Archive for the '8.5.1 3 Weeks' Category

Shabbat Hazon- A Vision Between Two Trees

Peter Senge, the change management guru, was right when he said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” Two stories from camps about the challenges and opportunities change provides offer insights into how change might work. Interestingly, both stories are about trees, which model the delicate balance of permanence and growth.
A Tale of Two Trees: Why We Are All Asking the Wrong Question ...

The first story goes that there was a new camp director at his first summer at camp. When he got there he was disturbed to discover a “gum tree” – a tree where all of the campers and staff would put their gum before Shabbat prayer. Feeling that this was gross and unsightly, he had the groundskeeper cut down the tree before the second Shabbat of the summer. Often, when people tell this story, they claim that the director was fired before the tree hit the ground. The tree was a part of their camp culture, and the camp director had broken their trust by cutting it down without consulting anyone from the community who could have helped him understand its significance. While there is a time and place for quick, responsive adjustments or shifts in policies and procedures, we do it at our own peril if we are not conscious and conscientious of the cultural context. In order to bring about change we need to have reverence for tradition.

The second story comes from Helene Drobenare, the longtime director of Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake. Once, when asked about the secret to her success in leadership, she told a story about a trip up to URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in the winter early in her career. As she tells it, she and Jerry Kaye, the legendary director, were driving around camp and he stopped and made them get out of the car. It was freezing cold and all she could see was a thick forest of trees. Not understanding the significance of this moment, Helene asked Jerry what they were doing. He pulled out an old large map. Jerry said, “Look at this. It is the map of OSRUI from when I took over as the director.” Pointing out where they were standing, he continued, “See right here, this was an open field, but I wanted it to be a forest.” When Jerry retired last year he had been the director at OSRUI for close to half a century, and he’d left a thick forest as part of his legacy.

Between the two stories of two trees we can understand a profound lesson of change management. Camp maintains a depth of culture founded on a utopian sense of tradition. While short term wins are important, there are no shortcuts to changing culture. We can do almost anything we can imagine in a community or an organization as long as we have respect for the tradition we have inherited, have a clear vision for the future, and have the grit, gumption, and patience to see that field become a lush forest.

I was thinking about these stories and the centrality of having a clear vision in preparaton for this shabbat. The shabbat immediately preceding the Tisha B’Av which commenorates the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem is named Shabbat Hazon -the Shabbat of vision. The name comes from the start of the Haftarah we read this shabbat. After recounting heinous transgressions, the prophetic reading in  Isaiah 1:1-27 offers the hope of reconciliation, which will come when the people “cease to do evil, learn to do good.” On the eve of Tisha B’Av we see the changes in our future, both the good and bad and those done to us and by us. Our vision for the future will help us navigate these pivotal moments between these two stories of two trees. John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  From where we sit, we know that we cannot lose sight of the majestic forests for a “gum tree.”

Veggie Burgers: A Thought Experiment for the 17th of Tammuz

I wanted to share a thought exercise with you:

Think about a time you felt deeply connected to a community,cohort, or group. Why? What about the event or experience helped you feel connected?What were the elements or dynamics that made you feel like you belonged? Was it a large or small group experience? Did you have a long or short history with the other people in the group? Was it in your home or far away? Was it a place of comfort or did it push you beyond your comfort zone?

Think about a time in the last four months when  Covid-19 got real. What is the first time you missed out on an event or experience of connection? How did that feel? For me that moment was when we did not have Passover Seder with the extended family. That was the moment when I realized that something was broken and it was not going to be fixed any time soon.

Throughout the course of Jewish history Jerusalem has been our national connection hub. It is where we go to connect with our people, our history, and our God. Today was the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day in commemoration of the breaching of the wall that led to the destruction of 2nd temple in Jerusalem. This was the begining of the end. With the 17th of Tammuz we start the three weeks that reach its nadir with Tisha B’Av. Like this thought exercise it is a day to remember the moment when it got real.

While we will eventually get past Covid-19, our society is currently broken. The virtual world that many of us are working, learning, and living in seems to fall short. We do not know how to connect. Like the Rabbis before us who moved from Jerusalem to Yavneh, we need to explore new ways to connect meaningfully and create community. Instead of focusing on how we used to connect and commune and getting stuck, we need to examine why we connect and commune. We might not be able to do it the same way, but we might be able to meet our needs with new techniques. Who know’s we might even keep some of these new ways in our lives after Covid-19 has passed. Virtual gatherings will never be a substitute for in-person gatherings, but it might be enough. As I have been saying, ” Veggie burgers are not real burgers, but with the right fixins they are both delicious and nutritious.”

