– Meirav Sachs
We started our day at 9 in the morning for our first full day in San Francisco. We had to rely on public transportation for the first time as our bus driver Nicki makes her way to the east coast. We began by going to the AIDS quilt where we met with Rodey. Rodey explained that with all the stigma surrounding AIDS, there hasn’t been enough money put towards research,resulting in no cure or vaccine. We got to see two of the many thousands quilts. Each panel was so unique and meaningful in its own way and I was shocked to see so many names and learn how relevant AIDS still is,for it’s not talked about often. We then got to see the circle of friends which was made for the donors who loved those who have died. Rodey explained how we need to bring people along for our fight rather than get mad at each other. We need to explain ourselves and get others to understand where we’re coming from. This confirmed how important it is to spread awareness about topics that are often overlooked such as AIDS for it is proven to still be incredibly relevant.
We then visited the Student Union where we spoke to David Smith about the free speech movement. He talked about how 60 years ago, a student, Mario Salvo, got arrested for protesting which resulted in students surrounding the police car, preventing it from moving for several hours. Mario Savio, a member of the free speech movement, stood on top of the police car after removing his shoes as to not cause any damage to the car. He proved that everyone was a part of the same fight and that freedom is something that everyone had in common and therefore should be allowed to express it. 20 years later, David discussed how there were many college students that couldn’t afford to live in the area while balancing their tuition costs. David met with his legislators and explained the overcrowding and unaffordable costs of living at the school. The legislature eagerly took action and the university put money towards helping students cover the cost of their education as well as increasing the number of dorms. David explained how the “us” is much greater than the “them.” Thiswas very impactful for if everyone would realize that we are greater together, we could truly make a difference.
We then visited the Berkeley Hillel where we met with Rabbi Zac Kamenetz to discuss psychedelics. Rabbi Kamenetz was one of the only people to have used psychedelics legally. Rabbi Kamenetz explained how using psychedelics is a way of healing, resolving disputes, and is used in spiritual means. It has helped Rabbi Kamenetz form his Jewish identity. Rabbi
Kamenetz believes psychedelics give people insight and can help form a spiritual connection, building a just, meaningful society. Rabbi Kamenetz believes psychedelics are a way of healing from past trauma and he would like to see them legalized in the future. I personally struggle with this idea as many people in our country are not equipped to have free access to any kind of drug they want. I’ve seen the ways in which drugs can affect people firsthand and I don’t think everyone should be capable of having access to all psychedelics without some restrictions.
We then made our way to the Live Oak Park where we met with Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. She was one of the first 10 female rabbis in the jewish community. She taught us a traditional Sephardic dance in which we got to create our own rhythm with our hands and feet. This dance made me feel as though we are all connected and really enhanced the idea of “chavurah.” Rabbi Lynn then spoke to us about her experience being a rabbi, including her multiple struggles which included people questioning her authenticity. She talked about how difficult yet important it is to make change that we want to see. As an activist myself, this conversation inspired me greatly. There are many times where I feel incredibly hopeless and feel as though my actions have no effect on anything or anyone. This conversation, however, proved that change does happen. Although it takes time, it’s worth it in the end.