Reflections of Gratitude – Kelly Whitehead, CLIP: New York 2015

There is an inexplicable feeling when all of a sudden you look at someone, and realize that each random passerby is living a life just as vivid and complex as your own. It is a truly a moment of awe when you discover other individuals have their own subconscious, contemplations, and life experiences. There is a different reason for everyone being where they stand and a different story behind how they got there.

Personally, this sudden realization is why CLIP, and its goal to bring 43 unique people together, is extraordinary. Everyone in our cohort has our own understandings and personal stories. One the morning of June 3, most of us came from distinguishing experiences, hearing about the program through various methods and applying to the program with unique characteristics.  And here we are today, thanks to the generosity of many others, no longer strangers, but one connected cohort.

As a group, we shared our journeys, allowing us to form a broader understanding of the Jewish and professional world around us. We learned not to “single story,” or stereotype the experiences of others. We learned during seminars, on Monday nights, and on our own time the various ways Judaism looks for all of us. We learned where Jewish donations go and how to be at summer camp in the most humid day of the year. We learned about the woes of the current Jewish education system and how to prepare for an interview. We learned how to apply our Strengths to the workplace and how to pray together as one community. We learned how to network and the difference between operational and developmental SMART goals. The lessons we are walking away with are as countless as memories we made.

In addition, we learned that Judaism does not allow us to become self-absorbed. We have a responsibility for one another, in addition to the world around us. When we step into the Bronfman Center, we live beyond ourselves, and become aware of the greater community of our people. This Jewish value of selflessness is the very reason all of our different paths converged this summer.  We would not be here today if it were not for the kindness and generosity of those who made it possible.

First, thank you to the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU and to Rabbi Sarna for providing us with a place to call home. In just 10 weeks, we learned the value of having a sacred space to share and grow. Thank you to UJA-Federation of New York for teaching us the importance of the Jewish community in the lives of others, not to mention taking so many of us in for a great internship experience. And to the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women, as one of the fellows supported by your organization, thank you for the inspiring work you do for all women. It is regrettable that there is such a norm in our society of unpaid internships, and your support this summer enabled a large percentage of our cohort to not have to make the decision between wages and professional development.

Thirty years ago, CLIP was started within an organization called FEGS Health and Human Services. Sadly, this Spring, FEGS closed its doors. Although it will no longer be able to take interns or provide support, we are grateful to FEGS for starting and nurturing a program that has benefitted so many to this day. Particularly to Esther-Ann Asch, one of the founders of the program and former vice presidents at FEGS, thank you for your hilarious jokes and warm words of wisdom. I know we all can go to you for anything, including good bar recommendations. Thank you for your presence as the 44th member of our cohort.

To the duo that made our summer an unforgettable and seamless experience, thank you. Because of you, we are better Jews, better professionals, and overall better-educated members of our communities. Gabriel, thank you for choosing a fantastic group of college students. Thank you for leading us on a path to successful and being a Jewish role model. Most importantly, thank you for answering our annoying questions about your fiancé. Jay, thank you for teaching us the ways to become highly effective people. Your humor, talent, passion for life, and patience with us is admirable beyond words. From singing at the Shabbaton to bringing us to a place of productive discomfort, you are selflessly providing us with the tools we need to succeed. Although we may not show it at times, we are incredibly grateful for the hard work you devote year round to our summer program.

To my fellow CLIPterns, thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you laughing, sharing, standing, and simply great being friends to lean on. I am so grateful for all of the one-on-one moments I’ve had with each and every one of you. Although we come from individual places, we were all brought together because of those who made it possible.