The following is the confirmation speech of Leah B.:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To Where it bend in the undergrowth; / Then took the other, as just as fair, / And having perhaps the better claim, / Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there / Had worn them really about the same, / And both that morning equally lay /Somewhere ages and ages hence: / Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”
When reading these words by Robert Frost, I think of my life as a Jew. We are all taking the road less traveled by choosing to be Jewish and embracing it in our daily lives. Some do not make the initial decision to travel this path; rather, they were born into as a result of having Jewish parents. For others, they chose to take this path when they decide to convert. Either way, we, as Jews, end up on this less traveled road. This is not the end of the journey, however. After each wind and turn in the road, there is a path off to the side that leads back the well-worn one. This other path to the side has noticeably been traveled by millions of people, it’s mainstream, and each footprint presses the dirt into a smoother, more uniform path.. The path straight ahead of you is not as smooth but it is “just as fair”, as Frost puts it. There are wild flowers and grasses growing all over the path, thriving on the uneven ground that has only been traveled by a handful of people. This path, the path of Judaism, has evidence of previous scorches and attempted destruction. Yet, there are abundant signs of life, perseverance, and color from the plants and people surrounding the path.
Choosing this less traveled path of Judaism is not always easy. It has its downsides, as does every religion and many life decisions in general. Judaism has been brought down physically by its oppressors throughout history as well as by the ignorance of others and a small number of followers Given your location, the ease of choosing this path differs. For example, it is easier to continue on the less traveled path when you have a whole community surrounding you making the same choice. However, making the decision to take the road less traveled is almost more advantageous to do alone. When doing so, you are forced to think What do I really want? and ensures that your decision is not biased. When you chose to take the path of Judaism, whether it is the initial choice or the decision of staying on it, it is empowering. With each step, you can distinctly see the ones who have walked before you for thousands of years. With each step, you help our nation become stronger. With each step, there is adventure and excitement.
We as Jews are incredibly blessed to travel on this path as members of the chosen people. It provides an instant connection with anyone met along your journey. I know this from personal experience due to my years at Jacobs camp and attending NFTY events. The friends I have made and experiences I’ve had over these past seven years as a camper have truly changed me. In that environment, we were free to be who we want andthere was no hiding from our religion; we were truly able to embrace it. Thanks to our counselors and directors, each of us was able to learn about Judaism, world issues, and about ourselves in an enriching way. Sunday school also provided an encouraging environment to learn and socialize with other Jews. By leading different parts of services as a child, we were able feel the power of leading our people in prayer. As my peers and I have grown older, we have taken up more responsibilities as role models for the younger kids. Through what we learn at Sunday School, as well as the programs at NFTY events geared toward education and social issues, we are able to use our knowledge to guide both our peers and those younger than us.
A few weeks ago, I was able to take all that Judaism has taught me and put it into action in a program run by NFTY called Camp Dream Street. There, I, along with other members of NFTY-SO, served as a volunteer counselor for children with physical disabilities. At this camp, these children have the opportunity to participate in normal activities that generally cannot be accommodated for them. The majority of the children were in wheelchairs or braces, some had different degrees of cerebral palsy, some were non-verbal, many had scars and many were not completely mentally competent. Nevertheless, each and every camper had an amazing time and expressed it in their own unique way. I can easily say that the week of Camp Dream Street is the week that the campers as well as counselors look forward to most throughout the year. While its extremely challenging and exhausting for the counselors, it is all worth it in the end to know that the camper had an amazing time. We, as counselors, come to Camp Dream Street to attempt to change these kids’ lives for the better and even allow them to gain independence. Ultimately, Dream Street also changes the lives of the counselors. We start to see the world differently and respect all people for who they truly are. My camper, along with every camper there, surpassed any preconceived notions about their abilities.. At the close of the rewarding week, we had a friendship circle as a way of saying good-bye. This time is where everything comes together and pays off. Many campers were in tears because they had to go back home. There were even counselors tearing up. It is so moving to hear the campers talk in front of everybody and express how much fun they have had. The most touching expression was from a non-verbal camper. His previous counselors said that he did not talk or really make noise at all. This year, with amazing counselors, it was clear that Dream Street was a success- he had a massive smile on his face and made some verbal sounds as he reached out to his counselors. Overall, everyone had an amazing, life-changing experience that ended with smiles and tears. The theme behind Dream Street is tikkun olam, which means repairing the world, and it is one of the major themes of Judaism. Basically, the world is currently broken and in utter chaos. It is our job, specifically as Jews, to make the world whole again. When you look around, there is evidence everywhere of a fragmented world, from gun violence to the Brock Turner case up north. As an amazing author, David Leviathan, puts it, maybe we are the pieces. In order to stop the breaking, we must come together. To do this, we are not instructed to physically try to save the world or even repair it. Instead, Judaism teaches us to observe the Commandments and contribute to society though example in practice and action. I am grateful for all the Jewish resources and experiences in my life that have taught me incredibly valuable insight on these topics. Camp Dream Street, as well as all the friends and memories I have made along my journey, have simply changed my life and who I am, making it all worthwhile. I plan, and I hope you all do as well, to continue on the path of Judaism, grow stronger, and continue tikkun oljam, repairing the world via leading by example. . “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- / I took the only less traveled by, / And that made all the difference.”