A Chance Encounter in the Capitol

By Jeremy Kahan

Sometimes the smallest things can have the largest impact. This happened to me when I went to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in the American capitol this past March alongside a group of college students under an organization called Jewish Awareness Movement (JAM). The AIPAC conference’s purpose is to host pro-Israel speakers, inventors, politicians, as well as many other people to advocate and lobby pro-Israel policies in America. It was incredible to see all these notable individuals speak, especially while being just a freshman in college.

Interestingly enough, the most significant event took place outside the conference, while I took a long stroll around the beautiful, historic city on a brisk twenty degree day.

I noticed a local woman trying to pull her car out of a space, but the black ice, which had collected over a few days, prevented her from doing so. I offered my assistance, which she graciously accepted, and I pushed while she put her car in reverse, but to no avail. I was not going to push a mini-van out by myself. She mentioned defeatedly that she was supposed to be attending a family occasion and would be unable to make it. She told me to leave, however, as I had already done my best.

I told her to stay where she was, and jogged a few blocks to a larger cross-street. I saw a group of Jews from AIPAC on the corner, who I spoke to briefly and enlisted their help. Myself, an older Haredi man, a young lawyer, and a boy even younger than myself—an eclectic group to say the least—returned to the distressed woman. We pushed for a minute, and—lo and behold!—the old mini-van sputtered into the street.

The woman rolled down the window, and yelled, “long live Israel!” before driving off. The four of us stood in the street for a brief moment, piecing together what had happened so organically, but felt so meaningful.

The four of us started to walk, discussing the conference. We all agreed that it was enjoyable, but could drag on at points. We then came to the conclusion that what had been the topic of discussion in the convention center—shining a light on Israel’s achievements, and by extent, its people— was something we had just accomplished, albeit in a lesser magnitude.

Although none of us had negotiated an agreement with Hamas or found a solution to the situation in the Middle East, we had just made a large impression on someone else, not to mention ourselves. In this light, the four of us spoke about how little things can build into something bigger. Often, I propose solutions to different issues that face Israel, but the little effect this has becomes frustrating and the lackofresultsisdiscouraging.

On this occasion, I was less frustrated, and instead uplifted. I was able to make a positive reflection on what I was learning about—outside of discussion or solutions—through actions of kindness.

It is common for us as college students, with large amounts of ambition, to strive for something grand or difficult, which can very frequently lead to disappointment. What may be easier, and in my story, much more fulfilling, is to do something small but meaningful, something that can visibly cause change.

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