Bruins B'Olam: Yael Glouberman
Bruins B'Olam is a blog series about Jewish Bruins around the world on Alternative Break experiences with UCLA Hillel. Alternative Break is a week-long immersive experience with students participating in community service projects with partner organizations. This year, Alternative Spring Break is going to the Dominican Republic on an education service trip; if you would like to join us or have more questions, please contact Jessica Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I saw the headlines plastered all over the internet and on television last May, I was initially horrified. For a tornado to strike an elementary school and kill seven children in Moore, Oklahoma, was a devastating reality. But as the news cycle repeated itself for weeks, I found myself desensitized, or at the very least unable to bring myself to act. Others would surely respond to the natural disaster, mitigate the damages and relieve me of my social responsibility to help in whatever way I could.
When I initially signed up for an alternative spring break with Hillel at UCLA, I wanted to rectify my aforementioned cognitive dissonance. I possessed an understanding that a tragedy was taking place in another state but, simultaneously, its safe distance away allowed me to ignore the suffering of others. Forcing myself to physically confront the trauma faced by other human beings, was an essential measure necessary to my growth as an empathetic and open-minded individual. These almost selfish motivations quickly altered as I dug holes, sawed wood, built a deck and interacted with the homeowner whose porch we built.
Our week of accomplished manual labor did not prompt me to “pat myself on the back.” Rather, my conversations, service work and reflections with others on my trip forced me to put faces to tragedy, to recognize the humanity behind disasters. I have now pieced together that this vulnerability prompts a continuation of volunteerism and a genuine love and compassion for others.