I participated in OUDC as a junior in high school. My experience was without a doubt the most significant of my life. It inspired me to dedicate my college years to preparing myself for a career of public service and revolutionized my worldview with respect to the importance of diversity.
I participated in OUDC as a high school junior many years ago. The experiences I had that year affected many of my life choices since then. The program served as an inspiring call to action for me, by showing me that committed, passionate people can change the world when they work together towards a common, just goal. I often think back to the lessons learned in OUDC when engaging in dialogue about race and other difficult issues in our society. The experience was nothing short of spectacular, and I am gratified to see so many more students have the same opportunity to learn and become advocates for social justice.
I have come into contact with a great number of people who have done OUDC and it has changed their lives. I hope to have my children and their children get involved in this non-profit because it shares deep experience and promotes deep learning.
I completed Operation Understanding DC in 2002. Although it has been over 7 years since I graduated from the program, it is still to date, the most life altering experience that I have had. Throughout College, Law School, and in my work experience, I have been able to draw on my OUDC experience in various capacities, including how to address discrimination and how to engage in a productive dialogue with people who I may disagree with. The best part of Operation Understanding DC is that it is accessible to everyone. Had the program not been free, it is highly doubtful that I would have been able to participate and have the amazing cultural experience that I had as I travelled throughout the United States visiting sites of Civil Rights importance and sites that had significant Jewish History.
My wife and I were born in segregated states and had virtually no opportunity to meet youths who were not just like and so we felt like outsiders...just what segregation was designed to make us feel. It was therefore with the greatest joy that we watched our daughter make very good white friends in OUDC and I was powerfully touched as I saw this happy integrated group of youngster on buses tha would show what Americca really looked like. It was a wonderful trip and Elizabeth still has good white friends whome she met about 15 years ago in OUDC.
When looking for a meaningful organization to which I could render voluntweer services, I found a perfect fit with OUDC. For several years, I have been a member of the Recruitment/Selection Team, helping to choose the best students for each yeatr's class. OUDC annually brings together a group of African-American and Jewish young people (high school juniors) to give them an intensive and extensive experience in working toward the betterment of society. The goal is to expose the participants to people, plsces, and ideas that will help them understand and accept various cultural, sociological, ideological, and religious differences. The results: numerous outstanding OUDC graduates who have extended this knowledge into their college and professional worlds, thus reaching and teaching hundreds of others about tolerance, respect, acceptance, and understanding.
This was a unique experience for my entire family and me. It allowed me to meet new people, develop new understandings of my peers and my community, and learn about social justice history. It increased my civic awareness and made me a better, more engaged member of my community.
Sometimes I forget how OUDC changed my life. I try to explain to my friends and family about the experiences I have had, but really am unable to properly describe how the program impacted me and my peers. Not only do I know more information about race relations and religion because of OUDC, but it also set me on a path of social justice. I always knew that I wanted to "change the world," but OUDC gave me the skills, confidence, and experience to believe I can and never stop fighting the good fight. I credit OUDC for making me the person I am today and giving me the knowledge and strength to be a leader within my own communities as well as to use my unearned privilege to try and fix our society. OUDC has created some of the best leaders I have ever known, and I cannot wait to see what we will continue to accomplish because of this amazing organization.
I have heard numerous Operation Understanding students speak at my synagogue through the years and I have always been transfixed by all of them. It is clear that Operation Understandig provides a thoroughly inspiring and educational experience for the participants and they do a tremendous job of sharing their knowledge with their community
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.