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September 11, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 11, 2009

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 11, 2009 4P By Erica Brown ROCKVILLE, Md. (JTA)--Having shepherded hundreds of people through Jewish leadership workshops, I am asked frequently why we don't have better, more competent Jewish leaders, lay and profes- sional, in our institutions. My answer: We don't deserve them. It's often said that people get the leaders they deserve. Because we have made it so hard to lead, good people often don't get involved. They reserve their precious time for institutional affiliations that will not become mired down in vitriolic arguments, uncivil debates, name calling and negativ- ity. As Jews, we're not always good followers. At a regional conference for Jewish com- munal professionals a few months ago, I asked a room of 200 people by a show of hands how many of them had experienced an egregiously hostile encounter with a layperson over the course of the past year. From where I was standing, it looked like everyone in the room had a hand raised. So I changed the question: "Has any- one in this room not had an egregiously hostile encounter with a lay leader this past year?" One person raised a hand. I asked him to stand up so that we could all congratulate him. It's not only the lay-professional rela- tionship that is suffering. Internal work cultures can also become acidic. Sadly, we've created atmospheres of incivility where it becomes very hard for leaders to lead. It's not only their failure; it's also ours. We've created a consumer-savvy culture where if we don't like something we take it back, return it or exchange it. are diverse and tolerant. The question is And it has spilled over into our interactions not one of quashing resistance; it's how we on other levels, push back that has become the problem. Listen to people in an institution corn- We don't need to say everything that we plain: "If you don't get rid of this teacher, think. We need to teach ourselves what I'm pulling my kid from this s*chool.' Or, not to say in order to challenge leaders "I don't like this program. I'm revoking withouthumiliatingthem. When they feel my membership." denigrated, we all lose. Consumers do that. Stakeholders don't. The medieval Spanish poet Solomon Ibn Whenthingsgowrongandweseeleaders Gabirol is attributed with the following '... if we all saw ourselves as owners, in- vestors and stakeholders in institutions, problems no longer belong to someone else. They belong to us." as the sole owners of our Jewish institu- tions, they become an easy target. But if we all saw ourselves as owners, investors and stakeholders in institutions, problems no longer belong to someone else. They belong to us. We each become more per- sonally accountable. And we become more civil in the process because we understand up close how hard it is to navigate politics thoughtfully. It's difficult to move people out of their comfort zone, but as one leadership guru says, resistance is information. People natu- rally push back when leaders push them. People should push back if change is authentic and the environments we create aphorism: "In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second, listening, the third, remembering, the fourth, practic- ing, the fifth teaching others." If we were able to apply this five-step process, we could create a sea change in leadership ,and followship cultures. Silence and listening would force us to hear the pain of leaders who just want out. We need to hear others and hear ourselves when we've gotten out of line, when we need to apologize and when we just need to stop interrupting. If we are able to remember and practice that which we know has worked histori- cally, We could use more sane .and civil methods of achieving our goals. Lastly, Ibn Gabirol has asked us to be- come teachers. We all can be teachers of civility. When we are spoken to badly, we must create educable moments and let people know that we can't hear them when we are addressed in a way that is beneath our dignity, no matter whowe are or where they stand in an organizational culture. We need to affirm that Jewish institu- tional life is about creating warm, nurtur- ing and welcoming environments, and that we have a zero-tolerance policy to the use of any language that goes against the ethos of our Jewish values. We lovingly own this enterprise called Jewish life. We can't give it up or give it back or exchange it. We can, however, do a lot to dignify it. Erica Brown is the director of adult edu- cation for the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning, which serves as a catalyst for lifelong learning and identity-building ex- periences in the Greater Washington area. Letter from Israel By Ira Sharkansky Morality and reality It is not always pretty, what a country has to do in its defense. To many observers who consider themselves the epitome of moral virtue, Israel is not pretty. Some Israelis agree with them. If there is a symmetry between Israel's self critics and those who think that Barack Obama is pro-Israel, they are somewhere around four percent of the Jewish population. A larger percentage are uncomfortable with a recent statement by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. He spoke to a group of high school stu- dents, many of whom were demanding greater action to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit, held prisoner in Gaza for more than three years. The audience included young men soon to be drafted, who felt that Israel should do everything in order to bring prisoners back home. A popular slogan is, "Pay any price." Barak said that some prices are too high. Freeing hundreds of murderers for the sake of one prisonerwould make it likely that more than one Israeliwould die as a result of the deal. Barak theaters before it becomes certain that Israel, did, in fact, do it. By Diane Frankenstein j. the Jewish weekly of Northern California SAN FRANCISCO--Jewish holidays are not just commemorations; they are celebra- tions that attempt to recreate the actual events of our history. And every holiday, regardless of its relative importance on the calendar, is tied to a story--stories of Anot so pretty domestic story concerns those salvation, suffering and personal redemp- Ethiopian children of Petah Tikva. News of them being barred from religious schools sent the rabbis into operation. They persuaded the schools to back down and accept Ethiopians. The pressure may have included the offer of a leading Sephardi rabbi to open his schools to the Ethiopians, thus showing up his Ashkenazi colleagues, On the first day of school both municipal and Ministry of Education authorities announced an agreement. Israel was