9/11/2001: I was 22 and had just dropped out of grad school because I desperately wanted to travel the world, and because I felt like my own world was going to explode. My exact words. I left NYC and the country in July, thinking I'd never come back and that there was nothing more to life than living out my dream to travel the world. By September, I was way off the beaten path, on the Indo-Tibetan border on a raw trek through the Northern most part of the Himalaya. Two weeks in silence trekking through my own private shambala, and I found my raison d'etre. I arrived in Ladakh, and began machinating on how I"d actualize my next step. Somehow, I knew there was no more 'real world' to go back to. Riding on the very last bus of the season that took tourists down from the mountains, I reveled in my impenetrable freedom. A few hours into the two-day bus ride, we hit a traffic jam on a mountain peak and were evacuated from the bus. Just as I was gazing out at the most expansive mountain range my eyes had ever witnessed, a multi-kulti motley crew of passengers approached me and informed me of the attack on America.
Deep in the Parvati Valley, the headlines were that all of lower Manhattan had been obliterated, that upwards of 500K people were killed, that Israel was involved, and that America was on its knees. For the rest of that day's bus ride, I sat in my seat and ate mealy bananas and said Kaddish as we rode 30 km per hour around hair pin turns and several mountain passes. Miles and days away from phones or internet or a newspaper, I mourned for my own presumed personal loss. That night, we camped out on a river and over a dozen of us, from every religion, age group, nation, sexual orientation, all gathered as ONE in a yurt and huddled around a shortwave radio as we listened to each world leader offer their statement.
I will never forget the words of the Lebanese diplomat: 'The American cowboy has reaped what he has sown for the crime he has committed against all of humanity."
Together, our group of strangers listened and weeped, while we all embraced and envisioned a brave new world, of which this horrifying tragedy was the spark.
A decade later, and I am as rooted in New York City as the grand boulders in Central Park. I am now proud to be Jewish, proud to be American, beyond grateful to be a New Yorker, and am living out the very dream that was seeded on that trek exactly one decade ago. My dear country, my beautiful city, and this nation's unbelievable populace: we have reaped what we have sown, we have paid dearly, and the time has come for the pendulum to swing and for us to weave the brave new world that all humans on this planet deserve...as ONE...Add a comment
"What if you knew her and found her dead on the floor. How can you run when you know?"
The above lyrics were the outcry of my favorite band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, responding to the Kent State massacre that brought the band to its knees in anguish on the studio floor...and from which an entire nation arose and stood up for peace and justice. Never before had a band had a #1 hit on the radio, only to be shuffled down to #2 by the unexpected release of their own hit song, Ohio. The song that they had bumped to the bottom, Teach the Children Well...has me wondering: what have we really learned?
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I often reference a particular experience from childhood as being a turning point in shaping my life: the season when my mother led a community wide campaign to build our neighborhood and school a playground. In today's world of cause related marketing campaigns, I am surprised how many times I reflect back on this community project and the relevance it still has today. On this special day of Mother's day, I think it is time I shared the story of my mother, @NonprofitDiva, the batsh*t crazy shaniqua shwartz of the upper upper east who inadvertently planted the seeds of social justice that now grow like a wild weed in me. But hey, today's not about me :) ...
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A recent debate has been sparked in the development community in response to the #1millionshirts campaign to donate 1 million t-shirts to Africa. As a lifelong activist turned social entrepreneur in the tech space, the issue of making recipient recognition and participation the main issue, is paramount to my understanding of healthy, effective and sustainable development projects. As someone who has been schooled by the very organizer of the chat, @katrinskaya, I was compelled to follow up with her by email regarding these concerns...and to open them up to the public for a grand 'ol hashing, uh, I mean healthy discourse.
Growing up a stone's throw from New York City, my path to knowledge and understanding of greatness was very much shaped by what lay on the other side of our infamous bridges and tunnels. The rawness of the city was its own education and the taste of the most experienced and bestest and brightest of everything within a four mile strip was nothing short of its own living breathing university. At the ripe ol' age of 21, I was in university getting my doctorate at NYU in Community Psychology, a step on 'an assembly line towards life success' that had been ingrained in me from my Jewish Jersey suburban roots. I had everything I had always been told I needed in order to be happy, on paper. The reality was quite different and I left this great city in the summer of 2001 with a feeling of emptiness as if I had given up on all of humanity, save perhaps my ego-centered self!