When I was introduced to OUDC I was in the 11th grade, and it changed my life. I was exposed to the jewish culture and shared dialouge about my history. I found my bestfriend (a jewish man) and continue to expose others to the lessons I learned in that year long program as a junior in high school.
This program was life-changing for me (Class 13). One of the greatest and most profound experiences of my life. To learn what we did through this structure is brilliant. Jewish and Black American cultures, the Civil Rights Movement, dialogue workshops... while making lifelong friends and getting to visit some of the most important places in American history with the actors who helped make the Civil Rights Movement a success? C'mon...what more could you want?
Operation Understanding DC (OUDC) is by far the greatest thing I have participated in my life and my experiences from the program have played a major role in my life. OUDC brings together Black and Jewish rising seniors from the DC area in a year-long program. In it, I learned. I learned about history; of Black culture in the United States: slavery, literature, the Civil Rights Movement, West African song and dance; the history of the Jewish people: ancient Israel, assimilation and persecution in Europe and the Holocaust, immigration through Ellis Island. We learned about the shared community of Blacks and Jews in SW DC that existed into the 70's. We learned that our families can cook some pretty delicious traditional foods. Our month-long summer bus trip through NYC and the South was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. I visited the monumental places of the Civil Rights Movement, like the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the 16th Street Baptist Church, and the Lorraine Motel; met with both leaders of and participants in the Civil Rights Movement; saw beautiful Southern synagogues whose memberships had dwindled down to enough barely to hold a mincha; prayed at churches, synagogues, and mosques, and got an experience of Jewish summer camp at Camp Ramah in Georgia. But what really defined OUDC for me was how much I came to understand myself. And that came not only through the lectures, the video clips from Eye's on the Prize, and the workshops on dialogue facilitation, but through the people who were in OUDC Class 13 with me. At first they were my fellow classmates, and then my friends, and finally a family I will never stop caring about. We learned from each other, having a fun time doing it, and I loved every second of it. My friends in OUDC helped open my eyes and mind outward, and eventually inward, not only to the necessities and opportunities for racial, ethnic, and religious dialogue, but to how different every person is, even if we have a shared religion, race, area code, or flag. Every person has their own beliefs and views, unique experiences and memories, and stories that should be shared. It is a beautiful thing, how we different we all are, and how much people can learn from one another, between individuals, and within our communities, our neighborhoods, our countries, our cultures, our world. And we need to talk to one another, as individuals, as groups, as countries. The facilitation of dialogue is crucial if we want to bring ourselves together and begin laying the foundations for a world with less racial intolerance, religious discrimination, national conflicts, and fear of "the other." Operation Understanding DC enabled me to understand many things outside of what was "me." And through OUDC, I eventually began to understand myself, and how I am shaped by the world around me, and how I can help make it better. And the best part is, I had a hell of a good time doing it.
I am an alumna of OUDC (Class 15). The opportunities and community that this program has given me are truly amazing. I still keep in touch with the program staff and my class. They have opened doors for me and I was able to intern this past summer with an organization that has a wonderful mission of peace and justice.
This program really helped me reach my full potential and develop my leadership skills. Operation Understanding DC provides support, education and fun. Operation Understanding is the best program I have ever participated in. I have been touched by the sincerity of the leaders and directors of OUDC and have met friends I will never forget. I have learned so much and can apply everything Operation Understanding has offered to my life. I am so glad I did the program.
This program is truly unique. I was encouraged to apply for the program by a school counselor and being accepted meant the world to me. This program lit me on fire with passionate Civil Rights activism history and gave me the opportunity to follow the history in the cities where they took place during the summer journey which followed the path of the 1961 Freedom Riders. This is a once in a life time experience that I was lucky to take part in and is one of the most important initiatives in order today that will help make this world a better place by teaching young leaders and instilling the fire that will never burn out for social justice and activism.
Operation understanding helped me figure out who I am as a person, my passions in life, and how to achieve everything I want. With the immense amount of negativity and hatred in the world, operation understanding was the light at the end of the tunnel. Oudc gave me the tools to combat discrimination and hatred while giving me the best friends that I could ever ask for. Oudc is so much more than an organization. It really is a family and an amazing one at that. It truly is hard to write in words how much oudc has touched my life and fantastic the organization really is.
OUDC is an amazing program for young teens to become even better leaders in their communities and really discover themselves. I think that by being a part of this program I have found a strong sense of self and much more self-confidence. OUDC gives you the skills to take all of the great information that you learn and share it with the rest of the world so that little by little everyone will be making changes in the way we think about other who think, feel, and act differently than ourselves.
OUDC has broadened my daughters persective on life. It has also broadened my families perspective on life. They are well organized and informed, the trainings provided give families an opportunity to embrace diversity.
This is a unique organization that is dedicated to developing tomorrow's leaders. It brings together 12 Black and 12 Jewish students for an entire year; they meet every few weeks and spend an intensive 3+ weeks on the Freedom Summer route through the South. These are special kids who learn leadership skills, understanding of and appreciation for one another's culture and set of beliefs, and the ability to mediate differences. They get out of their comfort zone and they struggle with ideas that may be foreign to them, but they end up feeling good about each other and are the better for having challenged themselves. If we are thinking about our future and our children's future, we would all be better off if every child had the opportunity to experience what these kids have done throughout the year. We can't say enough about how character building this program has been for our son. It's life-altering for him and his community - we thank OUDC for that.
Literally every single experience we had during this program was educationally beneficial and life changing. I now know more about the Jewish and Black histories then 99% of the world. Plus, this program taught me how to see the world and certain events through a different perspective. I couldn't have mentally matured without this program.
As an alumni of OUDC, I can say with certainty that this is a life-changing experience. OUDC challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and into other peoples' shoes and it taught me the importance of discussing controversial issues. There is nothing like hearing a first-hand account from a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and then going to Jumu'ah services, Shabbat services, and Church services all in one weekend, discussing each event with my classmates along the way. I have continued to implement the lessons I learned from OUDC in college and will always remember the conversations I had with my OUDC classmates. There is truly nothing like this program. I am so grateful that I was able to have this experience.