21 Delicious Veggie Burger Recipes | Cooking Light

Seen This One Before: The Border Crisis, the Three Weeks, and My Father

Tomorrow I will headed down to Philadelphia for my father’s unveiling. He passed away 11 months ago and I miss him. My missing him is not just the love of a son to his father. I also miss his expertise from a lifetime of experience as a highly regarded immigration lawyer. I have been thinking how livid my father would be if he was alive to see this administration’s callus expression of xenophobia. At this moment we are deep in the crises of ICE rounding people up, separating families, intentional administrative slow down, and the horrifying abuse at the detention centers. We could use my father’s wisdom and insight at this time.

When he passed away at 83 he was still working. In the week’s that followed my brother Daniel nobly went down to shut down his practice and pack up his office. There he found some interesting piece of art. One of pieces he found was this framed cartoon from 1946:

 

It is sad to say, but we have seen this before. How might we learn from history to ensure that we do better in the future than we have done in the past?

In my work with Jewish camps I have been thinking how we might help them prepare their camp programming in the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. The refugee crisis is a continually evolving situation, and we recommend reading the most up-to-date information on detention and abuse of immigrants at the US border before this discussion. To supplement that information and provide a Jewish lens to help facilitate discussions around the topic, we offered camp the resources and discussion questions in this attached resource to reflect on today’s events in the spirit of the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, Check out: Within the Borders: A Text Study & Discussion Guide on the Border Crisis

We have seen this before. We know better. Now, lets make it better.  Miss you Dad. 

Check it out on the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s resource bank :

BORDER CRISIS DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR TISHA B’AV

 

All Alone Together- Reflections on the Lone Soldier and Tisha B’Av

About a month ago at the start of the Gaza conflict with Hamas I was in Israel for a conference on Israel Education. As part of the conference we had some meetings at the WZO offices on Har Herzl. At the end of the day found myself with about 30 minutes on my hands before my cousin Dubi was going to pick me up. So I decided it would be a good time to go visit Mike Levin’s grave. Mike was a Philly boy turned Chayal Bodeda lone soldier in the Israeli army. Mike was the only American born Israeli soldier who died in the Second Lebanon War.  Mike was also a camper of mine from Camp Ramah in the Poconos. At the bottom of his grave the stone read, ” AN AMERICAN OLEH [immigrant] WHOSE LOVE OF G-D AND ISRAEL IS ETERNAL”. As you can see in this picture here his grave is adorned  by his many visitors who connect to Mike’s love.

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While I was there paying my tribute to Mike and decided to take a picture of the sign indicated the section he was buried in so I could find it easier in the future (Area Deled Section 6). In so doing I noticed the empty plots near at hand. At the time it seemed sad to think that Israel needs to plan ahead for future casualties of those who would die in defense of the State. It is depressing to realize that as long as there are Jews in the world there will be antisemitism and we will need heroes to protect us.

 

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I think about Mike Levin every year on Tisha B’Av. He was most certainly one of those heroes. Now looking back at this picture I am filled with horror realizing just how many people have died this month.  How many people are now in Har Herzl?

Among them have been a number of other lone soldiers. One of these lone soldiers was Max Steinberg from Los Angeles who volunteered in the Israel Defense Forces. He was killed along with 12 other soldiers in the Gaza Strip, amidst an Israeli operation to quell rocket fire and destroy underground smuggling tunnels.  An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral at Har Herzl  on July 23.  I cannot imagine more than a few actually knew Max. Why did so many people show up?

To some degree I think the answer to this is found at the beginning of the book of Lamentations which we read on Tisha B’Av. There we read:

How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. ( Eichah 1:1-2)

Hamas clearly lost the military war, but I am not sure their goal was ever to win. Their goal seemed to be to kill Jews or get Jews to kill Palestinians.  We have yet to see the full extent of damage and harm inflicted on their  people. No one else stepped up to neutralize Hamas and liberate the Palestinian people. Israel was alone. For these demented terrorists this as a victory. In terms of the media Hamas seems to have done very well. Israel is alone and there are none among all of the nations to comfort her . Zion is the city that sits in solitary יָשְׁבָה בָדָד- – yashvah badad. Badad is the same word as Chayal Boded– a lone soldier. The nation mourns the loss of the  Chayal Boded because together we are a nation that has experienced isolation throughout history. We are all alone together. May the memories all of our heroes be for a blessing.


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