Stand UP DC #2: DC National Mall and the U.S. Holocaust Museum

We are officially over a week into our program, but it definitely feels like we have been together for much longer as we have had a packed schedule. All of our participants have enjoyed that the program has relaxed a bit more because Shabbat was this passed weekend. This allowed our group to reflect on what we have been doing during this program and what they can do after this program is over.

On Friday, our group was able to tour the Library of Congress and the Capitol building, including the House of Representatives and the Senate. Friday night we spent at the Historic 6th and I synagogue in Gallery Place/Chinatown neighborhood of DC. After a beautiful service we ate a beautiful Shabbat dinner as a community. We finished the evening with some songs.

Saturday was a peaceful day spent on the DC National Mall, after a nice service led by two participants, Lauren and Coley. Our participants then had an opportunity to go to the museums and DC memorials in the area. A few went to the American History Museum, but all of us actually ended up going to the Newseum. The Newseum is an incredible museum focused on media and journalism, and we all really enjoyed the opportunity to view the Civil Rights movement exhibit, 9/11 exhibit, Pulitzer Prize exhibit, and the interactive newsroom. We then had a wonderful Havdallah by the beautiful Georgetown Waterfront, led by one of our participants, Maya and Lauren.

Sunday was a powerful day that forced everyone to broaden their ideas about our focus of hunger and homelessness to the Holocaust. The morning we allowed for our participants to participate in the homelessness Outreach Run, where our participants could speak to people who were experiencing homelessness and after a conversation, could help them by giving them food or thanking them for sharing their thoughts. We then brought the group to the U.S. Holocaust Museum for the entire afternoon. Before our tour, we had the opportunity to listen to a holocaust survivor from Belgium, and even meet her 99 year-old mother who is a survivor and speaker at the museum as well! It was a very powerful way to start their Holocaust museum experience. We finished the evening with an optional tour of some of the monuments at night, which is amazing.

Quotes from the participants:
Gaby Sugarman (Commack, NY):
“Today was so impactful. I got to play with a three year-old girl named Maya at the Outreach Run and it made my day. She was so content playing with dirt and sticks, which made me realize that you don’t need a state of the art toy to have fun, you just need an imagination.”

Derek Song (Portland, Oregon):
“Something I have learned after listening to the speakers who have experienced homelessness is that attempting to assume what a homeless person’s story is, is wrong. This week, we have heard from numerous homeless people, and the vast majority of them are homeless for a reason that is completely unrelated to drugs and alcohol, and unfortunately, many people assume this when seeing a person on the street. In fact, I have heard from someone who has had a career, and a college degree, but ended up homeless for the majority of their life. This is an example of why judging homeless people is wrong. The biggest thing I have taken away from this trip thus far is that homeless people are people too, and it is impossible to predict or assume why they are homeless, and for that reason, it is important to treat people with the same respect and courtesy as you would any other person. And often times this is what homeless people want most of all.”

Coley Silberberg (Scarsdale, NY):
“Although it was difficult to see some of the things in the [Holocaust] museum and I struggled with parts of it, the museum really opened my eyes and showed me how important it is to keep retelling the stories of people who survived. The Holocaust was a huge injustice and it is one that should never be repeated, but similarly homelessness is a big injustice in our world. Over the past few days I have learned how important it is to stand up and help homeless people and I am so grateful for this new experience. I cannot wait to take all the lessons I have learned back to my home town and community and share all my new knowledge.”

We have been through a great deal of programs and events together as a group, as we will continue to do for the last 2 full days we have together!

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