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  • Elana Burack: South Carolina, USA

    In April 2020, I was alone in my apartment in Philadelphia, and I found myself preparing for Passover for one. For the first time, I cooked up some kugel, threw together a mishmash of things for a Seder plate, and Googled some Haggadah supplements and Pesach parodies. While it was a break with years of tradition of celebrating with friends and family, it ended up being a very spiritual evening of slow song, reflection, and the savoring of a tradition of our people.
  • Sade S.: Charlottesville, VA, USA

    I hope that this upcoming year will bring a lot of reassurance. The pandemic was obviously difficult for everyone--in many different ways--but I don't think there has been a time in my life that uncertainty has ever taken such a toll on me. Pre-COVID, my comfort zone was being uncomfortable. I went out of state for college, chose to go on Semester at Sea for my abroad experience, and signed up as a KAHAL Intern not knowing what the semester would have in store. Despite not knowing the outcomes of these actions, however, I chose them and had control. With COVID, any sort of agency I had was taken away and it was very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. No need to get into details, but I lost a lot of optimism that had previously defined my outlook on life. We've now spent two Passovers in quarantine, and I have never felt more connected to the Exodus story. Despite being physically isolated, celebrating a story of hope with the Jewish community really helped me rediscover my optimism. With vaccinations in sight (and in my body), I'm finally excited to move on from the anxiety around uncertainty and embrace it knowing that everything will be ok :)
  • Anthony Bolchover: London, United Kingdom

    This year has been tough for everyone, but for me personally it has also allowed me to reflect on my quality of life. Before the pandemic, I would take many of those lost freedoms for granted. But during lockdown, I had to adapt and cherish the few opportunities I had. I made sure to go on a run once a day (something I would never dream of doing before COVID!) and to establish a solid routine so that I could escape the boredom and monotony of essential house arrest. After lockdown I hope to be more sociable and outgoing, opening myself up to the world and living life to its fullest. COVID has really taught me that life in general only happens once, and we must try our best not waste it!
  • Chloe Lauret: Berlin, Germany

    Hi! I’m Chloe. This past year has been chaotic and challenging, but I believe we’ve all been able to take something from it and it made us grow in more than one way... We’ve had to completely digitize our lives and find new ways to spend our time meaningfully. Connecting with your local shul became increasingly more difficult because honestly no one wants to attend a service online, especially if you aren’t very religious to begin with. Our relationship with G-d does not end because we cannot go to the temple nonetheless. As I battled with the feeling of loneliness, I became more spiritual. In the morning when I go jogging I enjoy having open conversations with G-d where I let it all out. Some might not approve and might prefer a more traditional approach, but I strongly recommend!
  • Rachel Zaff: Philadelphia, PA, USA

    This past year, I started baking challah most Fridays. It has been a really nice way to mark the beginning of Shabbat each week. I love baking, and it has been fun to connect to Judaism in this way.
  • Noemi: Glen Rock, New Jersey , USA

    Due to the pandemic taking most of my past year, I would have told myself to use this time to connect with myself and my family more. I suppose I did connect with my family, however, I should have used my time to learn more about myself. Very rarely do I get to pause and reflect, as life is moving so quickly. And that was a good moment to do so and discover things about myself. Going back to my university has helped me connect with my Judaism, since over 1/3 of the population here are Jewish.
  • Regev Ortal: Colorado Springs, CO, USA

    In July of 2020 I left Israel for what at the time I thought would be a month and a half visit in Colorado to see my partner. As COVID-19 restrictions in Israel became stricter and my University in Tel Aviv announced classes will continue over Zoom I found myself living in the US de-facto and quite unexpectedly, for nearly a year. Being somewhere new in the middle of the pandemic proved to be quite challenging - I didn't go to school here, I worked from home and despite my attempts to connect with the local Jewish community, I couldn't become a part of it through Zoom. This year has posed a real challenge and placed much more weight on my Jewish and Israeli identities as a way to remain somewhat social - I've looked for community events for Passover, met for (socially distant) coffee dates with some of the Israelis in town and ended up relying much more on my local Hillel to engage with other people through online communities. Since the beginning of the semester I've helped manage an online only leadership for Hillel Israel which allowed 12 students all across the country to get together, listen to some of the most notable personalities in the field of Jewish Peoplehood and become surprisingly close to each other without ever meeting in person. I hope this next year will bring much more community into my life, but in the meantime I feel so fortunate to have my Jewish family around me, online and in spirit.
  • Benedetto: Rome, Italy

    Hey, the upcoming year is not going to be easy, but you will manage through it. Make a balance of what is important in your life and work in order to focus on that. Make sure not to argue with your partner and keep your relationship stimulating. Consider to move together. Make a list of your friends, call them regularly and don't miss a chance to spend time with them. Connect with your inner soul, find some intimate time to think, meditate or pray. Don’t waste your time. Don't be lazy. Do some sport, get in shape. Work on some skills, follow some courses. Focus on becoming a better version of yourself, more confident, more prepared, in order to be ready for when needed. And in the mean time don't get lost in the process. If you have any chance to live, love, laugh, get into new experiences, do it!
  • David Fiorentini: Siena, Italy

