The Attitude of Gratitude

The Attitude of Gratitude

Growing up I wanted to be a stewardess, an actress and a lawyer.  At no point did I ever think, say or strive to be a fundraiser. But since none of the eight women who founded the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) wanted to raise the money, I said I would try until we hired a professional.  That was 10 years ago, and although it has not been easy, what I have learned through fundraising changed my life forever, and how I have grown far outweighs any of the challenges.

One of the biggest lessons is gratitude.  The greatest philanthropists I ask to invest in our movement are the ones who after I thank them for giving say, “No, thank you.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity.”

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Sparks of Service

Sparks of Service

At my synagogue before the High Holidays three women with busy lives take on the annual task of putting name labels on the appeal cards that worshippers use to indicate how much they will contribute to the synagogue for its own and community needs.

The labels must be printed by the synagogue office staff before the volunteers can put them on the cards and often the printing isn’t done until the last minute, waiting for the last congregants to sign up for seats. Yet despite the mad rush at the end, every year the three women set aside the time to complete the work. Asked how they could give up precious hours when so much is needed to be done for their jobs, in their homes and for their families before the holidays, the women all said it was a task they took on delightedly each year knowing that “just a bit of peeling and sticking” would result in needed funds. “It’s my service to the synagogue and community,” said one.

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Of Grades and Judaics – Responding to the Call to “Pursue Distinction”

Of Grades and Judaics – Responding to the Call to “Pursue Distinction”

“If we agree that we want to build Jewish self-esteem in students and cultivate their Jewish greatness, what role does administering exams and assigning grades serve?” – Manette Mayberg, Mayberg Foundation Trustee

How should Jewish Day Schools respond to this radical appeal? 

Pressure from testing and grading inculcates little love for learning among students and creates tension at home. However, the consistent rejoinders demur that Judaics classes without grades won’t motivate students – What would punish tardiness or disrespectful behavior or what gives a class gravitas? These criticisms have merit in the present form of Jewish Day Schools. The current hierarchical structure of many Judaics classrooms situates authority and knowledge in the teacher’s hands, leaving students to be graded on compliance, likability, and innate talent. This appeal dreams a world where new underlying assumptions alter the context, changing the espoused values of a Judaics classroom and producing artifacts that do not include grades or their harmful side effects.

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The Jewish Tool in the Freezer

The Jewish Tool in the Freezer

Any Jewish professional or lay leader knows that sometimes you have to field complaints.  The optimist in me believes it’s because we come from a culture that thirsts for goodness, raised to believe we have the power to create the best scenario possible.  But do we have the tools we need to get us there?

In the past few years at GW Hillel, residing in a temporary space without an oven, I often heard complaints about the cancellation of the beloved Thursday night challah extravaganza.  Each week, stage one of the process involved one or two volunteers arriving to make the dough in the morning. Stage two involved many friends joining them later that afternoon, cramming into the kitchen to braid and kill time while the challah baked.  Our students missed the camaraderie and couldn’t find a creative way out of this loss.

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Shaping a Better Leadership Story

Shaping a Better Leadership Story

I often ask people to write their personal leadership story in six words. This condensed leadership memoir forces people to focus hard on either the few key moments that have shaped their leadership or the leadership principles or behaviors they most value. The idea is to get people to surface something deeper, more elemental and distinctive about the way they lead, in the spirit of what author Octavia Butler observed about herself, “Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.”

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