Exploring Social Justice in Budapest

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Sam Heller is a public relations professional who dabbles in social justice projects on the side.

In early June, I was fortunate to attend the Connection Point, From Me to We: Between Tribal and Global 2014 conference in Budapest. Along with 70 other participants, we explored Jewish Budapest while learning about important social justice issues - such as the treatment toward the Romas and tackling poverty - and receiving training on being a more effective social activist.

Some of the most distinguished and dynamic Jewish educators taught their perspectives on social activism and finding Jewish identity through social justice. They also shared with us their exciting projects around the world.

One of the things I appreciated about the conference was that there were older, established people who had life experience. I'll never forget Manny Lindenbaum, who resides in Jackson, New Jersey. Manny is a Holocaust survivor who was on a personal quest - a mission to retrace the personal and poignant steps of his family fleeing the Nazis. Manny and his brother escaped to England, but his sister and parents were not as fortunate and perished in the Shoah. Despite this personal tragedy, Manny was one of the most upbeat and positive people I've ever met. He could have easily been angry and bitter towards the Nazis, yet he channeled this into positive energy - using the methods of Tikkun Olam to help those less fortunate in places like Africa. I learned from Manny to not resent people and instead to use the anger to try to help those in need.

I enjoyed meeting many inspirational young Jewish social justice advocates. I hope they will develop into life-long friends and networking contacts who can help me become a better Tikkun Olam advocate.

This Connection Point really was a wonderful opportunity to meet extraordinary people, learn about social justice from different perspectives around the globe and to learn about new ideas.