[by Bailey Haskell, Special to Community]
Very early in the morning in October, seven members of Louisville’s Hillel boarded a plane to Denver, CO. We were beyond excited, and had no idea what to expect in the weekend to come. We were going to the Jewish National Fund’s Annual Convention, and we were soon to find out, that we were among the youngest in attendance.
Our group included Miriam Amchin, Mathew Haskell, Josh Latzko, Katie Moss, Alissa Stieha, Becca Waller and myself, along with our advisor Tzivia Levin Kalmes. We were jumping out of our seats with anticipation. We were representing our city and our state, and we would later learn that we would be representing all Jews from our generation.
We arrived in Denver and were able to explore. Then the conference started. Throughout the weekend, we had some amazing food, met some wonderful people, and learned countless things about Israel and what we could do in our community to support our homeland. We got to choose from a variety of sessions every day, all discussing the recurring theme of how we can build our future for the Jewish community everywhere.
We continued to hear about how our generation is the future of our people, and it was emphasized that it is JNF’s responsibility to get our generation more involved. But at this entire event, out of hundreds of people, there were a total of 10 college students in attendance.
We spent Shabbat at the University of Colorado Boulder, with members of their Hillel. It was huge! We were able to network some with them, and we were surprised to find out that none of their students were attending the conference, despite the fact that they were located only about 45 minutes away. We slowly came to realize that the future of the Jewish people was up to us.
Back at the conference, we had so many people express praises to us for our attendance. They were so grateful to see a younger generation stepping up to keep our people thriving. We were given the opportunity to meet the president of JNF in his hotel suite (complete with cookies!), simply because of our age and our involvement.
We brought it to the attention of those running the conference that we should allow for other college students to be there. We should provide ways to get more people at these conferences; people who love their heritage and their religion enough to want to see it continue forever (how we felt all along).
All of us have been extremely involved in our Jewish communities back home, whether it be through summer camps, youth groups, Hillel, or anything else, each of us have been and want to continue to be active in our communities. After this conference, we all left knowing that we will be the ones to allow our people to continue to grow.
We thank members of the community for providing us with the opportunity to attend this conference, and allowing us to learn and experience things that we will never forget.
We each took home a message to give to all of our friends and family: we need more involvement. We need all of the support we can get, to continue to strengthen our generation, generations before us, and future generations to come. JNF has hundreds of programs or methods of donation, and conferences every year. It’s up to us. WE are the future.