Changing the World Starts with Learning to Speak Your Truth

When my mom forwarded me an email about a program called Jewish Changemakers, I groaned and thought to myself: Oy, not another Jewish leadership program, I’ve done enough! But I applied as I was within the required age range, needed something to do this summer (after a canceled internship due to COVID), and figured a $350 stipend wouldn’t be too shabby. And thank goodness I did. 

The first day of the fellowship was exciting and overwhelming. I had no clue what to expect, but I knew I wanted to lean into the process as much as I could. I spoke up in breakout rooms, asked questions, and didn’t fear asking for help or advice. I made connections with other Changemakers by simply putting myself out there. I became even more set on following my passions regardless of what society or anyone told me.

Emma and her best friend Arielle joined the Jewish Changemakers program together

The program was centered on 4 different core values: Compassionate Curiosity, Practical Optimism, Humble Leadership, and Courageous Inclusivity.

I found myself most drawn to compassionate curiosity and was even asked to share a speech at the graduation that focused on that value. Being in the presence of people from all over the world in different stages of life who practice Judaism in similar and different ways than me, was eye-opening. I was already intrigued by other cultures which comes as no surprise given I am an anthropology major and travel fiend. But I grew even more curious about how people got to where they are today, what challenges they face that I don’t, and what makes them, them.

This leads me into my discussion about compassion, the first part of the value. As Changemakers, compassion might be one of the first feelings we get when we see or hear about people in need. The pang in our chest or the pit in our stomach; feeling that urge to do something, that is compassion. To create change in the world, one must feel for others, because without feeling there is no understanding, and without understanding, there is no seed to develop a plan of action. Everyone has their own story and to change the world does not mean changing people’s stories. It means listening and taking in all the information before jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

Changemakers have taught me that your change is important because it is unique to you.

I have personally grown to embrace my differences and let my truth sing loud. I have also learned to recognize people’s unique qualities while being inquisitive into the different lives they may lead. It has reaffirmed that as Jews, we have a unique power on this Earth. We can take the hate we have faced, and still face, and use it to understand where others are coming from, and take a second to ask what we can do for someone in need. That is why I am proud to be Jewish.

If there is one thing I know for sure, there is a seat at the table for everyone, whether you are a Jewish musician from Argentina, a secretly practicing Jew from Majorca, or an Israeli teenager living in Tel Aviv. I am inspired and motivated by every single person I have met through this fellowship. There is no doubt everyone here will make a great change in the world. Our own change. And the best part is, we get to cheer each other on with true admiration and respect.  Because Tikkun Olam is not a competitive sport, it is a compassionately curious one.

The Jewish Changemakers Fellowship, a program of the Jewish Federations of North America, was launched in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and designed to empower Jewish young adults (ages 20-24) to engage in critical Jewish education and leadership development to set them on a course to impact the world. Two summers later, it’s been a popular opportunity for young adults to come together with an international cohort of peers to translate their values into action. The Federation partners with the Jewish Changemakers Fellowship to recruit participants and engage alumni.  

Categories: Leadership, Young Adults


August 24, 2021


Emma Tick-Raker