Starting out my first days at Indiana University, I was a little apprehensive about making friends. Going into an environment with several thousand new faces, with almost no familiar ones, was, to say the least, a tad overwhelming.
My first day of classes arrived, and my nerves were no less intense. I walked into my Introduction to the Hebrew Bible class, which was the one I was most looking forward to, to find a pleasant surprise: two of my friends from NFTY were also in the same class. Having the chance to spend my first ever hour of education in college with familiarity and friendship was a nice way to ease the stress of trying to find my place in the enormity that is a public university.
These feelings of comfort remained strong as I entered my Introduction to Jewish History course. In the row in which I sat, I was surrounded by three former NFTY regional board members, eight or nine Judaic Studies Majors, and well over a dozen leaders of Jewish movements across the denominations. That class quickly became my favorite, as I was sitting amongst the best and brightest of the Jewish youth, looking to get educated and further the leadership that we had already begun. It was also simply fun to be able to meet the people who had similar interests as I do, and to be able to enjoy the experiences that we share, and to learn from those who grew up differently.
This experience is not solely found at Indiana University. As members of NFTY and the URJ, we have created for ourselves a network of friends and coworkers, all with similar interests and goals, to allow ourselves to get comfortable in our surroundings. The famous song “Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish,” I’m finding, is surprisingly accurate. All around you, there are others who have shared similar experiences, in youth groups, camping opportunities, leadership, and congregational life. Having the ability to meet these people and become friends makes being a part of the Jewish faith so much fun, as well as so valuable to moving forward in a positive direction, both on a large scale for the Union, as well as on a personal level.
I know, especially after spending time here, that there are those out there who are Jewish who are the only ones in their neighborhoods. For someone who grew up in such a Judicially saturated life, it is hard for me to imagine growing up not knowing any other Jews. Know, though, that there are others in the world out that who share your views, who share your experiences, and who are waiting to meet people who are as excited and energetic about their faith as you are.
We are all on a search for friends. Being able to have a common experience that automatically brings us together makes the facilitation of this commonality all the more comfortable and meaningful. So wear your NFTY sweatshirt on the first day of class or on your first day in a new place. Chances are, someone else will be wearing one too.