Reflections on Yoni’s aphorism by Rachel Cooklin: I am not you.

“Every human being is beautiful. Each has his own needs, wants, desires, passions which serve to complement and influence our experiences. This realisation not only heightens our empathy towards each other but sets each person a mission.’ - Yoni Jesner z’l


I don't think I quite understood how different each and every person is, until I lived with 129 other girls for 10 months. My gap year has made me appreciate that every person is an individual, we each want different things, feel different ways and have different stories.

I am not you, and you are not me.

Until I understood this, I don't think I really understood people. In this aphorism, Yoni emphasises that the essence of each person is different - each person is a sum of what they want, what they believe in and what they need as well as everything they have experienced in their past and all of those things influence exactly how they behave and interact with the world.

As Jews we have a joint history, we read about it in Tanach, tell part of its story every Pesach and are taught about it at school. But even within this history there are variations - each family has their own traditions and connections to both G-d and His religion, we observe in different ways and believe in different things.

I strongly believe that by trying to understand how another person feels and what they believe, we can be stronger as a group of people, and better friends to one another.

Some discussion questions:

  • What do you think about this quote: I am not you and you are not me?
  • What experiences have you had that have made you appreciate the differences in other people?
  • When does celebrating difference enhance your Judaism?


About Rachel Cooklin

Rachel Cooklin was the Yoni Jesner Scholar 2017-18 and spent her gap year at Midreshet HaRova with Bnei Akiva on Torani. She went to Yavneh College and next year will be reading History at UCL. Rachel loves playing netball and being part of her local community in Mill Hill.