Posts Tagged 'Change'

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.”


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