    During these months I engaged more with social media and other online means of communication, therefore those who usually I didn't see very often, became close friends. Living in a small city like Siena, where the Jewish Community is microscopic, engaging with people from other cities mostly meant strengthening the bonds with other Jewish friends all around the Country. So, after a year, I could say that the majority of my close friends are part of the Jewish Community as opposed to what it used to be before lockdown when most of my relationships were with non-Jewish people. This change brought by a consistent development of my sense of belonging to the Jewish People, therefore increasing my desire to address my energies towards Jewish Activism as well to Mitzvots. My greatest hope is that once the pandemic will be over, I won't lose this close relationship with the Jewish Community.
  • Rebecca Zelnick: Milan, Italy

    If I could tell my past self something, I would tell me to make the most of the support available from my friends and family, and to try to see this as a chance to spend more time with loved ones and have a less hectic lifestyle. If I could go back, I would go back home instead of staying in rented accommodation, which was not ideal during the pandemic especially at the beginning. Unfortunately, I could not attend any services for the most important Jewish holidays and this I think is big damage done to Jewish students by the pandemic. Many Friday night dinners, shabbat meals, Jewish events have been missed by Jewish students around the world and I hope that this will go back to normal after the pandemic, without having too much of a long-term impact. I hope next year will bring new hopes and new opportunities for students around the world who have been very much negatively impacted because of Covid. Young people need to be able to grow, learn from each other, learn from experiences and mistakes, and a pandemic reduces the extent to which we could do all of this. I hope that opportunities after the pandemic will be even greater than before because of the so many things built-up that we had to give up this year.
  • Lauren Kaye: London, England

    Over the past year, I have really embraced my Jewish identity through KAHAL Abroad. Being a campus intern has allowed me to connect with Jewish students from all around the world and become part of a global community that feels like a second home.
  • Allison Rose: San Diego, CA, USA

    If I could tell my past self from a year ago one thing it would be to enjoy your self exploration time and accept solace in that time alone. Enjoy running, baking, cooking, hiking, working out, reading, and other relaxation. It is wonderful to enjoy doing things alone. I have connected a lot more to my Jewish identity in the past year through reading history and historical fiction books, watching documentaries, connecting with family and friends, and celebrating holidays. I hope the next year will expand my network and deepen my current connections. I also hope to explore my identity and interests more and allow myself the space to be me!
  • Sarah: New York, NY, USA

    The pandemic has been a wild but insightful year. I'd tell myself last year to continue to spend time with those you love even if it can't be physically in person by staying in touch over the phone/video calls/messages. Continue to learn and grow through reading, watching multiple news sources, and forming your own opinion from there. My family and I continued Jewish traditions throughout the holidays and I also joined a Jewish Pen Pal community to learn what Jewish life is like around the world. I hope the next year will push me more out of my comfort zone and I will do the wild things I've wanted to do but too nervous to step out of the norm to get them done.
  • Emma Bliwas: Chicago, IL, USA

    At the beginning of the pandemic, my brother had his Bar Mitzvah. My family and I were supposed to travel to London and have his Bar Mitzvah there. Instead, we had his Bar Mitzvah in my living room. My rabbi is my next door neighbor and I will never forget him walking over from his house to mine with the Torah in his hands. It was just my grandparents and my family and it was supposed to be 30 family members. However, we were just grateful to be together and happy we could still do his Bar Mitzvah. I remember this was the first time we were doing elbow bumping instead of hugs. Over the summer, I worked for Jewish United Fund and now I work as a Kahal intern. I love feeling connected to the Jewish community through Hillel, work and family.
  • Chagai H.: Black Forest, Germany

    1. everything you do, do it for yourself, don’t do it for something/someone. Be more flexible, try to adapt and take every opportunity even though it might not seem like a good one at that time, you’d be surprised to what it can turn out to be 2. less often than usual but when so it was a much deeper connection/experience. Especially last year you learned to cherish it more (e.g holidays and Shabbat) as you could never know when the next lockdown would hit or for how long it would continue and it was unsure when you would see your friends and family again. 3. I do hope that travel will be less restricted, I hope that someone special will come to my life and I hope that not just me but everyone learned from the past year!
  • Sydney Siegel: Tallahassee, FL, USA

    Last year was filled with uncertainty and anxiety, but 12 months later, most of what I was unsure about has been falling into place. Last year was a growth process. I would tell my past self to trust the process. The pandemic led to my greater sense of appreciation for my Jewish community. I used my extra time to volunteer in my community and to take better care of myself. I made strides in both my career but also my self care practices which will allow me to be successful. I'm hopeful that very soon travel will be open again and I'll be able to continue to explore the world we live in and the global Jewish community we're apart of.
  • Rebecca Spagnoletto: Rome, Italy

    I would tell myself not to worry and that there are new things to learn and opportunities to grow in every situation, no matter how dramatic, weird and unprecedented it may seem.