Operation Understanding DC is a phenomenal organization that helped shape my worldview and broaden my horizons as a high school student. As a participant in OUDC's inaugural class, I experienced first-hand the passion and dedication of the Organization's founder, Karen Kalish. Since that time, the organization has remained true to its mission while growing and expanding. It truly remains one of my fondest experiences, and I am confident it will continue to thrive and change lives.
OUDC has changed my life. It has turned me into an advocate to make a difference in the lives of all children. I have learned not only about African American and Jewish culture but also the importance of working together for a cause
The best experience for teens and parents we learned a lot from the program. Our daughter Janell completed the program Class 11, Can't wait for our son Judah to share the experience.
My daughter was a Class 11 member of OUDC. She gained great experience on diversity issues at OUDC. Now, she is always willing and ready to launch in any Deep South project she gets to know about. She introduced the Deep South project and travelled with her church youth group one summer. This summer, she was a member of her college Deep South project. She has made diversity issues her own where ever she finds herself. I am grateful to OUDC for the time she spent in the program.
My daughter was nominated by her Rabbi to learn about OUDC and apply to the program. She was accepted to the program and through their workshops, lectures, and travels through the South this past summer, she has learned what it means to be a leader and learned of many injustices throughout history to become a person who understands tolerance. I am very proud of who she is and what she stands for and that to have an organization as OUDC to inspire her has given us lots to say "thank you" for.
My daughter participated in this program 10 years ago. What she learned in OUDC informed her life's work. She worked for social justice in co-ops in college and in her career so far. She has been the executive director of a group trying to work for peace in the Middle East. The group has now merged with a major Washington lobby where she is directing the college program. The roots of her participation in this line of work go back to OUDC, what she learned and absorbed during her year with them.
This is a truly exceptional activity for Jewish or Black students. The year long program provides a fabulous opportunity to learn how another minority group fares in today's world. It did a great job showing the value of diversity not only to my son, but to us parents as well. This is probably the best "extracurricular" activity you have never heard of.
i was a student in the program in 2001 and OUDC completely changed my life. whereas prior i was very selfish and only concerned with my own material gain, now i am a full-time activist and educator dedicated to using my time and effort to improve the lives of others. the group dialogue that OUDC creates is amazing and unseen in the rest of society. the difficult but necessary conversations we had really opened us up to think critically about issues affecting both of our communities. we met with speakers who had and still are committing their lives to the movement for equality and justice. these speakers were highly influential on me and my class, inspiring many of us to start down the career paths that we are now pursuing seriously after college. my experience with OUDC cannot be quantified, but i know that had i not been in the program, i would not be the person i am today.
My daughter became a member of OUDC. I watched her grew into an educated young woman, who developed the ability to think on her own, to understand and accept racial differences and to truly appreciate diversity. I commend OUDC for its efforts in helping young people to understand and accept racial differences and be able to work together despite their ethnic and racial backgrounds. Truly this organization is serving a profound need to our city and should be supported in any way to continue their great work.
I was a professional who has referred students from our congregation to participate in the program. I have been overwhelmed by the value of their experiences and how well prepared these teens are to then share this experience with others! EVERY student I know who has participated raves about the experience and how greatly they were impacted through participation in the program. These teens have also addressed the adult congregation during morning services and their poise and passion are a great symbol of the profound change created through their participation with OUDC.
As a former member of the OUDC board, I'll admit to being biased in favor of the organization. However, since returning to Montgomery, Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center (of which I'm a co-founder) in 1996, I've come to know OUDC in a much different way. Each year OUDC students have included the SPLC's Civil Rights Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial Center on their trips through the South; and each year I've had the opportunity to speak with these young men and women about my experiences in addressing issues of justice and tolerance. More importantly, I've listened to them - their questions, their comments. If ever anyone had any doubts about the merits of a program that brings young people together to bridge differences and create understanding, an hour with these kids would make a believer out any such person. They get it. And, they get it because of who they are and how OUDC has matured as an organization in the management of its mission. Congratulations to all.
Our son had the privilege and honor to be in Class 6. His participation in OUDC was indeed "life changing" for him and the entire family. My husband and I got to see OUDC in action when we hosted my son's group in our Atlanta apt during the group's visit to the Civil Right South. We were amazed by the group's discussion of the day's events. The young people were comfortable enough with each other to be brutally honest, but respectful in their comments. They agreed to disagree. They realized that their life experience shaped their world views. They had the opportunity to envision themselves in the other person's shoes.
