This October, as a Federation Kahn Fellow, I had the privilege of participating in JDC Entwine’s inaugural trip to Sarajevo. I am so thankful for this opportunity; I never imagined I would be traveling to other countries where I would be accepted into the Jewish community, learn about the history of the country, and connect with the local community. Now I can say in the past 10 months I have had this opportunity twice!
Thanks to many individuals and organizations, I was able to travel to Israel last December through The Jewish Federation’s Birthright Israel LA Way program with others my age from Los Angeles. Upon returning to L.A., I became one of Federation’s Kahn Fellows and connected with my local Jewish community, which is something I have longed for. I did not grow up in an inclusive community that embraced the various ways one can live a Jewish life. I am so fortunate that, as a part of the Fellowship, I was encouraged to participate in another Jewish immersive experience to continue to explore what Judaism is and looks like in other places. Thanks to the suggestion of my BRIdge Fellow, a Federation-designated mentor, I expanded my thinking outside of my immediate area and looked globally. With the support of The Jewish Federation and the Kahn Fellowship, I was then able to travel with JDC Entwine.
I did not dream that I would have personally gained so much from this JDC Entwine trip to Sarajevo! I continue to talk with people from my group on a weekly basis and am still in touch with some of the locals I met in Bosnia. I am so humbled by the warm welcome of the Bosnian community and the people we were able to spend so much time with. Learning about the general history of Sarajevo was such an important aspect of learning about the Jewish community there. I am now able to speak more factually and realistically about the various perspectives and impact of different events on Sarajevo and its community. There were so many special moments throughout my trip — from spending time with Holocaust survivors, volunteering for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and assisting breast cancer survivors with fundraising efforts to experiencing a Sephardic dinner, spending time with Jewish community members, and partaking in local traditions. Before the trip, I remember wondering what “Tikkun Olam” (loosely translated as “healing the world”) meant. I witnessed so many examples of tikkun olam in Sarajevo’s Jewish community and among the other young professionals on my trip — I now know what it means. I am so excited to share my experience and help others learn how they can embody the spirit of giving and incorporate tikkun olam into their lives.
I look forward to continuing to connect with the Jewish community, locally and abroad. There are so many ways to get connected and stay connected! Ten months ago, I didn’t necessarily feel like I was part of any Jewish community; now I am overjoyed to say that I am part of many — from LA to Israel to Sarajevo!
Amanda Chickman participated in an LA Way Birthright Israel trip in Winter 2014/2015 and is currently serving as a Kahn Fellow. She is a High School Social Science teacher, passionate volunteer, and health and wellness advocate.
To learn more about Birthright Israel LA Way, the Kahn Fellowship, or JDC Entwine opportunities, please contact Margalit C. Rosenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 761-8208.