How The Associated and Changemakers Fellowship Shaped Izzy Bennett’s Jewish Journey

June 2020. A few months into a pandemic that optimists thought would last two weeks, my life was in most ways together. I had housing, food, a part-time job that was meaningful to me and great company. But in a lot of ways I felt like I was falling down a black hole, I was staying with my parents as I could not afford to move out with a part-time job. After finishing my senior year and starting adulthood from my brother’s childhood bedroom, I was floundering.

When I applied to the Changemakers summer fellowship I wasn’t sure what to expect. Growing up in an interfaith home, Judaism had always been like a side to the main course, it was an important part of the meal, but it was never the main show. Doing something that was so seeped in Judaism and Jewish values was new, but I wanted to try. The program itself was three weeks of skills building, community gathering and resource sharing that gave me more knowledge than I could process. The focus on self-improvement, communal work and speaking power to the people all mixed in with the values and history of Judaism made this program not only the highlight of my summer but also a pivotal event in my life’s journey.

Two weeks in, I found myself even more in love with my Jewish roots and wanting to make it a more prominent facet in my life. For me, this came in a few ways. It started with finding out how I could learn more. I started attending virtual services at local synagogues, observed the High Holy Days and after hearing the shofar blown made my decision to convert to Judaism, fully embracing that part of myself. Religious involvement wasn’t where I wanted it to stop.

I wanted to be involved communally as well. While the pandemic has made it harder, The Associated’s monthly newsletter, the Changemakers facebook page and the friends I made in Changemakers have helped me get a better idea of the Jewish life around me outside of my synagogue. It was through the facebook page that I found out about my current internship with Jewish Federations of North America. I am a Public Affairs Intern, working specifically with Darcy Hirsh on advocacy and education on making the tax code work in favor of the people and using policy to end poverty and food insecurity.

I would not have discovered the world of opportunities within the Jewish community, to build every aspect of my life around it, had it not been for the Changemakers Fellowship and the continued support of the friends I made doing it. Finding connection and community during a pandemic felt impossible, but Changemakers provided just that and I am so excited to see a new round of participants go through the program.

Izzy is a member of The Associated’s IMPACT Group.

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