How a Community Keeps Growing Strong

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This story comes to us from Joanna Riquett. Riquett (REALITY Eden2Zion 16) from Barranquilla, Colombia, is an experiences designer and publisher who focuses on travel, arts and culture. She is the founder of Hayo Magazine. Passionate about lessons learned from travel, she aims to understand other cultures and speaks on building more tolerant societies.

Having grown up Catholic, Riquett experienced her first Shabbat on the Eden2Zion journey in 2016 in Jerusalem. Profoundly impacted by Jewish tradition, she embraced a newfound meaning and connection to Shabbat. Since her journey, Riquett has hosted several Shabbat dinners around the world, fusing Friday night dinners with fundraising efforts and changemaking pursuits.

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to get involved and be part of networks that help you access great connections and unlock your potential, such as Sandbox and Summit, and a few others that have come and gone. However, after becoming part of the REALITY family, I see there is something different and unique about it that I’ve been trying to understand.

After hosting and sharing Shabbat with friends in Vancouver, LA, NYC, Porto, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Miami and Barranquilla, I’ve realized that maybe this is the key. My good friend and REALITY alumnus Daniel Jaydel (Sports 2017 Facilitator) once paraphrased from a famous quote: “its not that we keep Shabbat, is that Shabbat keeps us.

See, I grew up Catholic and never knew anything about Jewish traditions until I had my first Shabbat in Jerusalem in April 2016 as part of the Eden2Zion journey. I remember that night so well. We had just experienced the most intense week, and we didn’t know what we still had ahead. Visiting the Wailing Wall, experiencing the energy, magic and spirituality of that place, learning about the traditions, the songs, the faith, the love was such an impactful experience. It all came as a gust of wind and shook everything I was and everything I knew up until that point.

Sitting for dinner afterwards, seeing how my new friends shared their Shabbat traditions with us, their sense of belonging and pride was palpable. It showed me that all my life I had been missing out on something like this. For many of them, this was a journey that reconnected them with their Jewish traditions and for many of us, this was the first time we learned about them. And somehow, there was a place for each of us at the table. We were all meant to be together.

I came back home knowing that I had found something special, and I wanted to keep it alive. On my second journey to Israel as a facilitator for #REALITYAdelante, I had the honor to explain to a mostly non-Jewish group why Shabbat was so important to me. It is amazing to see how this group has now deeply embraced this tradition.

For example, when OneTable led the #TogetherAtTheTable initiative hosting Shabbat around the world to gather after the Charlottesville incident, our Latino crew came together to host Shabbats in Miami, Lima, Puerto Rico, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Panama City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

A few months later, Veronica Juarez and Klaudia Oliver, Adelante 2017 alumni, hosted a Shabbat during La Calaca Festival in San Miguel de Allende to raise funds for an art school for children that Klaudia is looking to build. We took it as an opportunity for a reunion, and many of us flew to San Miguel de Allende to attend and support.

Recently, Juan Mora (Tech 2015 and Adelante 2017 facilitator), Manolo Lopez (Adelante 2017) and I hosted a Shabbat during Art Basel in Miami as an initiative to fundraise for Puerto Rico’s recovery. Manolo has been leading an initiative to impact small businesses and restaurant owners while also providing warm meals to the people that need it the most with his Cosa Nuestra relief fund. We raised $11,500, which is being matched by the Mark E. Curry Foundation, becoming $23,000. This means that a Shabbat for 60 people in Miami turned into 5,600 warm meals for people in Puerto Rico. And we’re just getting started.

It is over Shabbat that this community has found a way to keep growing, connecting and impacting. We’re growing as a family with our own set of values, traditions and ambitions. We connecting by caring for each other. We’re impacting by always looking for ways to help each other. Wherever we are, if there’s REALITY alumni around, we can know that we’ll be invited to break bread together and share a moment in time. As Daniel said, “It’s Shabbat that keeps us strong.”

In the end, this is what it’s all about; this is how we repair the world, one Shabbat dinner at a time.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.