saved from the labels of racism and apartheid, at least when used by individuals who stay reasonably close to realities. On the second day of school the organization of Ethiopian parents announced that 30 children from the community still did not have a place in school. We may now be ir the realm of how many Ethiopians each school has to admit, and a con- cern for not tipping the balance between pupils from strong backgrounds and those from weak backgrounds. Still to come may be allegations that Ethiopian children are in school, but not tion, even humorous stories. As motivational as stories are for adults~ in terms of engaging their interest and commitment, they are critical for getting children involved in the holidays and their activities. The High Holy Days and Days of Awe rep- resent a particular challenge for parents and teachers to find the proper way to convey the significance and gravity of the holidays to children. Unlike holidays like Purim and Passover that have obvious stories and symbols that capture the imagination of children, Rosh Hashanah and.Y6m Kippur require more scrutiny to mine the stories that are embedded in their observance. Unearthing those stories is the key to getting children truly involved in these holidays. Children love narrative, but most of all their curiosity has to be stimulated so they engage. For example, the shofar is a great tool went on to say that life is tough in the Middle. fully integrated into the classes and recreational East, and that some soldiers do not come home. Yet another insight to what Israel may do is the claim that the pirates who seized the Rus- sian freighter alongside Europe and brought it to the Cape Verde Islands were Israeli security personnel. If true, this will upset good thinking, law-abiding citizens of Israel and other places. The assessment is that a declared cargo of Rus- sian lumber was actually a cargo of missiles on its way to Syria and/or Iran. In these kinds of operations, there may be a movie thriller in the programs with other students. One hates to be a pessimist, but experience teaches caution" before bringing on the full volume of applause. Life goes on. It is good, but not perfect. Among the troubles are those who look upon us from a posture of moral purity. Remember that I welcome comments. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus, Depart- ment of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. E-mail: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOTNECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. ISSN 0199-0721 ~LORID CENTRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE Winner of 40 Press Awards Edit~/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News ( ISN 0199-0721 ) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Society Editor Booi~ing Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein MAILING ADDRESSPHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks em~I: Louis Ballantyne * Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky to tell a story--the story of its origin and significance, which stems from the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. It's is also a great jumping off point for a discussion of music and the different sounds. Dipping an apple in honey is also an Opportunity to explore with children: Why an apple? Why honey? Children love to be challenged and asked for their ideas and opinions. The custbm of tashlich, going to a body of water to figuratively rid oneself of sin, is replete with stories and symbolism and allows for children to act out the story. Fasting on Yore Kippur is a great subject for discussing the importance of food in our lives and why we deny ourselves this pleasure on the holiday. Why do some people wear sneakers on that day? Are they running somewhere? Humor, too, can be a powerful tool in getting children to engage. The more one delves into the holiday, the more stories there are: Talmudic stories, stories from the Midrash, Chassidic stories... an endless number of stories that spark a young imagination and stimulate conver- sation and question-and-answer between child and parent or teacher. More than most, Jewish holidays are rooted in Jewish literature--and what is Jewish literature in the end but the telling of stories? One of the enduring themes of the High Holy Days is tzedakah, not just the giving of charity, but giving of ourselves to others. Parents and teachers can help children explore the meaning of tzedakah by asking questions such as: Is giving a privilege or an obligation? Is giving only about tangible things or is it about being generous with emotions? What small but significant kindnesses should bb performed around the holidays? What qualifies as a true act of charity? Questions like those engage children and make them think, enabling their parents and teachers to transmit the values of the holidays that make them so special. Families spend a lot of time in temple on the holidays, and a large part of that time is devoted to prayer. Think for a moment about prayer. What should children pray for? Does prayer help change things? What form should prayer take? There is a well-known story about an ignorant shepherd who only knew the alef-bet, so he simply repeated it again and again, in the hope that God would string together the letters into words. Is that a more profound prayer than what may be found in our prayer books? We ask for forgiveness on the High Holy Days. How does a child ask for forgiveness if he or she does not understand the concept of transgression? Ask them questions: Why is forgiveness important? How do we say I'm sorry to a friend, and is it the same if you say it to God? The overriding idea is that the High Holy Days are embedded with many of our Jewish ethical values, such as hope and the need for kindness. The very sounds of the shofar mimic the sounds of weeping. Can anything be more dramatic? The Kol Nidre prayer is all about making and breaking promises and the weighti- ness of a promise, a subject that children confront every day with their parents and their teachers. Ask them: How do you" feel when you break a promise, or when someone breaks a promise to you? It's all about getting children to discuss their feelings and thoughts. So, what seem like holidays that are impenetrable are, in fact, events full of experiences that children go through every day. The High Holy Days are particularly spe- cial 'because they bring families together and should be used to bring them closer-- through conversation. Diane Frankehstein is the author of "Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child that Loves to Read." She lives in San Francisco and works as an educational consultant in children's and adolescent literature. More info: http:// www. dianefrankenstein, com.