What Holds Us Together

As a trip member on JDC Entwine's first national college trip, I met the other trip members only upon arrival in Bulgaria. Soon after, we became quickly immersed into the Jewish culture of Bulgaria by being briefed on the region's most pressing issues, its most vibrant programs, and experiencing Sephardic cuisine and music. At first, the dual experience of meeting new groups of people left me overwhelmed. Between my trip members and the Bulgarian community members, there are at least 7 languages spoken. 92 years between the youngest and oldest Bulgarians I've met so far. Dozens of schools and academic interests. Countless religious backgrounds. It can seem like we have nothing in common. So what holds us together? 

I'm so happy to be a part of my second JDC Entwine trip because these programs allow a space to not just acknowledge, but appreciate these differences because they all lead back to one place- each person's unique spot in the Jewish community. The Jewish people differ in the languages they speak, the currency they use, and how many layers they have to wear outside (in Bulgaria, many). Yet, there is an intangible power when a group of Jewish people join together in song, dance, or conversation, even if they have never met before. My community would not be nearly as thought-provoking, humorous, or meaningful without every person it comprises. 

I could see the joy in an elderly man's eyes when, after his choir performed for our group, we discovered that as a Ladino speaker we could communicate if I spoke in the linguistically similar Spanish. Visiting the home of my new friend Berta, an elderly Holocaust survivor with countless stories and just as many snacks, I feel like I scored another Jewish grandma. And today, as I played with 4 year old kids in the Gan Balagan Jewish preschool class, I can confirm with confidence that everyone speaks the language of Legos. I'm fortunate to meet these new members of my community, that I didn't even know existed. 

With two more days, including Shabbat, in Sofia, I can't wait to appreciate my remaining time with new friends and a renewed sense of community! 


Leah Naidorf 

University of Virginia, Class of 2015

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