Scandinavian Swimmers just about sum up my summer.

Scandinavian Swimmers are kind of like Swedish Fish, except they’re “soft, not-quite gummy in texture, and much more flavorful than other, similarly soft candies,” according to the Trader Joe’s website.

(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)

See, the thing is, they don’t just sum up my summer because I’ve eaten a lot of them or because when I eat them I think about my friends I met at Diller Teen Fellows who introduced me to Scandinavian Swimmers and who I spent three weeks with in Israel this summer. Nope, that’s not it at all. They sum up my summer because each one of the four shapes, as seen in the picture below, represents a different aspect of the summer that I spent interning with Yachad in Brookline and traveling with Diller in Israel.

Let’s “dive in” and start with the Huckleberry Blue Dolphin. Although real dolphins are usually grayish, the Scandinavian Swimmer dolphins are blue. You know what else looks blue? The sky, which is something that is gigantic. Similarly, this summer, through Diller and Yachad, I felt like a part of something much bigger than myself.

Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, creates social and educational events in order to include participants with disabilities and mainstream individuals. By creating events at which everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate, Yachad’s goals are evident: to promote inclusion of everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. Going to Yachad events such as the bowling league, weekly Pizza and Parsha, tie-dye night, and cooking classes, I feel that I am not only contributing to helping with the individual event but I am also contributing to the greater Yachad community and its goals. It’s wonderful to feel that I am part of Yachad’s inclusion and something bigger than myself.

(Courtesy photo)

Diller gave me a similar feeling. Diller is an international, Jewish, pluralistic leadership program. What makes Diller an international program is that in the summer there are five days called “Congress” when all 600 Diller Fellows come together for programming. Although I didn’t meet nearly close to all 600 fellows, Congress allowed me to feel part of the larger Diller community.

Next, we float over to the orange-flavored Rockfish. The Rockfish, as everyone knows, is the state fish of Maryland, and Maryland, according to Wikipedia and probably other sources, is “the birthplace of religious freedom in America.” Just as the Rockfish represents America’s religious freedom, so too, the Rockfish represents the freedom that I have found inside myself. This summer, I have become more comfortable doing what I want and what I find meaningful, and I have been acting and expressing who I am and what my personality is. Both Yachad and Diller have played large roles in developing my ability to be myself.

My time spent at Yachad is split into four main parts: planning events, going to events, working on a leadership project, and doing office work. When I go to events, I can tell that no one judges other people and there is a feeling of openness and acceptance for everyone, no matter who they are. Wherever someone comes from, Yachad gives everyone the opportunity to be who they want to be. I can sense that same atmosphere even in the Yachad office in Brookline. Even though the office work can sometimes be a bit boring, like going through receipts and printing out fliers, I still always find myself smiling and laughing because of the people in the office allowing me to be myself.

Now we swim to the Red Lobster, which is berry flavored. Lobsters have hard exoskeletons, but inside, they are softer and more vulnerable. The Scandinavian Swimmer lobster, however, does not have that hard exoskeleton. Over the course of the summer, I, like the Scandinavian lobster, have been “shedding my exoskeleton” and becoming more vulnerable, not only toward others but also to myself.

(Courtesy photo)

One of my biggest struggles is knowing what I want and what I’m thinking and transmitting my ideas and knowledge to others. Throughout my three weeks in Israel with Diller, I kept a journal and reflected on what I had done during the day and how I felt. As I hoped, my daily writing allowed me to be in tune with what was going on in my head and how I was feeling. Similarly, many nights in Israel we had a “Ma’agal Layla” where we had a meaningful group discussion. I can’t say any specifics—“what happens in Ma’agal Layla stays in Ma’agal Layla”—but I can say that from these discussions, I learned how to be honest with myself and how to open myself up to my friends.

Lastly, we paddle over to the Peach Mango Yellow Seahorse. The seahorse, as its name implies, is in the genus Hippocampus. The hippocampus, which is a part of the brain, helps with forming and processing memories. Thus, the Scandinavian seahorse represents the fourth aspect of my summer so far: my new perspective on memories and experiences. I know that the experiences that I had as a Yachad intern have shaped who I am and who I will become. It’s often hard to put into words what inside of me has changed, but that’s how life experiences work. I know that the bowling league, the first three Yachad events I went to, have affected me. I know that going to Pizza and Parsha every Tuesday has affected me and that the work I did in the Yachad office affected me. And I definitely know that the process of planning Yachad events, which will be taking place throughout August, has affected me. However, it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly how they have. Maybe because of the confidence I have gained in speaking with new people and working with other people in an office. Maybe because of how much Yachad has made me think about who I am and what I value. Or maybe because of how I learned that I love to laugh. It’s just hard to know.

The four Swimmers of this summer will continue to remain part of my life. Both in their physical sense, as a delicious, sweet gummy, and in their abstract sense, as four of the things I will take away from my summer, Scandinavian Swimmers will stay in my memory and be part of who I am.

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