Faces in Vegas, Tucson and El Paso

posted on February 8, 2012

The past two months have been a whirlwind of teaching opportunities!  Following my trip to the Bay Area, I made my way over to Vegas for two community-wide programs: an activities-based session with the local Hebrew school in Henderson and an adult education presentation on the other side of town.  Following the event, a participant kindly gave me a guided tour of the strip and the gorgeous architecture that it boasts.

In mid-January, I drove the RV past hundreds of saguaro toward Tucson where I presented four programs in three days: a private meet-and-greet presentation at the house of Federation’s young leadership, a packed (250+!) JCC presentation in conjunction with the university’s Jewish Studies program, an interactive session for the local academy’s adorable middle school students and a deep dive into Reform Judaism in Israel at the local temple.

A quick flight took me up to Portland Oregon for a campus presentation through the chaplain’s office at Lewis & Clark College, and I am now writing from El Paso where I have never had more fun teaching!

On Monday morning, I ran a special program for the El Paso Jewish Academy‘s 5th-8th graders.  Three students were standing outside to greet me and subsequently introduced themselves as the student council. I later found out that they had dressed in their finest “for Amy”.  Adorable.

A few hours later, I drove within throwing distance of Juarez on my way to the University of Texas at El Paso. The university program had a diverse turnout of Jewish community members and students, B’nai Anusim and non-Jewish students who had heard about the program from their Communications class and other departments.

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the entire week came last night at the community-wide Faces of Israel presentation.  The session was an hour and fifteen minutes followed by great Q&A, Gift of Life registered participants for their bone marrow drive at the reception and most people stayed 45 minutes after everything ended just to continue the conversation.

A woman came up to me at the event and said this:  “I just wanted to tell you how incredibly engaging your presentation was and how contagious your passion is.  You know, I never come to these events – especially on a weekday night.  But yesterday morning, my 6th grader Jayden came home from the academy raving about your program.  I’ve never seen him so excited.  He made me promise that I would come to see you and then tell him how much I liked it when I get home.  Really, excellent job.”

There is no higher compliment possible than a usually disinterested 6th grader coming home and telling his mother that she must come to the program.  Wow.  I stick around El Paso for another day or two to do some volunteer teaching at the local academy and then it’s off to Houston!

written by amy beth oppenheimer