You have been blessed with a gift.
A child of few words,
Who says what she means and speaks when she means it.

She’s not “antisocial”.
She loves people. And she wants to go out and be social, she’ll seek out the most meaningful relationships and discover exactly what makes each person unique.

Avoid all stereotypes when trying to understand introverts.

They’re not necessarily shy. Soft-spoken people can be confident in their ideas too.

They don’t necessarily have social anxiety either. That is a whole other issue.

And they need to be alone sometimes, but they DO indeed get lonely at other times. It’s never black or white. It’s a million shades of gray.

Maybe your introvert will be a writer.
Or an artist.
Or the forward-thinking visionary who advises our most powerful leaders.
There’s a place for all of us somewhere in this world.
Yes, us too.

One day she will wake up with the courage to just say it.
“I’m an introvert. And I’m fine with that.”
Don’t say “No you’re not”
because that diminishes the beauty of all those personality traits she’s learned to love.

An introvert is a spark.
She wants to light up the world, and she’ll burn bright until that moment when she just needs to be alone
She’ll relight herself with a book, or music, or wandering off somewhere
And then she’ll come back brighter.

“Secure your oxygen mask before helping others” is actually a great metaphor for the lives of introverts.  We need to take time for ourselves before we can help and illuminate the lives of those around us.

When she needs to recharge by being quiet, accept that.
When she opens up, listen.

Never compare them to their more extroverted peers.
And most of all, appreciate them exactly as they are.


In April, I travelled more than I ever expected to. Two of the destinations included Paris and Brussels – incredible European cities full of history and art and charming old buildings and life.

Not even six weeks later, two anti-Semitic attacks happened in the area of Paris that I visited, and four people were killed in a shooting at the Jewish Museum of Brussels. I watched the news coverage with chills knowing that I had stood in that exact spot in Brussels.

There but for the grace of God go I. For the first time, I understood those words.

My parents say they always prayed for my continued safety abroad. I didn’t even consider the possibility of something happening. I couldn’t, if I wanted to take in all the beauty of the world without suffocating under a blanket of fear. But the possibilities were there nonetheless.

I hate that this fear has become part of ordinary life in America too. I hate that girls my age have to fear walking home alone at night, and people have to invent new devices like bulletproof backpacks to keep children safe in the event of a mass shooting.

Adults always say that young people think they’re invincible. And sometimes that’s true. But how can we honestly believe, in a world where you can make all the right choices and still die by ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time, that we’re invincible? This is the paradox of today’s world.

As idealistic as I can be sometimes, I don’t think it’s possible to build a “perfect” world. But I hope one day, people can look back on these times and realize that progress has been made. That maybe, there can be more hope and less reason to fear what our fellow humans might do.

(Inspired by this post from my rabbi: )

Lately I’ve seen the words “blessed, not stressed” all over social media, often meant as a response to finals stress.  While I like that this sentiment of gratitude is becoming more widespread, I think there may be a better way to express it.

I am, and always have been, grateful for my education.  I cannot thank my parents enough for giving me the opportunities to study what I love at a great university, and pursue whichever path I choose.

And speaking as a woman, I’m grateful to come from a part of the world where it was never even a question whether I could safely go to school.

But people get stressed for many reasons.  I am prone to anxiety.  Sometimes it’s apparent to others and sometimes it’s not, but it often reminds me of its presence during exam periods.

Do I get stressed sometimes?  Yes.  But the short-lived moments of “I can’t do it anymore” in no way conflict with my deep feelings of gratitude.  One can feel overwhelmed for a moment, and still understand how good their life, is in the grand scheme of things. “Blessed not stressed” makes it sound like these feelings are mutually exclusive, but no one should ever be made to feel that their vulnerabilities make them a less grateful person.

So if you’re struggling this week, do whatever makes you feel a little more at ease. Commiserate with friends if it makes you feel any better. Take care of yourselves, and look out for each other, now and always. Because it gets better, and there’s always something good on the horizon to look forward to.


“Home, yes I am home, home is wherever I’m with you”

Last time all four of us were together in London, I was no more than six years old and my brother Ben was three.  It was 1999 and we weren’t even in this millennium.  
I remember the highlights — an afternoon tea with Mom where I probably couldn’t sit still, napping through a parade at Buckingham Palace (oops), playing in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain at Hyde Park, and a magnificent West End show of The Lion King.  
Now my family is back in London visiting me over reading week, and so much has changed. 
(On the red carpet… of our hotel) 
They’ve always gotten into my school projects, whether we had to cook Spanish food, go grocery-shopping on a limited budget, or who knows what else.  Now this week is like one long family field trip. 
(At the British Museum, where we studied the architecture for my latest project)
Despite midterms, winter colds, and general busy-ness, we’ve seen and done so much: 
The London Eye lit up for Valentine’s Day
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana’s gowns on display at Kensington Palace
Then there was shopping, a show (We Will Rock You, based on Freddie Mercury’s music), and the night we saw Prince William drive by after the BAFTAs (the British Oscars). 
It’s been nice to meet new people on my program, but there’s something wonderful about traveling with family.  They understand me best (and vice versa), and now I’m seeing London differently from their perspectives.
Apparently the food is getting more sophisticated, and London is more international than ever.  We’ve met kind old couples visiting from Spain, hotel staff from Hungary and Latvia, you name it.  
Let there be many more travels for all of us.

auld lang syne
ôld laNG ˈzīn,ˈsīn/
1.times long past.

