Eli Buchdahl (’19)

Bronfman, as we fellows have noted from nearly our first day, is quite difficult to pin down. Over the summer, we joked that we never understood it, and afterwards, attempting to summarize it to an outsider was impossible. The text studies, the intense conversations, the sleep deprivation, the horrible food, the spiritual release of Shabbat and more came together and meshed to form a comprehensive experience we called Bronfman. Though this may be somewhat surprising for someone with two immediate family members who are Bronfmanim, I went into the summer not really knowing what to expect, in terms of what the summer would look like but more importantly in terms of how it would impact me. And after we flew home, I’ll confess that while I had a handle on the first answer, I didn’t really know the second at all. The word transformative gets tossed around a lot in conjunction with Bronfman, but I wasn’t sure I had undergone my transformation. Although as I write this now, something Tali mentioned over the summer sticks with me: you don’t really understand how the Bronfman summer shapes you until long after it’s over. With that in mind, even today, at the end of May 2020, I probably can’t know all the changes Bronfman has had or will have on me. But I do have a better sense now than I did.

Bronfman, if you ask me, was about interplay between personal and communal. It was both the deep, highly personal reflection that we did and the way we were able to be together, as a cohort, processing personally together. And that, I think, is what works best about it. I recently read a book about a process for startups called a sprint, an incredibly quick way to diagnose and solve problems for companies. In it, the authors discuss the perils of traditional brainstorming, focusing instead on the power of thinking alone together (in their context, that meant everyone coming up with ideas alone and then critiquing them together, to avoid groupthink and increase individual responsibility and productivity). That reminded me of Bronfman; you need time to reflect for yourself, to dive into your own thoughts, to make sure that you are bringing all you possibly can to the table, but then that table needs to be populated with others who are also engaged in similar reflections and thus can help you refine yours.