As I have been posting questions about Elul reflections, some people have asked me to answer my own questions, so here goes:
Elul 1: Reading http://jewishsagesoftoday.com/. The introduction has me reflecting on Jewish heroes, who made me the Jew I am-Who are yours?
Who made me the Jew I am? I can't respond without including my parents and grandparents. But, I also have to include a great-grandmother whom I only met once when I was a newborn. My mom's maternal grandmother, Tillie Goldman, was a matriarch of 7 children, 17 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren (including me), and countless more great-great grandchildren, and even a great-great-great grandchild. Bubbie, as she is known to each of her descendants, was a traditional Jew, originally from Prussia, who came to the States
and maintained her observance of kashrut and of Shabbat. She lived in Israel for a while, establishing orphanages and funding Yeshivot. When she turned ill, her children brought her back to the States, but her wish was to be buried in Israel. Recently, I had the honor of visiting her grave (photo to the right).
In addition to Bubbie, my parents and grandparents, I have had countless Jewish peers and educators influence the Jew I am today. Here are a few: Joanne Barrington Lipshutz, Rabbi Avi Greene, Rabbi Ken Greene, Rabbi David Paskin, Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Yossi Katz, Rabbi Zvi Berger, David Mitchell, Maxine Weil, Joan Wolchansky, Harlene Appleman, Roberta Goodman, Elliot Gershenson, Cantor Mark Levine, Rabbi Kelley Gludt, and more!
Elul 2: Read the essay on Yossi Abramowitz in Jewish Sages of Today. The author quotes Abramowitz, "Values are what you live by, vision is what you live towards, and leadership is just simply living your values towards your vision." What are your values? What's your vision?
I guess my most basic value is Kavod (respect). Others include Kehillah (community), Mishpacha (family), G'milut Chesed (helping others meet their needs), Muchshar (capable/competent), and Nichul (leadership). My vision is living in a respectful family and community where people are competent and capable leaders whereby their goals include helping others meet their needs and build a strong Jewish identity.
If you are looking for an activity to help you figure this out, you can order Value Cards from 21/64 - a Jewish organization helping families figure out their philanthropy priorities.
Elul 3: More Abramowitz. He talks about Keeping Jews Jewish. What have you done this year to keep YOU Jewish? Others Jewish?
In terms of keeping myself Jewish, I have continued to immerse myself in my own Jewish experiences, including volunteering through JF&CS, serving on the leadership team for LimmudSE+Atlanta, and starting my EdD in Jewish Education Leadership. In terms of keeping others Jewish, my professional work, in the end is all about keeping Jews Jewish. In addition, my leadership role and presenting role in Limmud helps keep other Jews Jewish.
Elul 4: The next essay in Jewish Sages of Today is on Rachel Azaria. When Rachel sees injustice, she seeks change. What injustices have you tried to change?
I have been a big proponent of equal marriage rights for everyone in the U.S. I have helped use my voice to email/talk to people about this issue, including defeating Prop 8 in California.
Elul 5: The Jewels of Elul (http://www.craignco.com/jewels/) for this day is from Rabbi Naomi Levy. She tells a beautiful story of her daughter with physical challenges surprising her. When have you surprised yourself by overcoming a major obstacle?
I have always battled being significantly overweight (I think doctors have called me morbidly obese). However, I have tried to not let this be an obstacle for me - still climbing Masada, going snorkeling, riding a waverunner, going ATVing, etc. And as much as I had surprised myself by being able to do all of that, I think overcoming the obstacle of "giving up" and always being that size, I have shocked myself at my commitment to being a healthier person. While there are still daily battles to overcome, I have lost about 120 lbs (still have about 50 more to go) and every day consider the choices I am making.