As the parent of a Black, Jewish child, I seek out ways in which I can help her to know, understand and participate in both of her cultures. Operation Understanding-DC, in bridging the gap between African-American and Jewish rising seniors, not only has done that for students from both camps, but for my daughter in her own skin. She has gained such knowledge and respect for herself and for others that she is much, much happier and her confidence level is through the roof! She is now eager to being fostering and facilitating this understanding on her own. At the very beginning of her experience with OUDC, she encountered a teacher who scoffed at her dual identity. This upset her gremendously, and she didn't know how to handle it. Now, however, she is formulating plans to conduct a diversity workshop/program at her school!
This is a phenomenal organization that has a deep and lasting impact on the students who participate in it and the communities that they serve. As a rabbi, I have encouraged several students to take part in this program over the years and all have come back to thank me for letting them know about the opportunity. For many, it was their first real exposure to issues related to the civil rights movement and their first opportunity for real cross-cultural dialogue. The students report back several years later that they are still in close touch with the friends they made in the program and, in some cases, it has affected their career choice.
This program makes profound differences in the lives of young people and teaches them to share what they discover with the world. I have never seen a profram make such a major difference in the lives of so many. And like a ripple on a pond, the changes are felt across the world. This program teaches about respecting differences, getting along, taking the time to learn about others ...all the things that would make this a better world.
Two of my children have been involved in Operation Understanding. Operation Undertanding gives participants the rare opportunity to take a serious, up close look at the issues of race and ethnic identity. They have the opportunity to meet and talk to the people directly involved in the struggle for racial equality and social justice. First hand, I have seen OUDC enriches the lives of the students that participate and the communities they live in.
My son was a member of OUDC Class 12. His experience there truly solidified ideals and leadership qualities that he was incubating. His interactions with his peers and the experiences he had on the trip and with them in workshops, etc., inspired him to continue to work for the ideals which OUDC stands for in whichever community he has been a part of since then. As an educator, this is one program which I've seen which is truly successful.
I was in OUDC seven years ago, and it was an incredible life-changing experience. I especially enjoyed the trip where we got to see first hand several civil rights locations and learn about the experiences that people had there.
I was a member of OUDC Class 8. The program drastically effected my perception of social interactions and personal identity. My mindset was immediately changed for the better, but more importantly the lessons have stayed with me to this day. I vividly remember what it was like to speak with civil rights heroes, converse with religious leaders, speak publicly about my perception of cultural understanding and much more. The lessons I learned have shaped the last decade of my life, and I fully expect that they will stay will me forever.
My husband is on the board-has been for years. Every year we get to watch the students transform into young leaders who really understand the foundations on which tolerance must be built. They mature beyond all expectations and are able to voice their thoughts and experiences eloquently. It is an amazing program!
My husband and I are involved with the Program OUDC. I cannot tell you how thrilled we are. Watching the young people early in the program change become involved, educated, tolerant,mature, and obtain their "voices" is simply beyond words! Kudos to all.
OUDC shaped my life in ways that I could have never imagined. I learned not only about Judaism as a culture and religion, but I learned a lot about myself as an African-American woman. I was given the opportunity to meet 29 of the brightest high school students. One of the things I appreciated most about this group was that I did not have to talk as much; I became perfectly content with just listening to what others had to say. This type of group is key to bridging gaps in our society. I would recommend this group to anyone who wants to see the world in a different light, anyone who wants to learn about people and anyone who is up for the challenge of self-discovery and building better relations with different types of people. Though some of us may not talk everyday, we are forever connected by our OUDC experience. Viva OUDC!
I was a member of the second class of OUDC. I can confidently say that the experience 13 years ago has made a major impact on my life. I learn so much about myself as an African American Woman and so much about the Jewish culture as well. Since being involved, I have completed a Master's degree in Psychology and always challenged my professors and classmates to be culturally sensitive. I have traveled around South East Asia, to learn more about their cultures and customs. I am a pastor of a Multicultural church in Columbia, MD. and I believe my life mission is to build understanding between people, which is currently focused on the invisible population: the homeless. OUDC was a great base to open your eyes to the world around you and feel free to ask questions and erase ignorance. As a result we have fabulous leaders who will take this experience and transcend the common themes into their professional and personal lives, as I have done.
OUDC is truly a unique and incredible organization. As a past participant myself, OUDC opened my eyes to another world and opened my heart to new friends. My fellow participants are now my best friends. Furthermore, I have decided to team with a fellow OUDC alum to try and spread the inspiration work of OUDC to our college campus. This is the essence of OUDC: teaching people how to come together, connect and relate on so many levels. OUDC goes beyond merely tolerating individuals to accepting and understanding how people are similar, different and everything in between. OUDC deserves this award because of all the positive reinforcement and love it provides to its graduates, their families and friends and everyone else they touch with their outreach and education programs.
