2016 Week 7 – Rachel Rotter and Brandon Shapiro

Judaism and the Concept of Connectedness:

The night is balmy; a distinct sort of electricity, the kind that borders on thunder-storm weather, permeates the air, whispering promises of excitement and anticipation for the hours to come. As condensation prickles along the window panes of the apartment, a group of TI Fellowship constituents gather in a cool living room. From just outside the door, soft tinges of music and laughter can be heard. Inside, however, gaiety and unadulterated happiness emanate from each smiling face. For some time, this group stays in the apartment, enjoying each other’s company and unabashedly moving along to the rhythm of the music and, in a sense, the rhythm of the night. At some point, the group collectively moves on to the main event – Beale Street, Overton Square, the Shell, it never matters. Whether the group finds itself at a bar or out on the lawn of Memphis’s unique musical arena, these people, my people, have the rare ability to love one another and love life cohesively, wherever that takes us. Regardless of the fact that our clothing is forever stuck to our skin or that our cheeks have retained an enduring redness from the Memphis heat, the reality that we have found ourselves together on any given evening creates, at least for me, sheer gratitude. In a short amount of time, these Fellows have become my family; what’s more, they have become my Jewish family – a notion perhaps incomprehensible prior to this experience. Having never felt entirely connected to the Jewish community in Memphis, a newfound sense of belonging has taken hold of me, a sense that has more recently rendered itself permanent.

Conclusively, my choice to discuss events that occur outside the realm of my internship duties stems singularly from one simple truth: nights like the one described above are when I feel closest to my group. When we can strip off our work clothes in exchange for more comfortable outfits that better represent our unique personalities, revel in the company of like-minded people, and truly be present – a newfound concept for me, we are forced to be the most authentic version of ourselves. Accordingly, nights like this have not only fostered the life-long, Jewish friendships which I have persistently craved, but have also shown me the enduring acceptance of a community which I do and always will belong to.

-Rachel Rotter

I’ll never forget the email that I received from my sister. The subject said, “Take a look at this. You may be interested.” The email was a link to the TI Fellowship website. After opening the link and reading the first few sentences on the front page, I immediately thought to myself, “Yea right, no way I’m going to spend my summer in Memphis”. After weeks of constant pressure and convincing from my family, I finally made the decision to fill out the application. Low and behold, I am sitting here at my internship with only 2 and a half weeks left in the program. This has been by far one of the best experiences of my life. From the historical monuments of Memphis, to the people and the food, I have grown a love for this city and the TI Fellowship.

One of my favorite fellowship events happened this past week when we visited Start Co. Start Co. is a venture capital firm that invests in start up companies. Our cohort had the privilege of listening to 3 pitches from individuals who were looking to get their company off the ground. What I found most intriguing about the visit was that it showed us how people are willing to take their dream or idea and turn into a reality. Also, it made me feel like I was a judge on the show “Shark Tank” because conceptually, Start CO. and Shark Tank are similar in the way that they operate.

Being from New York, I have had the luxury of having multiple people come visit me this summer to explore Memphis. This allowed me to See Memphis from a tourist’s perspective. From Martin Luther King Jr to the music on Beale Street, Memphis’s rich history has made a huge impression on me. It makes me sad knowing that we are nearing the end of this meaningful program, but I look forward to telling all of my friends and family in New York about Memphis and the wonderful things this amazing city has to offer.

-Brandon Shapiro

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