Posts Tagged 'Cookies'

Yom HaAtzma’ut: Sharing the Cookies

What is your oldest memory? One of mine is from when I was in Kindergarten. I remember going in the required blue pants and white shirt. I also have a vague memory of some construction paper thing on my head. My local Jewish Day school went to a nearby Jewish old age home to sing for them.  After we finished singing two older women with thick German accents  singled me out of the crowd and pulled me aside. They told me how they were friends with my Oma, herself a German immigrant. And just like that they handed me two big bags of home-made cookies. While so many details have washed away over the years I can recall it as just yesterday the joy of sharing those cookies with my classmates on the bus.

These two women were strangers in a strange land, but they made me feel special and at home by connecting with me. Since that day I feel a responsibility to share the experience of belonging with my fellow Jews. When I reflect back on my personal and professional life since that time I realize that this experience really defines me . The work that I have been striving to do in the Jewish communities in Belarus, Washington University in St. Louis, and camps across North America for over 25 years has been about doing for others as these landsmen of my Oma did for me so many years ago, help me feel that I belonged.

As few years ago my mother handed me this picture:

I was blown away. There I am on the right with my blue overalls, white turtleneck,  and construction paper thing on my head celebrating Israel at 30. It turns out that my earlies memory is of Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Independence Day. All of these years later I recognize the significance of having the State of Israel. With a rebirth of our national homeland we would never really be alone again. Instead of a life of paranoia, fearing what might be coming for us or having to live as strangers in a strange lands, Israel would always be there to have our backs.

I wanted to share this story and this image today on Yom HaAtzma’ut. We should take a moment to appreciate that Israel was founded to help our people experience pronoia, the sense that people are conspiring to help them. To be a Jew is never really about independence, but rather it is about interdepedence. We should all take joy in sharing the cookies. Have a memorable Yom HaAtzma’ut.

Sharing the Cookies: Joy of a Nation

I feel tremendous gratitude to part of the Schusterman Fellowship. I am honored to be a part of such a remarkable cohort. In preparation for the first session of the program each of us was asked to describe our Jewish story in 3-5 vignettes from our lives. In preparing to share my Jewish narrative with my peers I recalled what must be one of my earliest memories.

I must have been in Kindergarten. I remember going in the required blue pants and white shirt. I also have a vague memory of some construction paper thing on my head. My local Jewish Day school went to a nearby Jewish old age home on Yom HaAtzmaut to sing for them.  After we finished singing two older women with thick German accents  singled me out of the crowd and pulled me aside. They told me how they were friends with my Oma, herself a German immigrant. And just like that they handed me two big bags of home-made cookies. While so many details have washed away over the years I can recall it as just yesterday the joy of sharing those cookies with my classmates on the bus.

These two women were strangers in a strange land, but they made me feel special and at home by connecting with me. Since that day I feel a responsibility to share the experience of belonging with my fellow Jews. As part of the Schusterman Fellowship I also have the good fortune of having regular meetings with a personal coach. In conversation with him I got to realized that in retrospect that experience really defines the work that I have been striving to do in the Jewish communities in Belarus, Washington University in St. Louis, and camps across North America for over 25 years.

Recently I went to suburban Philadelphia to visit my mother for Mother’s day.  When I came, having no idea I had been thinking about this story, my mother shared that she recently found picture that I might life.

I was blown away. There I am on the right with my blue pants, white shirt,  and construction paper thing on my head celebrating Israel at 30. All of these years later I recognize the significance of having a State of Israel. With a rebirth of our national homeland we would never really be alone again. Instead of a life of paranoia fearing what might be coming for us living as strangers in a strange lands, Israel would always be there to have our backs. In many ways my life’s work is helping people experience pronoia, the sense that people are conspiring to help them, by joyfully sharing the cookies.


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