Australasian Union of Jewish Students

Isabella Polgar 2015/16

Isabella Polgar 2015/16

“What did you learn on your trip?” is the question that has been echoed by friends and family since my return from a 6-week journey on AUJS’ Premier Leadership Development Program. It is such a hard question to answer, but I find myself thinking that the lessons haven’t even been taught and the reward hasn’t even begun.


The reward from the program will come in two weeks time when I’m organising an educational program for AUJS at Summer Conference and I look back on visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the Birthright Foundation in New York and the Hillel Foundation. When I look at their educational programs, how they engage and stimulate young Jews and how they develop leadership. How they inspire and ignite a passion within the broader American Jewish community that defies denomination, gender or political differences.


The reward from LDP will come in two months time, when I stumble across a BDS supporter at University and I am able to look back on my training in dialogue not confrontation, in discussion not disagreement. When I look back at my time in Israel, meeting with the S’Derot Police Department and looking at the Gaza Border, I will remember why I have these discussions, why these discussions are important to me and my community.


LDP will be fruitful in 2 years time, when I return to Israel, post-university, to volunteer at Magen David Adom or for the World Union of Jewish Students and I reignite my passion for change within my community through learning about another community and their organisations.


The reward will come in 12 years time, when I revisit the bustling streets of India and I look at the dilapidated shule in Cochin, and the one member of the Jewish community who is personally restoring it. This will remind me of my own dedication to consistently restore, reinvest and rehabilitate the Australian Jewish Community.


The reward will come when I’m working with my LDP peers on a project and I remember the personal and professional challenges we experienced together as a group, the intimate personal growth we all achieved together and the constructive conflict we gave each to become beacons of leadership within the Jewish community and beyond.


Finally, the reward will come in 20 years time, when I’ve learnt and been involved in my Jewish community longer than I haven’t and when I have lead on Israel Programs and encouraged my own children to give back to their own community and when I’ve educated more than I’ve been educated and I’ve inspired, engaged and ignited the next generation to care about the Australian Jewish Diaspora. This, I learnt from the Indian Jewish Community, who although small, are strong, close, protective, homely, active and vibrant beyond belief.


I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Trustees of the JCA Millie Phillips Jewish Education Fund for enabling me to experience the rewards of this once in a lifetime experience that is only the gateway to my future within the Australian Jewish community and beyond.