This is a great organization with a great experience to offer youth. Helping them to build better relationships across generations and across racial, ethnic and religious lines. They deserve the interest and support because OUDC is building the leaders of tomorrow.
I can not say enough about the greatness of OUDC and its affect on my life. Not only did I come out of the year-long program with life long friends, incredible new skills, and amazing memories, the program also showed me numerous ways that me passions for social justice work can be made into meaningful, fulfilling jobs and a future. I wish that I could find more way to utilize the alumni network, but then again I am only one year out of the program. Already at my university I have hooked up with some other alums and we are forging an African American Jewish Alliance. I cannot wait to start bring some of my OUDC passion and knowledge to my new community! I can actually say facilitating and being a part of meaningful dialogs are some of the happiest moments of my life and I owe my ability to be a part of them to OUDC
I have met and talked to or heard give presentations several participants and have been very impressed by what they have learned through the program.
Our son participated in OUDC as a junior in high school. When we first read about the program, my husband said..."this sounds too good to be true". I agreed with him, but decided to support our son, and drive him into D.C. for his interview. Needless to say, many years later, I am still saying..."OUDC is too good to be true!" It has changed our son's life. He went from being a typical, highschool student, to being a dedicated, driven, young man with a passion!!! The good news, he stayed involved with OUDC, and now works with the program as a counselor.
I have been blessed to have participated on the summer journey twice as a staff member and know from my own experience, and through student feedback, what a lasting impact this program has on all involved.
Several of my students have had outstanding experiences through their involvement in Operation Understanding DC. I am impressed with all this organization does to promote positive relationships within the context of understanding the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
Both of our sons had the life-changing opportunity to take part in OUDC. Each learned and grew in ways they could not have imagined--in their mid-teens--which engendered in them the commitment to foster interracial, intercultural cooperation, fight intolerance, and work for equality in society, government, and personal relationships. Their participation was one of the highlights of their adolescence, helping to shape them into young adults of integrity.
As a alumna of OUDC, I can honestly say that the organization provides its participants with a life-changing experience. Many programs seek to enlighten young people through intercultural exchanges and physical journeys, but OUDC truly excels at this goal. OUDC taught me lessons of pure history, how to spark intelligent dialogue, and the importance of recognizing cultural differences and similarities in order that we as a community can continue to move forward.
My name is Maloure Sainteus and my daughter Sophia was in class 11 (OUDC).this organization provided her with such an understanding and acceptance of people from different background that I don't think I could have provided her.And through OUDC she received a 4 year tuition college scholarship.
My son participated in year-long program with OUDC several years ago. It was a transformative experience for him and for the other young people who had the privilege of being part of the group. It is a program that trains tomorrow's leaders in cross-cultural understanding and deepens their commitment to social justice. Young African-Americans and young Jews come together to learn together about their histories, to discover commonalities, to wrestle with that which has divided them,to discuss identity, to build bridges in their communities, and to share their experiences with others. In an intensive year-long program for which they are carefully selected, they begin with several months of study and conversation, where bonds are formed over weekend retreats, learning and activities. Over the summer they embark on a monthlong trip to New York and through the South, retracing the steps of footsoldiers of the civil rights movement, and meeting with inspirational leaders along the way. When they return, they make their own contribution to the continuing struggle against bigotry by facilitating workshops for other high school students. This experience was significant for my son in many ways: he formed lasting friendships across racial lines, gained a greater appreciation of cultural diversity, of his own identity and the history of two peoples who have struggled with discrimination, and despite many common values, have too often been at odds. As an example of the influence this program has had on my son, he has continued his commitment to the ideals embodied in the OUDC program in his courses in college, where he has pursued a concentration in the study of inequality.
My name is Lucy Hassell and I have have nothing but good things to say about Operation Understanding. I have known several youths who have participated both from my own synagogue and a partner African American church. These kids are the best and brightest-indeed must be to be eligible. They are the young people who will become leaders and professionally successful and therefore in a position to influence peers, change attitudes and instill good values. I have also participated several times in one of their workshops and was amazed at the depth of understanding the youth possess and impart to participants. This is a model for the way our society should work and I would love to see it expanded throughout the country.
