Rachel Levy } jewish@edu writer
As passengers abandoned airplane mode, buzzes from CNN or New York Times lit up their phones, updating them of what had or hadn’t transpired domestically and abroad in the nearly five-hour flight between Arizona and Washington, D.C.
I opened my phone to two Snapchats, a text from my mom and a “like” on Instagram.
I knew I was in trouble when I sat down with my internship supervisor, Erin, on the first day and she asked me, probably rhetorically, “So, you’re the public policy intern?” and I responded, completely seriously, with, “Well, I’m actually the social justice intern.” We both laughed — me nervously because I am not a public policy student and her because she thought I was being witty. As she continued with our orientation, listing off tasks, expectations and goals, I began to think to myself: What have I done?
In terms of politics, I had been mostly clueless. I could name my state senators and a few of the representatives; I knew who Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, but mostly because I had just seen the movie about her; and the issues I cared about were usually the ones that my “woke” friends in College Democrats had heard about and relayed to me.
At least that’s how I related to politics before participating in the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center’s Machon Kaplan summer internship program. Machon Kaplan has given me the chance to live out politics. From organizing and social justice work on campus, I had learned to care about certain issues; but through Machon Kaplan, I have the chance to see those protests and petitions and calls for action actually change minds and uphold justice.
In Pirkei Avot, we learn that Rabbi Akiva, one of our greatest scholars, did not begin to learn Torah until he was 40 years old. However, as soon as his teacher taught him the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, he did not stop studying until he had learned it all.
I still don’t recognize members of Congress when I walk down Constitution Avenue, and I didn’t read the entirety of Breyer’s dissent on the AMEX case. But I am young, and I am interested and I am motivated, just like Rabbi Akiva was, to continue to learn about how I can make a difference and to not stop until I am satisfied.
This city is making me buzz — and not just from the CNN and New York Times notifications that are now lighting up my iPhone screen. @
Rachel Levy is a 2018 Machon Kaplan participant and a junior at the University of Michigan. She is the Reform Community Leader at U-M Hillel. Last year, she was a Hebrew Union College Founders Fellow and a JNet Engagement Fellow at U-M Hillel.