Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Telling Our Stories

(If you're reading this via Facebook post, you must click over to the original blog post to see an awesome picture of Brian Freedman at work. Trust me.)

In our last sessions with the professionals in our "Track Sessions," we practiced telling the story of our Hillel? What do we do? Why do we do it? What impact has it made? What impact will it make on the future?

What does it have to do with us?

(Brian from OSU and Micky from Towson, captivated with one another)

Telling stories is important because it connects our passion to someone else's, and hopefully makes them just as excited about Hillel as we are.

It's important for our students, their parents, our campus communities, and our supporters.

We each had two minutes to practice telling our stories to one another. Then again, and again, and again.

It was awesome.

(Brian's story ended with the word "chickens." No, really.)

What stories would you tell about our Hillel. If you could imagine yourself a year in the future, what story would you hope you can tell about what the next year will bring? What would each of those stories say about you, and the person you hope to be?

The Students are here!

Can I let you in on a little secret?

Hillel professionals? Without their students? Talking about Hillel stuff? After a few days, it's all good, but it's starting to get a little B-O-R-I-N-G. If you know what I mean.

(not boring anymore)

There are so many students FLOODING Wash U now, and they're all so excited to learn about Jewish dialoguing, engagement, and just making Jewish life so so so much more awesome on their campuses.

We are so excited to have them here we are giving them cookies emblazoned with the Institute logo. (Yeah, I stole one.)

Also, they get blue nalgenes instead of orange. I'm pretty sure they're going to pit us against each other in some weird psychological game based on who has what nalgene color. I'm kidding. But wouldn't that be AWESOME?

Substantive content hopefully coming soon.

If I am not for myself - Self-Care in Jewish texts

This morning, I'm going to be teaching at the EPIC Institute Beit Midrash (house of learning) session with Susannah Sagan, our unflappable Associate Director (and BRAND NEW EXEMPLAR OF EXCELLENCE WHAT'S UP) about Jewish Self-Care.

Hillel used to say:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?

We're used to viewing this text in a social service context, I think, or in a "get off your butt and do something" context. But as a rabbi, I see whispers of a call to take care of others around us by taking care of ourselves.

Using the following texts, we'll "plug them in" all around Hillel's famous quote to make a real-life plan for self-care in our busy Jewish professional lives. No one knows this better than our students - if we're not doing okay, we're certainly not going to do you - or Hillel - any good either.

Do not worry about tomorrow’s trouble, for you do not know what the day may bring. Tomorrow may come and you will be no more, and so you will have worried about a world that is not yours!

Talmud Bavli, Tractate Yevamot, 63b

In a place where no one behaves like a human being, you must strive to be human!

Hillel, in Pirke Avot 2.6

Despise no one, and call nothing useless, for there is no one whose hour does not come, and nothing that does not have its place.
Shimon ben Azai, in Pirke Avot 4.3

Do not give yourself over to sorrow or distress yourself deliberately. A merry heart keeps a person alive, and joy lengthens one’s days.
Wisdom of Ben Sira, chapter 30

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
Pirke Avot 2:21

Days are scrolls; write on them what you want to be remembered.
Bahya Ibn Pakuda

Stay tuned for updates from the "Track Sessions" (I think that means stuff with our own incredible staffs, woot!) this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Waving Flags Doesn't Work Anymore

There's been a move from flag-waving tactics to emphasizing-Israeli-culture tactics in terms of Israel advocacy on campus.

People are looking to connect people to Israel with videos like this:

But: Is that all there is? Does that define what is supposed to make Israel so special and integral to our students' identities?

More and more, campus professionals are sensing a disconnect. Students are asking - what does this have to do with me? In the best cases, Israel ends up being an add-on.

What do we expect when our Israel celebrations are, honestly, kind of lame? We can't possibly wave any more flags, eat any more falafel, or listen to any more music with unintelligible lyrics.

The suggestion: When Jews in America celebrate Israel Independence Day, they're not identifying with it as "HOME."

Our challenge - to make Israel part of the Jewish narrative.
So, Buckeye Jews - do you think this sounds like something that would make celebrating Israel more compelling for you? What would be the best way to do it?

Live-Blogging the Hillel Institute 2011

Hi Buckeye Jews, fans, and loved ones! I've just arrived at the Hillel Institute 2011 at the beautiful Washington University in Saint Louis.

 I've only been here for dinner and the opening of the Israel Engagement Session, and I've already heard the word "amazing" three times. Also, the salad I had for dinner was amazing. So, four times.

The energy here is truly electric. On a personal level, I'm so psyched to see some of my rabbi besties and beloved colleagues. Also they bought us these Nalgene bottles, and honestly that's making everyone pretty happy since it's ONE HUNDRED AND TWO DEGREES in Saint Louis.

So, here's the official announcement - We are LIVE BLOGGING this event. Yep - anything that is worth hearing about, you'll get an eyeful of. Get excited.