Allan Seid, a retired doctor living in San Diego, has been attending the APJCC’s Jewbilee Day of Jewish Learning program for the past three years.* Each year, the APJCC opens its doors to the public for a day of workshops on Jewish topics. Hundreds of people typically attend the event each year, and there are dozens of workshops to choose from. In 2021, Jewbilee affected his life in an unexpected way.
Jewbilee 2021 was held online via live video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You might expect that attending a conference online rather than in-person would create more distance between the participants and the presenters, but for Allan the experience turned out to be just the opposite. His Jewbilee experience shifted from one of learning, to one of connecting and living a new experience. Allan attended a presentation on Equality of Opportunity in Israel, which was presented by Olim Beyachad, an Israeli organization that helps Jewish Ethiopian university students integrate into Israeli society. Inspired to get involved, Allan signed up with Olim Beyachad to tutor a young computer science student named Yakir.
Every Wednesday morning, for 35-45 minutes, Allan meets Yakir on Zoom to help him improve his English fluency. Allan is in San Diego and Yakir is in Israel, but they have developed a close connection. Allan’s mentorship is helping Yakir with his studies, and giving him a leg up in his career as he begins to search for jobs. Building his skillset by strengthening his English will help Yakir become a more equal participant in Israeli society — a common challenge for Ethiopian Israelis.
Allan is benefitting from the connection too. He says, “Meeting with Yakir each week has been a true joy,” and the meetings have helped Allan improve his Hebrew. He delights in chatting with Yakir about cultural differences and the nuances of language. Before each meeting, Allan sets time aside to plan how he will explain, in English, subtleties such as the difference between “can I” and “may I.” This in turn, also teaches both Allan and Yakir much about the Hebrew language structure and challenges him to truly “pay attention to the sensitivities of words.”
Jewbilee changed many lives this year, including Allan’s and Yakir’s. Although we were socially separated, Allan says this year’s Jewbilee was “uniquely positioned to discuss Judaism around the world.” With the ability to Zoom in, far-flung organizations such as Olim Beyachad were able to participate. Allan describes learning about Ethiopian Jews and aliyah (emigration to Israel) as something that is now much more personal and real to him. “By taking programs like Jewbilee online, we break down barriers in the Jewish world. We’re all Jewish, but who are we? How do we get to know each other?” For Allan, the answer is right here, in programs like Jewbilee that are designed to build bridges of understanding locally, in Israel, and around the world.
* The Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center (APJCC) is the programming arm of Jewish Silicon Valley.
To support programs like Jewbilee, click here to donate.
Jewbilee’s session on “Equality of Opportunity in Israel” was organized by the Israel General Consulate to the Pacific Northwest.
To view a list of all 2021 Jewbilee program organizers and sponsors, click here.