The world as we knew it changed on October 7th, and uniquely, so did my job.
I am the marketing manager for Young Judaea, the oldest Zionist youth movement in North America. This organization, over 100 years old, began as a Jewish youth group and eventually, along with other similar organizations, helped to pave the way for the creation of the State of Israel. Now, it consists of seven Israel-infused summer camps across the country, and trips to Israel for young adults.
During my time at Young Judaea I have shared stories and photographs of our young American participants in Israel volunteering on a Kibbutz, dancing and singing during Havdalah in the Negev, and putting notes in the Western Wall. I’ve also shared photos of campers connecting with their Israeli counselors, grinning from ear-to-ear- while dancing the Shabbat “rikkud,” and spending a summer soaking up their Jewishness alongside their friends.
Then came October 7th.
On Monday morning after the attacks, I sat in front of my computer frozen, unsure of what to share. There was no more joy. There was only horror. Soon enough I was flooded with content, but not the kind I was used to.
First came the sharing of tragic news. A schlichim (young Israeli emissary to one of our summer camps in NY) was murdered at the music festival. The next day I made another announcement. A second young Israeli who spent time at our camps had been murdered. And the next day another, and then, another.
Praying that no more tragedy would come our way, I was then handed a “missing poster” to share on our social media. An American boy whose love for Israel had blossomed while participating in our programs had made aliyah, joined the IDF, and now has been kidnapped by terrorists.
How could this be? Overnight, my 9-5 job went from posting the smiling faces of Jewish youth at summer camp and in Israel, to posting about murder and hostages, and combating antisemitism. Was this real life? It all felt like a nightmare.
After some time, a different kind of content came my way. This time, it was stories about taking action. I shared the story of a Young Judaea alumnus who created a petition signed by 5,000 students nation-wide calling for their university to condemn the actions of Hamas. I shared photos of 50 Young Judaeans gathering for a Shabbat dinner in New York City, finding comfort in being together. And I shared photos of our current participants, in Israel at this very moment, working tirelessly to support displaced families in the Gaza region by packing food, playing with children, and stepping in for farmers called to the reserves.
The importance of what I had been doing all along became clear to me. We often think Jewish organizations like ours revolve around color war at summer camp and camel rides in Israel, but in reality, ours and similar programs have always been about strengthening the Jewish community. A community that is ready to step up and be an incredible force during difficult times.
Young Judaea’s 114 years of connecting American Jews with their Judaism and with Israel, and my job helping to share their stories, was all in preparation for this very moment, and I finally have new content to share. Content that screams “We are proud to be Jewish, and we aren’t going anywhere.”