionism and pursue it. In Pirke Avot we learn, “While it is not our job to complete it, neither can we desist from it.”
While your Year Course may be over, you have the rest of your life to pursue it.