My name is Rabbi Jeffrey Schein and I direct the program in Jewish education at Siegal College in Cleveland. I have long been a fan of Operation Understanding DC. I think the dialogue and understanding they generate between Black and Jewish teenagers is extraordinary. We were fortunate enough to have Rachel Feldman, the executive director of OUDC in our community last year. The impact of her visit is still being felt as the Cleveland community tries to figure out how to mount a program in the spirit of Operation Understanding appropriate to the Cleveland community.
Operation Understanding provides a great experience for the participants - Jewish and African American high school juniors - who study and travel together to get a better understanding of each others culture and history - and for the larger community, because the students speak throughout the community about their experiences.
Over an active period of participation of 8 years, I watched successive groups of diverse high school juniors many of whom had never met people outside of their ethnic group, turn into seniors who had formed friendships and bonded with each other across ethnic and class lines - through their participation in Operation Understanding,D.C. (OUDC)- which they have uniformly called a "life-changing experience." Many have gone off to college and facilitated or led groups preaching tolerance and some have made it their career. While they are still students, their enthusiasm influences friends and acquaintances around them, including their parents and their friends. These students all learn to appreciate and understand others' beliefs and roots which somehow also results in their becoming equally as informed and secure in their own roots and culture. It is really a wonderful thing to see.
Operation Understanding DC is a life changing experience. It provides Jewish and Black students not simply to understand their own cultures but also gain a broader understanding and knowledge of other backgrounds. Through education and promotion OUDC provides young adults opportunities to organize, facilitate and truly make a difference.
Operation Understanding is a very special program that has a profound impact on the students who are privileged to participate and on their families as well. Two of my daughters took part in the program and grew enormously as a result and are now following career paths inspired by their experience with OUDC. It is my privilege to serve on the Board and dedicate myself to the growth and continuation of a truly unique and powerful program.
OUDC changed how i view everything. It made me more aware of the world and the problems we face today. It introduced me to great people and new ideas. It really made me a better person.
Great organization so wonderful that two of our children have participated. They have definitely grown as individuals and have come out of the experience with a clear idea of who they are and the principles that they will defend in any environment.
OUDC is truly wonderful! Bridging gaps by bridging people is an awesome concept. Like many parents I like to support my children in all aspects of their life. My daughter has always had a thrist for knowledge about cultures and civil rights for everyone - not just one group. She often involved herself in causes and groups she felt could make a positive change. She found it in OUDC. She had the opportunity to travel the south and found her experience simply fantastic, educational and emotional! I gained so much from what she learned because the experiences didnt just stay with her - she used concepts and methods learned there to organize groups in college to learn about diversity. OUDC is necessary, educational, fun and a blessing. KEEP UP THE OUTSTANDING WORK!
My daughter, Candyce Phoenix, was a member of OUDC. She gained much knowledge and understanding of different cultures and as a result has been very determined to spread equality among all groups. I am very proud of her and OUDC's affect it had on her.
Our daughter gained so much through her time spent with OUDC. It was a life changing experience for her and our family. I would encourage any high school junior to try to connect with this amazing organization.
I am an alum of Operation Understanding DC and a big fan! OUDC is one of the few organizations I have seen in the DC area -- perhaps the country -- that is able to bring together such a diverse, committed group of young leaders and prepare them to go out and change the world. OUDC gave me the confidence to facilitate cross cultural dialogues in college, and has guided my career decisions since. I hold OUDC up as the model -- in philosophy, approach, and impact -- for a youth leadership program I now have the privilege to lead here in DC.
I am a member of the 14th class of OUDC and I highly recommend the program. While the program was a fantastic learning experience, the most meaningful part was the friends that I made. I was welcomed like family when I traveled to southeast dc for a fellow classmates prom. The month long trip through the South was also a fantastic learning experience and great time for self reflection and character building.
Wonderful program - a highlight of our son's high school career. A life changing experience for most participants, the program which is both experiential and didactic, provides an opportunity for African American Youth to be challenged in their thoughts and actions.
Two of my children have gone through the OUDC program and for both of them it has had a profound effect on their outlook on life, politics and friendship. In both cases, they developed not only a deep understanding of African-Americans, their history and culture, but also developed a profound understanding of themselves and their own backgrounds as Jews.
Two of my grandchildren have had the extraordinary experience of participating in OUDC. I had the pleasure of meeting each of their groups when they visited New York and could watch them in action. I was impressed not only with the participants but with the quality of the leadership. I know that the experience will be a positive life-long influence on their lives, the proof being that they have made and maintained friendships with some of the people they've meet through OUDC.
As a director of a school which sent many students to OUDC I was always impressed with the claiber of the training and the change of our students. It instills a sense of pride and encourages dialogue between Jewish American and African American teens-the future of our country. We invited OUDC to faciliate discussions with our teens and adults. Always an extremely thought provoking session.