A year is a long time to reflect on.

Especially when the days feel neverending, and then you look back and realize another entire year has passed. How did that happen?

Every year has its ups and downs. Surprises, victories, losses, and lovely moments in-between.

I grew closer to people. I went to Israel and won a scholarship for my time abroad.

And now I end the year with the unique feeling of purpose and completion that settles over us when the calendar hits December 31.

There was a little too much sadness and injustice in the world this year. Not affecting me or my family, thankfully, but too close to home.  I’m not sure if there was actually more of it, or if more people (myself included) were just attuned to it, because of the interconnectedness of the Internet.

Yet there was hope. There is always hope.

For me, 2014 has to be a year of adventure, of friendship, of confidence, and love. I hope to have an extraordinary experience abroad, complete a meaningful internship upon coming home, and somehow end the year with a real New Year’s Eve kiss.

2014 already looks promising — it’s an even number, after all, and I’m starting it at the same time I start many journeys, physical and spiritual.

It feels like the resolution to so many plot threads that were set in motion in 2013.

I know it will be the beginning of a transition for me and so many, as I enter senior year of college.

Yet I am ready.

London is calling.


(Auld Lang Syne)

“In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parent who loses a child.”  -Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Dear Sammy/Superman Sam,

You wouldn’t know me.  We never had the privilege of meeting in person.  Yet I speak for hundreds of people when I say you’ve changed my life in ways you could not have imagined.

Several months ago, I discovered your parents’ “Superman Sam” blog, thanks to friends of mine, and my rabbi who is a dear friend of your family.  And I, a healthy 20-year-old with (very fortunately) no experience with life-threatening illnesses, began quietly following your story.  I feel as if I know you now.  But that is not enough.

I read about every good day and every bad day.

I read about the transplant, and will never forget your words to your cells, and your parents’ prayers.  Superman himself would envy your courage.

When I was frustrated about whatever trivial things were happening in my life, I went to the blog, and your strength gave me strength too.

I cheered when you went into remission, and as you grew stronger every day.

At Shabbat services on campus, literally HUNDREDS of people, who never even met you, said your name during the Mi Sheberach and dedicated their Torah study sessions to you.

A month ago, when the cancer came back, I refused to believe it.  I kept praying and hoping for a miracle, as before.

At that point, we were all reminded that tomorrow is promised to no one.  That the ground beneath our feet can shift in a moment, and life is so very fragile.

Yesterday, I walked past a display of Superman pajamas at Target and thought of you.  Then I went online and saw the news.  And I wept, as if you were a member of my family.  Because you are.  All of Israel is responsible for one another.  Your suffering, and your family’s sorrow and determination to fight back, is all of ours too.

Now, what I must do is join the many people who are speaking out on your behalf.  I will show the world how utterly wrong it is that childhood cancers only receive 4 percent of all cancer research funding.  The world is certainly more than 4 percent children, and children certainly don’t add up to 4 percent of all cancer cases.  Does that make people angry?  Well, it should.

I will do whatever I can to help other children, in your name.  Maybe it’s fundraising for more research and better outcomes, maybe I’ll pursue social work one day.  Who knows.

Today we mourn.  But tomorrow, we spring into action once more.

Sammy, you wanted to do something amazing, and you did.  You united hundreds, thousands of people, through your bravery, in only 8 short years.

May his memory be for a blessing.  

I always wondered why we say “for“, rather than just “may his memory be a blessing”.  Now I think I understand why: so that the people closest to the late person can turn to their memories for a purpose, for comfort, for inspiration.  That is what I wish for the Sommer family and all others.

File:Superman shield.png

This semester abroad is so close now, I can almost taste the tea and crumpets. 
My January 1 flight (Jan. 2 arrival) is booked.  
As someone who always looks for special meanings in numbers and dates, I think it’s especially significant that New Year’s Day 2014 is literally the start of my biggest adventure yet.  New year, new country, new friends.
A month from now, I’ll be sailing the River Thames on an orientation boat cruise.
Some more knowledge I’ve gained recently (thanks to a wonderful program alumna):  
-You’ll have to pay to join clubs at Queen Mary and most English universities, but theatre tickets in London are very reasonably priced, and most museums are free (!!!) for students.  
-Under no circumstances should you try to imitate a British accent.  It’s okay to be your American self. 
That’s all for now, as I push through finals and keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.  Much more to come.