Dani Goodman, Temple Beth Shalom, 10th Grade
HOFW: What is the name of the organization you are involved with? What’s their mission?
Dani: The organization I work with is the Abayudaya Youth Association in Abayudaya, Uganda. As a youth group, their mission is to guide the Abayudayan youth through their journey of life within a Jewish lens. The AYA provides about 150 Jewish teens in Uganda with the necessary tools to be successful, like leadership skills, counseling, Hebrew classes, Torah study, health advocacy, the list goes on. The AYA also helps the teens of this incredibly unique Jewish community to grow as Jews, by helping them become B’nei Mitzvahs. The Abayudaya Youth Association constantly searches for and promotes talent, passion, and Jewish empowerment in their youth.
HOFW: What is you position with this organization/what sort of things do you do with them?
Dani: Through Far West USY, I am a co-chair in the partnership between both regions. My co-chair, Samy Carmer, and I are the communicative bridges between both youth groups. It’s our job to take initiative in fundraising, organizing, communicating, improving, and overall strengthening this really unique and cool bond that we have between the two groups. For the past two years Samy and I have worked to make AYA a bigger presence in our USY region and make our USY a bigger presence within AYA.
HOFW: What inspired you to get involved with this organization?
Dani: To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure at first. When I first heard about our region having some involvement somewhere with some Jewish kids in some place in Africa I didn’t think much about it. Then, in freshman year, I decided to apply for RGB, and on a whim I decided to apply for the chairmanship with the Abayudaya Youth Association because it seemed cool. The whole idea of a youth group of Jewish teens in Uganda who are paired up with my own youth group here in Far West was really interesting to me. The Jewish diaspora is enormous, and the fact that we are able to connect with a group of people on the other side of the planet is amazing. Think about it, if this were the 90s or even the 00s, the AYA-FWUSY partnership wouldn’t even be possible. We are so lucky to be able to have this kind of relationship, being able to change and open our perspectives, to live along with our Jewish brother and sisters no matter where they are from or what language they speak. To me, it’s beautiful.
HOFW: How could USYers help spread the word and/or get involved?
Dani: Get excited about AYA! Be an active participant in the partnership. There are so many different ways to get involved. The easy one is to simply donate, or buy a kippah, which are both great and noble pursuits— however, talk to the AYAers! Let us know if you want to get in touch with them, speak to them, and just get to know them! There are many differences between us, but the most interesting thing is the similarities that are a silver lining with the total different cultures. Expand your perspective, and don’t be afraid to reach out.
HOFW: Any specific stories you want to share?
Dani: Wow, there’s so many. Well, currently I am studying for a semester of high school in Israel, on Ramah’s Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim program, so I’ve been living in Jerusalem for the past four months. Recently, I had a Skype session with one of the AYAers and since I’m now in the Middle East, the time difference is only an hour (versus the nine from Uganda to West Coast). Anyway, I was Skyping from a hill overlooking Jerusalem, and the AYAer was Skyping from their house. At that moment, I was able to see the true importance of what is being done here. As I looked at a Ugandan landscape, and the AYAer looked at the Jerusalem hills, we both just took a moment to recognize the beauty of both places, but most importantly, the underlying unity within us. And isn’t that what it’s all about?