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Elena Hoffenberg, from Hawaii, spoke at Shabbat services to her synagogue about her experience on the 2010 summer journey and this paragraph truly sums up the program:
“Etgar 36 is about stories. On my journey, I heard the stories of many that became the story of one- the story of America. I wish I had time to retell every story I heard, but I don’t. Here’s a short overview. We talked about gun control with a representative from the National Rifle Association and a father of a student who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting. We talked about immigration with a representative from the Tea Party and a chief-of-staff to one of the Los Angeles City Councilmen, who introduced the city’s boycott of Arizona. We talked about the environment with people from either side who backed their arguments with scientific facts. We talked about labor, about homelessness, and about illiteracy. Each issue was not some chapter in a textbook or a “60 Minutes” special or a tirade from a politician. Each issue was presented as someone telling us their story. Their stories together make up the story of America. As I learned on Etgar 36, our responsibility as Jews living in America is to figure out how our story fits in and add to the collective story. While the trip ended, Etgar 36 sent me on a journey which will never end- the journey to find where my story fits into that of America. I hope to change the world one day. Etgar 36 sent me down the path to do so.”