Meet Tait Sye (Storytellers '17)

Blog

REALITY: Describe what you do and how you are trying to make an impact.

Tait: I work in communications at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is both a healthcare provider to millions of people across the country and is also an advocacy group. I work on the advocacy side and focus on driving message about protecting access to healthcare, birth control, women's health and abortion — all of the different ways we can communicate with supporters and the public.

REALITY: What was a moment on your journey that impacted you?

Tait: If a moment can be a day, I think that it would be the Friday in Jerusalem. We started the day meeting a Holocaust survivor, then we toured Yad Vashem and went to the Western Wall. Any one of those experiences by itself would be hugely impactful. Combine all three into one day, and experience every emotion imaginable, it is just a day I will never forget.

In retrospect, one other moment that I’ll always remember was putting a note in the Western Wall. At that time in May, one of the things on my mind was the big Congressional fight about defunding Planned Parenthood. So I wrote a note about protecting Planned Parenthood patients and placed it in the Western Wall. Fast forward a couple months to July 2017 and the big Congressional vote to repeal Obamacare (which also included Planned Parenthood) where Sen. McCain did the thumbs down. We won that vote and saved Planned Parenthood. I thought about that note a lot that night.

REALITY: Who inspires the work that you do?

Tait: One “person” is the Planned Parenthood patient. Many of our patients are low income and don't have a lot of resources. It's always helpful for me to remember that there are actual people who are at stake when we are debating policy. Another person is Dr. Mona Hanna, the pediatrician who sounded the alarm for the Flint water crisis. I saw her speak recently and am reading her book, “What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.” She talks passionately and brilliantly about structural things in place that deny people, especially marginal populations, basic healthcare, water and access to education.

REALITY: What brought you back to Israel for Reunion?

Tait: One reason was that it was such a magical time and place the first time, so I took any sort of chance to go back. Two, I love Schusterman's mindset about repairing the world and creating this community, and I wanted to explore that further. I also thought of Reunion as REALITY 2.0 in taking what we learned and experienced from the first REALITY trip, and applying it larger and different ways. So, I was drawn by both the amazing place and the amazing reason.

REALITY: What are a few of the ways REALITY has impacted you personally?

Tait: It opened my eyes to lots of things that I had not thought about. One specific way was what storytelling is and opening my eyes to new ways of storytelling. In Washington DC, my experience with storytelling is from a political communications perspective. REALITY and everyone on my trip opened my eyes to all the different ways of storytelling and how it takes shape and form. One of the genius parts of REALITY is the elastic and expansive definition of who a storyteller is and what a narrative is. We had a comedian and screenwriters on the journey, and at first I did not see myself in the same spectrum as them. After REALITY, I do see myself in that spectrum.

REALITY also opened my eyes to other parts of the world. I always thought of myself as a somewhat experienced traveler, but I didn’t realize how much of a blindspot for me that I had never been to the Middle East or Israel. I think REALITY has a very in depth curriculum. It helped opened my eyes to how to travel, how to appreciate people, their community and their history when traveling. REALITY does a very good job of that.

REALITY: How have you stayed involved through the lens of how have you shifted REALITY?

Tait: I think how I've shifted was wanting to become more deliberate in how I spend time and resources making an impact. Prior to REALITY, I was more arbitrary in trying to make a difference, volunteering here and there. After REALITY, learning how others are more deliberate and purposeful, taking in the lessons from REALITY itself, using the lens of repairing the world, I’ve become more purposeful in trying to have a meaningful impact.

REALITY: You played a role in organizing a special Shabbat dinner for the March For Our Lives. Can you tell us about that? 

Tait: Well, I didn’t play much of a role. It was a very special dinner and very DC in the way that people come here from across the country to raise awareness about issues. Some other cities have a Schusterman Shabbat based on their local culture, and this was our version of that. It was also very poignant because the March For Our Lives was youth-organized and seeing youth being civically engaged is always empowering.

REALITY: Are there other ways that you keep Shabbat after your REALITY journey?

Tait: I was lucky to go on the Ethiopia trip, and we joined a Shabbat dinner there with the American JDC doctor, Rick Hodes. It was special because he hosted it at his house, and there were about a dozen Ethiopian kids who were clearly regulars. To be in a foreign country and see all these enthusiastic Ethiopian kids doing the rituals and singing the songs was pretty memorable. At home in DC, we have had three Shabbats, every one memorable, in the year or so since my trip. I also try to be conscious and deliberate about honoring Shabbat, even if it's just myself.

REALITY: Have you stayed connected to Israel? How?

Tait: I talk about Israel to everybody and anybody, especially the REALITY trip.I definitely feel that Israel is a place close to me. I took Schusterman's charge to recruit others for REALITY to heart, and I thought about people I don't regularly interact with on a daily basis and encouraged them to apply. The trip is a great ice breaker. I would just say, “Hey, there's this awesome trip to Israel that I went on, and I think you'd be great for it. Let me tell you a little bit about it.”

REALITY: What should the REALITY community know about you, and what can they contact you about?

Tait: They can come to me and talk to me about Planned Parenthood and women's health issues. I've also been working a lot about food security and hunger issues and through a family foundation that my brother and I have set up. Also, I'd love to connect with anybody coming through DC.
 

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.