Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Book


I have drafted, both in my head and electronically, many versions of some sort of post to wrap up my year in Hungary, which formally concluded one week ago yesterday, and attempt to in some way to summarize and process the experience.

I have accepted that I can't do so. Definitely not yet, maybe not ever. The world was a very different place when I departed for Hungary last September. As things changed around me, I also changed in many expected and unforeseeable ways. I discovered new perspectives on my identities as a Jew, an American, an expat and traveler, a white male, and a human being. I have observed new ways in which much of the world is rethinking the intersection of their many identities: religious, ethnic, national, gender, etc.

Those reflections, while deep and important, are quite raw and personal. I am not yet ready to formally unpack those thoughts.

However, something I can clearly grasp (but still not adequately articulate), is my overwhelming gratitude. I have never felt so blessed as I did this past year. I never felt alone, and never once broke down and wondered where I was or what I was doing. I felt supported by many people, both near and far, and I used that as a constant source of strength and motivation. I knew that I would only succeed this year if I managed to at once be my best and truest self while also being totally open to new ideas and experiences. I could not lose touch with my values and my strengths, but I needed to accept the challenges and opportunities that could help me learn and grow. I think that I succeeded as well as I could have hoped.

I owe many specific thank yous. Whether or not they see this blog, I have hopefully thanked them all sufficiently in person, and recording these thank yous briefly here can just serve as a permanent reminder to me of the "village" it took to give me the year that I had.

Thank you to Linda and Tomi, my Hungarian parents, supervisors, friends, and mentors. Without their leadership and hard work, the Hungarian Jewish community would not be what it is today. Also without them, I could never have had the personal and professional experience that I had.

Thank you to Sam, my Hungarian wife and roommate (in that order). Sam and I really made a life together in Hungary and had each other's backs through all sorts of situations. Sam heard every detail of my life, and without her, I would have never made it through the year.

Thank you to the many friends I made in Hungary. Especially to Zsófi, who was my basketball teammate, BBYO friend, travel partner to 4 countries, neighbor, guest, host, and much more. I can't thank everyone else by name, but so many friendships from this year were real and have changed me for the better.

Thank you to Moishe House Budapest for welcoming me into their community. I was so happy that Budapest was my first exposure to the amazing work that Moishe House does, and Tomi, Bálint, and Rudi embody the organization's mission of providing a deep and engaging Jewish space for a diverse audience. Without them, many of my social and Jewish needs would never have been met.

Thank you to the amazing teens and leaders of BBYO Hungary. This group of teens is committed, creative, and passionate. It was an honor getting to know them. I could go on an on, but suffice it to say that I cannot wait to follow from afar as they continue to develop as leaders and take the group to new heights.

Thank you to the Szarvas Camp for welcoming me into your community and making me feel appreciated and valued as a staff member. I feel like I am my best self at camp, and culminating my year in such a special camp was simply perfect.

Thank you to the Muslim Jewish Conference for providing me a final spark of inspiration before my journey ended. Sarajevo was the perfect host city, and the participants from this conference are simply incredible.

Thank you to the Budapest Jewish community for welcoming me into your already vibrant and strong community. Thank you to the Frankel Synagogue for being my Hungarian shul, and to the Bálint Ház JCC, The Mozaik HUB, the Jewish Museum, Limmud Hungary, and others for creating a professional relationship with me and finding ways for me to become a part of the fabric of the Hungarian Jewish community.

Thank you to the JDC for hiring me, supporting me, and letting me have a role in the work that you do for the Jewish people. Thank you to the other Fellows of the Jewish Service Corps for your support, humor, Whatsapps, hospitality, and for sharing this journey with me from near and far.

There are so many thank yous that I can send, not to mention the friends and family who rooted for me from afar, but I hope I will be able to thank everyone in person.

I titled this post "The Book" because while cliche, a book is the perfect metaphor for where I'm at now. A chapter is over, and a new one begins. In Judaism, we understand our stories to be cyclical, as we roll back all the way to Breishit each Simchat Torah. Books are shared, loved, cherished, and needed. Books are translated into different languages.

On the theme of writing, I haven't decided yet what to make of this blog now that my year in Hungary is over. The feedback and support have really warmed me, and I never expected to have any readership beyond my closest family and friends. Thank you all for being a part of this journey with me. I imagine I will keep writing, once I figure out what types of entries would be most interesting to me and others. Besides, less face it, the title of this blog is too good to let go.

While I look forward to settling into a routine in New York, a city that I have been to many times, I know that adventure always awaits.

---Benjy (With a Why)

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