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The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

"I will be attending Brandeis University. I'm currently undecided, but I anticipate majoring in Education Studies or Psychology. I hope to participate in musical theater, University Choir, and the Brandeis Equestrian Team.

(The other girl in the picture is Jazmin, a friend I made in Las Mesas de Pejibaye, Costa Rica. Jazmin and I still talk on Facebook when we get a chance, and we send each other holiday gifts and cards.)"

           
 
   
     
   
 

1) How has your Jewish experience in Altoona helped shaped by our community?

The Jewish community here in Altoona created a small yet sturdy foundation that I could grow from. My Jewish experience is unique to Altoona in that I have lived here all my life; I have never belonged to a synagogue outside of Agudath Achim. This whole time, I felt supported by incredible individuals who I would not know had I lived anywhere else. The feeling of unconditional support that fostered my own growth encouraged me to support other parts of our community.

2) What did you do for your bat mitzvah project? What motivated you to do it? What did you learn from it?

For my Bat Mitzvah project, I helped to raise money for the Solar CookIt project supporting women of the Tutsi Tribe in Darfur. Rabbi Schulman’s departing speech from Temple Beth Israel, warning us of what could come to Darfur, inspired me to take action. I quickly learned as I licked hundreds of envelopes that fundraising isn’t the simplest thing in the world – there’s much more that goes on behind the scenes. I couldn’t have done anything without my family’s help. Through this project, I learned patience and dedication; it took a long time, but we eventually met our goal.

3) What other types of community projects have you done?

The summer before 11th grade, I embarked on a language learning and community service trip to Costa Rica for a month. Our group built a corral, painted the town’s cemetery, and completed individual projects: my project included translating an anti-drug program into Spanish and teaching it to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the town’s small school. This was an incredible journey that taught me not only about other people but a whole lot about our own society. Last summer, I began volunteering at Dreams Go On therapeutic horseback riding center. There, we help mentally, emotionally, and physically disabled children and adults experience the therapeutic bond between horse and rider in a safe environment. I hope to spend time volunteering at Dreams Go On and the Humane Society this summer.

4) What motivated you to volunteer at Sunday school as a teacher? How was your experience? Did it meet your expectations?

I began considering education as a possible career path about a year before Rabbi Audrey contacted me about being a Sunday School teacher this school year. I’m incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity because it secured my interests in education. Teaching was very different from what I expected! As a student, I gained many insights into the daily difficulties of being a teacher. In a way, however, teaching met my expectations in that it was an incredibly rewarding and fun experience.

5) What is your wish for the future of our Greater Altoona Jewish Community?

My wish for the Greater Altoona Jewish Community is for everyone to appreciate what we already have. The focus tends to be on what we want, what to do next, or what to fix – not on what we’re thankful for already having. Granted, moving towards bigger and better things is critical for our community’s growth, but every now and then we could all benefit from taking a step back and acknowledging how great everything already is.

 

           
  Past Member Q&A's