by Jill Rubin
Program Coordinator, Mitzvah Corps
As President-elect Trump’s transition team and leadership begins to take form, the country still seems to be processing the surprise that was last Tuesday’s election. Very few predicted what was to happen on Tuesday night; those who did were hardly taken seriously. Even FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, the numbers demigod whose word we considered doctrine (at least in my apartment), got it wrong. Yet here we are, in a place where we must ask ourselves how and why so many people were surprised, and how we can even begin to heal the wounds of this country. A band-aid will no longer do the job—a paper cut has turned into a gash, and a scar will form if we do not sew it back together, thoughtfully and meticulously.
This election has proven to me how little I know about our country, and those who reside here. And it has emphasized the importance of the work we do with Mitzvah Corps. From our very name we are called to action; mitzvah in Hebrew means commandment. G-d commanded us to look out for our neighbors, to care for the sick, to be compassionate, and to repair the world.
We do all these things on each Mitzvah Corps program, but we also immerse ourselves in new communities, entering as the stranger and leaving as a member, talking, listening, and hearing people who are different from us. It is the 15-year-old from White Plains that visits and learns from a small community in Birmingham, the teenage girl from Northern California that interacts with Iranian refugees and internalizes their story, and the 30-year-old staff member who learns the plight of those struggling to make it in the Los Angeles workforce firsthand that will repair the nation’s hurt, felt so deeply right now.
This crucial work will allow us to understand the country we live in and what our fellow citizens so desperately need. We have heard the peoples’ cries—we cannot move forward until we understand them. We are not in a place where we can waste our precious energy on hate speech and foul language; we can only open our eyes and hearts and seek to understand.