I have been involved with this organization for more than 15 years. First as a student and now as a board member. Operation Understand DC is a transformative organization that actively works to impact change by growing a generation of leaders who are trained to tackle issues surrounding racism, anti-semitism, and all forms of discrimination.
This program is nearly 25 years old and its ability to remain sustainable over such a long period of time, speaks to the value that it provides not only to the individual students it engages, but the community who they in turn serve.
I'm both a parent of an OUDC alum and a present board member. OUDC does a wonderful job educating young people about the real meaning of diversity and inclusion. The high school students in the program learn about themselves, their communities and history, and communities and histories they often knew nothing about. And they learn to be leaders in working for social justice. It's a great program, and I'm proud to be a part of it.
OUDC has changed my entire life. As a participant in 2005, a staff member in 2012, and a current Board member, this organization has taught me how to organize, how to act, how to think critically, how to engage in rich dialogue on difficult and sensitive topics, and so much more. It has changed the way I see the world and the way I walk through it. It has provided me with a change and action-oriented perspective on relationships, work, politics, etc. I can't thank OUDC enough - not only for what it's done for me, but what it's done for the world by shaping young leaders over the past 23 years.
There are hardly words to describe my experience with Operation Understanding DC (OUDC). OUDC changed my life by challenging me to recognize the inequities and injustice that surrounds me everyday, and has empowered me to strive to make positive change. Inspired by OUDC, I have organized a Black-Jewish dialogue/programming group on my college campus, and have educated many on the relationship between our two groups. Further, OUDC has lead to me study race relations and social justice in school...this has led me to pursue a masters in public health in order to hopefully one day relieve America's population of vast health/health care disparities that plague our nation in unimaginable ways. OUDC is with me everyday and I am so grateful for the experience I had in Class 12.
This organization does amazing work and has positively affected several Black and Jewish students and their families that I personally know. Each student goes forth not only a better human being but an ambassador for understanding and empathy, and a force for justice and peace. The organization changes the world one person at a time which is the best and only way to really be effective.
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.
I am an alumni of Operation Understanding DC (OUDC) Class 17. To write a simple review of this organization would be undermining its grandness, however I will try to keep it short. OUDC directed me towards a path so few of my fellow African-American brothers refuse to take. A peculiar path that holds delicate footprints of advocates for social justice instead of the common path stampeded with individuals who are indifferent towards society's problems. This organization has made me aware and active of social issues regarding not just the Black community, but the global community as well. As I conversed with my Jewish counterparts in the program, I became aware of issues that affected them and discovered many similarities. Our conversations helped me understand that OUDC was organized for the betterment of mankind. To understand each other is necessary for world peace and compromise. I thank God for this program because it has awakened the leader within me.
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.
-traveling on a bus with 30 awesome people for 3 1/2 weeks!
-acquiring new knowledge about your own culture, religion, and SELF.
-forming lifelong relationships.
-meeting folks who were on the same balcony the day MLK died.
-hugging a Holocaust survivor.
-eating delicious Jewish & Southern style dishes.
-taking the stand for what is RIGHT.
-changing the WORLD.
Stop imagining, and PARTAKE! OUDC changed my life, are you ready for this JOURNEY?
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.
I have been involved as a volunteer (photographer) with OUDC for many years, and have continue to be inspired by the energy and uplifting values they foster. Many programs speak about social change and inter-ethnic dialog, but Operation Understanding has long and consistently effectively delivered on their mission, on their promise. I trust they are able to continue to build up our young people with the meaningful and proven skills that are embedded into the program's action plans.
OUDC has significantly improved the lives of numerous young people in the Jewish and African-American community in the DC area. I have been moved by the depth of the awareness of history, culture, communication, and personal growth it has engendered in its goal of increasing understanding and collaboration.
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.
My daughter's participation with this organization has been one of the best experiences of her high school career. It has broadened her world view in ways that her academic school and family experiences have not been able to do. The speakers she has had the opportunity to learn from and meet have made history come alive and have inspired her to strive to improve her wider community. Understanding that one individual CAN make a difference was eye-opening and inspirational. In addition, so much of her growth and wider world view has come from the other program participants. OUDC does a great job of selecting a highly diverse group of kids to part take in this special program. While very different, they all do have a common thirst for knowledge and making an impact. They have grown together, learned to truly listen to one another even when they don't agree (I wish our elected officials would learn to do that) and to work together to create a better community. They truly want to make the world in which they live a better place. My daughter was forced out of her comfort zone many times and is better for it. We can't wait to see how the experience with OUDC will impact her college and career choices!
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.
Our daughter's experience with Operation Understanding DC not only empowered her to believe she can make a difference in the world, but also became an inspiration to us, as we witnessed the power of an organization so capable of nurturing and growing future leaders. OUDC demands much of each year's high school juniors, requiring a year-long commitment of time and energy during what is arguably their most challenging year of high-school. For that investment, the organization creates a group of young leaders who understand the history and sources of discrimination...and more importantly, equips them with the tools to fight future discrimination and build a more understanding world.
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.
My daughter had the privilege of being selected for their leadership developmental program and it has had a huge transformative impact on her life and ours. She is fired up in making an impact toward a more equitable society. As she prepares to go to college, she is focusing on course of studies that will prepare her to be active in eradicating social injustices. There is no other program available to 17-year old High School students that removes blinders and empowers them into becoming active, participating citizens, whose voices will be heard and who matter.