As a high school guidance counselor at a private school chock full of incredible opportunities, it is high praise indeed for me to say that OUDC offers students an uparalleled experience. The chance to meet leaders of the civil rights movement is particularly special because this is a generation that will soon be lost to old age and the course of life.
My daughter was a member of OUDC back in 2001 and is STILL involved as an alumni, helping with interviewing and other special activites. Rachael Feldman at OUDC has done an OUTSTANDING job in introducing youth to opportunities and experiences that otherwise would not be available.
OUDC set me off on a career of activism, working to heal the divides between diverse communities. I am using many of the same skills and lessons I learned as a 16 year old in OUDC with the 16 year old Israelis and Palestinians that I work with today.
Participating in the OUDC program has been the best, enriching experience for my daughter thus far. She has grown so much while participating in the program. She has made lasting friendships. More importantly she has a new awareness of the socioeconomic and racial challenges that exist in our society. The program lets children explore their similarities and celebrate their differences. I highly recommend the OUDC program.
My son participated in OUDC when he was in high school more than 10 years ago, and has remained actively involved with the organization as tour group leader, on the applicant selection committee, etc. I have been a strong supporter of the program for the same time. The intense year-long OUDC program promotes candid interactions leading to true understanding between black and Jewish students, and also between their parents who meet several times on weekends. Respect for the opposite culture is an inevitable result. Following a month-long summer tour to historic Jewish and civil rights sites around the country where the group meets with key participants, during the fall semester pairs of students discuss their experiences at churches, synagogues and mosques. Lifelong friendships develop among members of the OUDC group. It is a life-changing experience. Although the program focuses on promoting understanding between two specific cultures. the lessons learned readily translate to a broad appreciation and respect for other cultures. OUDC is a truly outstanding program in concept and impact.
The OUDC program provided a life-changing experience for my daughter. She was able to share her cultural and personal identity while gaining an understanding of others. It was an amazing and invaluable learning and growth opportunity for her.
Operation Understanding DC not only provided me with the opportunity to learn about John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Hosea Williams, and many other often unmentioned grassroots leaders of the Civil Rights Movement through academic research and information, but also allowed me to learn more about the Movement by visiting the historic cites and seeing them first-hand. Walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with my OUDC classmates was an unforgettable emotional experience for me and was the closest I had felt to any aspect of the Civil Rights Movement in my entire life.
I was a member of OUDC Class 8. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Years later, I am in my final year of law school, poised to embark on a legal career of public service and civil rights. In classes in college and law school and in my work experiences, I am constantly reminded of the lessons I learned with OUDC, and feel compelled by a mission to improve race relations and push our nation further towards the ultimate goal of equality. OUDC was my great awakening in high school, and I am proud that it continues to be such a great program for all those who are lucky enough to participate.
My daughter was ember of class 14 of OUDC and I can not express what an amazing experience it was for her and our entire family. Not only did she learn about the culture of two very vibrant communities, she learned about the on going civil rights struggles. I was impressed with the boldness in which the leaders tackled many challenging issues. They never shy away from debate that may be uncomfortable, and never ever speak down to the student participants. All organization could learn form the OUDC model.
Our daughter had the good fortune to be selected to participate in the OUDC program when still in high school. It was a wonderful experience for her and for us as parents. The interaction of the kids and the parents during the year long program helped establish lasting relationships and created may fond memories. We look forward to supporting the program in the years to come.
My two daughters participated in the OUDC program as high school juniors and seniors. They learned to communicate and share important feelings and experiences with peers and adults in a wholesome and challenging environment. Their exoeriences at OUDC prepared them for leadership roles in their college years and beyond. More importantly, OUDC encouraged them to reach levels of maturity and acquire interpersonal skills that are all too rare in our society. I wholeheartedly endorse this program.
During the late 1990's, I served as a Board Member of Operation Understanding of the District of Columbia (OUDC). Of all the volunteer organizations that I have been associated with, I rank OUDC as the best in terms of its ability to reach and teach young people diversity and leadership skills. Later, my daughter enrolled in the program. What she learned from shared experiences with her fellow classmates served her well in college and beyond. It has made a big difference in both our lives. Despite moving to a difference part of the country, I continue to follow the progress of each OUDC class. I am a long time donor to the program.
OUDC was an important program for both of my daughters in terms of deepening their understanding of themselves as young African American women, as allies in the important history of Jewish-African American solidarity, and as citizens of the world. It is a model for how to "do diversity" beyond quickie workshops. OUDC goes deep.