Our very own Andrew Spector was awarded the Klaper Fellowship Scholarship in Jewish Studies this past summer. On Tuesday evening, he gave an incredible presentation on his time spent exploring Jewish spirituality in Israel and also the Buddhist meditation retreat he attended in his home state of Massachusetts.
He explained how in Israel it was all about Judaism, spirituality, the Talmud, and trying to be the best person you can be. He seemed to have a great group of individuals who also attended the program and a mentor who had a major impact during his time there. I could tell he learned a lot, became in touch with his inner self, and even embraced his inner yogi to meditate every so often while there.
Andrew’s summer journey took a turn when he returned to America and attended a Buddhist spiritual meditation retreat. He told us that he was nervous and not looking forward to the experience which was the complete opposite of Israel. He sang, dance, drank, prayed, studied and connected with his religion while in Israel. Yet while in Massachusetts, he had to do a complete 180 of not speaking to anyone, looking them in the eye, smiling, and ultimately being just an organism living amongst other organisms. When he shared the challenge he faced of not feeling comfortable bowing down to the Buddha at the front of the room before each meditation session, it reminded me of my time at Catholic high school in Savannah. It was mandatory for all students to attend mass once a month. Although I did not sing the songs, read and recite the prayers, and kneel during the service (we were even required to kneel during graduation, but I chose to just slide down in the pew to make it look like I was kneeling) , I took it as a learning and reflection experience. I took in a different culture, different way of looking at religion, and speaking to G-d. From my interpretation and his presentation, I feel that Andrew had the same experience. He even said in order to show respect, not necessarily Buddha, he would bow down to his teachers before he meditated.
Andrew has been a good friend of mine for the past couple of years. I have seen him grow as an individual, and this year turn the corner in moving forward and being more open with what seems to be a passion of that is meditation, spirituality, and sharing that with everyone around him. I am extremely proud of him and seeing the room Tuesday evening full of his friends, mentors, and the Klapers , I know I am not the only one who feels this way! Way to go Andrew!
If you are interested in the Klaper Fellowship in Jewish Studies program, contact Dara for more information! You can choose an “internship” you take either in the US, Europe, or Israel and essentially make the program exactly what you want with the help of the generous funds offered by the Klapers.