ConnecTech is a year-long fellowship for MIT and Technion Jewish students. The primary focus is on student interaction—creating personal bonds between small core groups of students at each institute and strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. For more information or to read our Fellows’ bios, visit our website.

“The greatest leaders tell stories which intersect with their audience.” What is it that makes these intersections so significant? How do they make a leader great? The words were only part of a larger discussion, but they had wormed their way into my head and firmly nestled in. What made this sentiment so important?

When I first heard about an opportunity to spend an expenses-paid week in Israel with Technion students, I was immediately excited. I am an experience seeker. By August, I will have spent five summers on six continents, each time with a different style of group. I love the chance to travel the world and meet new people, but I never seek to do so as just a tourist. I love to see beautiful places, but the U.S. is full of natural beauty. I love to eat foreign food, but the U.S. is full of immigrants bringing their cuisine. I love to visit historical sites, but the U.S. has many history books on the world. These travels offer the chance to do more than just experience the surface level of being in a country. Instead, through living and working with people, these visits offer the opportunity to experience how it feels to live in a place. ConnecTech loosely fit this mold, for while I would only be in Israel for a week, I would spend that week with Israelis studying at Technion. I would be able to share walks, share meals, share stories. These experiences are what I find most valuable—but what is that value?

After this trip, I will go back to my research lab in Massachusetts, back to classes and projects and daily routine. I will have pictures, tastes and knowledge that I did not have a week before. But I will also have another chapter in my story. A chapter filled with tales of poyke, a student festival and an introspective Shabbos. This chapter will intersect with more people, connecting me with more than just the Technion students joining us for this trip. These connections are what I value most, more than the sights, sounds and tastes. These connections help me understand others and others understand me. These connections enable me to hear a story about missiles being fired and picture the concrete tunnels used in play areas as shelters, to have deeper discussion about experiences with racial tensions between different groups and to develop an understanding of the variety in education systems around the world. These connections are what I truly seek, rather than experiences.

Programs like ConnecTech bring people together to build connections and help their stories intersect with a wider audience. These programs develop their members as individuals and leaders, helping them see the world from another perspective and recognize the validity and background behind other views. People cannot hope to understand each other with their intersecting stories, shared experiences and ability to see through another person’s eyes. A great leader and representative of a group must understand the people, and the people cannot trust a leader without also understanding her. This mutual trust and understanding comes from the intersection of stories, intersections built on experiences like those found on this trip. Building these intersections is a large part of why I travel, and why the original statement will stay with me.

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