By Spencer Perdeck, NFTY Alumni Engagement Intern
Usually when I take a trip to Orlando it’s to find a state of happiness; to make wishes and ideate dreams. This was a different trip. A delegation from the NYU Bronfman Center of two staff members and three students, including myself, went down to Orlando last Wednesday following the horrific act of hatred that took place earlier on that Sunday morning. We departed not really knowing who we would be able to help or where–or even if–we would be needed, but we went anyway. Naaseh V’nishmah, or “we will do and we will hear.” The Jewish approach includes taking an action without necessarily knowing why it’s important or how it will work out, but trusting that it will lead to understanding. We knew we had to go, even though we wouldn’t know who needed our help until we were there. Just showing up was the most important thing to do. To BE there for another in the flesh is an important principle that keeps inching its way farther from our reality, as our technology consumes us and becomes the definitive.
While in Orlando, we visited a few different places. The LGBTQ Center developed into the main headquarter for all things related to helping out the effort. We did a little bit of physical work, but more importantly, we listened to the people. We heard them, and we wanted them to know that we heard them and stand in solidarity with them. We listened, and we provided hugs and love from the NYU Jewish Community. Locals were very surprised that we had come from so far to be there and help out, and I would like to believe that it brightened the day for those that we encountered. Knowing that people besides the media were there to simply listen and love was hopefully something that made these people smile and gave them hope. I’m glad that we were able to be there for the people of Orlando as well as the LGBTQ and Latin communities, and hopefully we provided some comfort in such a troubling and inexplicable time. It’s hard for a community that is shattered to help one another when they are all in need of a shoulder. When something is shattered, there’s an opportunity to reinvent oneself and come back stronger and more beautiful; and that’s exactly how the people of Orlando have responded. They have banded with one another, creating a gorgeous mosaic that is the community: Orlando Strong.
We went to The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which has become the place for leaving memorial messages, items and flowers. A vigil had taken place there a previous night, and all over the pavement were candle wax drippings that had permanently melted onto the surface. The sight of it made me cry. The drops were like tears frozen in time. Tears of a community, fragile and in need of love.
I left Orlando with more wishes and dreams. I’m sure I share these dreams with many of you, and what I will say is that dreams are just that. They are dreams. But what I’m hoping for are actions. Actions of love, respect, and education. Just as bigotry and hatred are taught so can love and respect.
Careful the things you say, Children will listen
Careful the things you do, Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be
Careful before you say “listen to me”, Children will listen.
Judaism teaches us to treat ourselves and others with Kavod or respect; even the stranger is to be treated with respect. And we have the Communal Responsibility or Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh for each other. The Jewish Principle that “All Israel is responsible for one another” (Shavuot 39a) means each of us must take action and inspire others to create a community in which we can ALL take pride. It is the responsibility of a religious institution to encourage respect for all people and to love one another no matter what differences we may have. It’s our differences that make the world a more vibrant and colorful place to live. Be a stained glass window; offering protection while allowing light to shine through you and onto others.
We can reignite the power of dreams by turning those dreams into actions. Lead by example. Teach those around you by doing what you know is right. Don’t let time pass and allow you to forget. Something horrific as this shouldn’t mean it’s now time to do good, but rather as a reminder that we should have been doing good all along. Be kind, keep your chin up and go out and create something beautiful, the world needs it.
“It’s not how long the rain falls or how hard the wind blows or how deep is the snow in the road. Nor the balance we fake when we feel the ground shake and we think that our world will explode. It’s the help that we give. It’s the love that we live. It’s our pride in the friendships we form. It’s the courage we show facing things we don’t know. It’s the way that we weather the storm.”