On meeting a survivor of genocide

On meeting a survivor of genocide

Weeks before the Policy Conference, my friend’s mother texted mine, explaining the scholarship to the AIPAC Policy Conference that CRC would be offering. At the time, my father and brother were both already signed up to go, but my mother and I had little interest. The next day at school, I talked to that same friend about going to the Policy Conference. We decided that we would both go, simply because our families were pressuring us into it and missing a couple days of school appealed to us. In reality, neither of us actually had any desire to go for learning about politics or Israel advocacy.

The two of us chose all of our breakout sessions together, and about a week later, I was stuffed into a car with my family for four and a half hours on the trek to Washington, DC. During the car ride, my brother and father described aspects of their previous experiences at the Policy Conference, and from their depictions, my expectations were quite different than the reality. I wasn’t expecting to see the vast amount of young people that I actually did, let alone the variety of ethnicities and beliefs.

One of the speakers that stuck in my mind afterwards was Yannick Tona, an AIPAC campus activist from Texas Christian University. He survived the Rwandan genocide, and was at the Policy Conference to share his inspiring, yet emotional story with us. I admire his persistent desire and drive for freedom and justice. Many of the audience members, including myself, were able to draw strong parallels between Tona’s tragic story and those of the Holocaust, so it was especially heartrending. After that general session, my father and I just happened to see Tona in the hallway outside of the general session room. Without hesitation, we excitedly approached him. Being able to personally meet him and thank him for coming was particularly affecting, and I couldn’t help but hug him. I’m fortunate to have seen him there.

There is a famous Jewish saying that states, “Ask two Jews a question, get three opinions.” It is commonly known that Jews love to argue and have much difficulties with coming to agreements. In this era, there is a large amount of Jewish sects with a wide variety of opinions. At my Passover seder, with about 15 people, my family is unable to agree on anything, even the most trivial issues, like the seating arrangements. This is why it truly amazes me that nearly 19,000 people, let alone Jews, have the ability to unify and rally for the same cause for three days. From my adventure at the AIPAC Policy Conference, I was able to experience the incredible sense of unity and togetherness of the Jewish people.

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