Thursday, April 30, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Netzach

This blog post deals with the combination of humility and endurance, a quiet strength that lives within us and pushes us to move forward, to meet and beat our own expectations. While this blog goes out to a more recent friend, I think he embodies this combination well, and so I'm honored to dedicate this blog to Dennis K.

Stolen from Facebook, but remarkably pensive!

I met Dennis in August of 2014 at the first cohort of Taglit Fellows in Chicago. His reputation had preceded him--as a kind, quiet leader who always went on the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel ASL trips (though I didn't know why as of yet). It happened that Dennis and I were sitting at a table together in a random free moment (they rarely happened) and I took a chance: I introduced myself to Dennis and asked him to tell me his story. Who he was, what he believed in, why he was there. More surprisingly, Dennis was game. He told me about his family, his history in Hillel, his love of the ASL Birthright trip and his poetry. His tone was quiet, humble, and he never bragged--but the words he shared were meaningful and memorable. He then turned my own questions on me: what was my story?

I claimed mine wasn't so interesting yet--after all, I was still getting through it. Dennis pushed and so I shared my ups and downs, my failures and flaws and what I've learned from them (and how to better some of them) and how I got to be at the Taglit Fellows conference in the first place. Dennis claimed that my story was more interesting than I had imagined--and that it might not matter that I was in the middle of it. If I were able to endure all of the challenges, the continuous ups and downs, I might be able to continue creating a fascinating and enlightening story. 

This meant a lot coming from Dennis, who had a love of and knack for words. Words endure or years after they're spoken--and quiet/humble ones may be just as meaningful (if not more so) than loud and proud ones. Dennis has since also taken chances, enduring in his own way and on his own merit. I'm proud to call him a colleague and thrilled that he took a chance on an odd question in the middle of a Chicago conference!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Netzach

We're officially at the midpoint of the Omer...and it's amazing to think that there's still 25 days until we get to Shavuot. Today is also a "square day," (yes 25, but also) a day where the theme of the day matches the theme of the week. Netzach B'Netzach or (super endurance) is definitely something that makes me think of goals set, strength-training, and enduring patience in the face of adversity. Let's pull up our sefirot map again, to see what we're looking at:

Netzach is in the bottom right corner of the map!

When checking out Netzach, we can see that it's part of what's refered to as the "Pillar of Mercy," connected in a straight line to chochmah (wisdom) and chesed (acts of loving-kindness). It makes sense that the person that I chose for this particular post has a decent combination of all three, and needs them to do his job as a Tour Educator. Here's looking at you Ran E!

 Ran making friends with a baby goat (Photo Cred: Me)

When my Summer 2014 Birthright trip thinks of Ran, they probably think that I'm picking him for endurance squared because of his workouts, his all-meat diets, or his ability to run around Masada without losing his breath. (Ran's nodding his head now). That's only part of his ability to endure. When meeting Ran this summer (Shiran and I hadn't had an opportunity to Skype with him beforehand), we were thrown into a whirlwind experience of trying to balance our expectations with Ran's talent, educational goals, and crazy sense of humor. He had to endure our desires and defenses of our students (WEAR YOUR HATS PEOPLE), our ability to get into fights with hotel staff when his back was turned, and our playing keep-away with green Laffy Taffys. 
Birthright isn't an easy thing to staff; it's a challenge to juggle forty-eight personalities in two-three different languages and then figure out a good structure for our bus driver, his madrichim, and our "guard." But Ran endured constantly, utilizing a good sense of humor, a loud voice, and an ability to adapt when Shiran and I approached him directly and openly. He recognized that sometimes the best way to meet our daily educational goals was to find a decent measure of fun and function, of education and exploration, of open debate and operational definitions of what Israel was to everyone involved. 

Blurry, but we were all cracking up laughing (Soldier's program) (Photo Cred: Me)

Ran endured during a drastically overscheduled program for our particular trip, including three nights out and a Mega-event that tested even the most patient of us (not particularly any one of our greatest virtues). He took care of logistics, defended his staff and his students, created a warm and welcoming environment, and did it all in 100 degree weather (yikes).  During my winter trip, when I faced some adversity of my own, he talked me through my own problems with a smile, a laugh, and a reminder that it was okay to sit down and relax once in a while. 

While I don't get to head to Israel with him this summer (hey, I tried!), I know that any trip that goes with him is going to get a strong, charismatic, and enduring tour educator, mentor, and friend. And if all else fails, don't worry...he can always catch a nap on the bus.

Caught napping on the job! (Photo Cred: Shiran!)

Personal note to Ran: Thank you for everything. (You know what you've done).

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Netzach

Wait, what? I'm actually caught up with this blog post? (Yes you naysayers...I normally post the day during the day of, and not at night when it starts!). HOW EXCITING! And it kind of makes sense to work on these enduring blog posts and catch up on the day of tiferet (balance is one of its definitions!). This particular blog post goes out to another enduring friendship, one that's had an intense amount of compassion, harmony, beauty, and balance thanks to the other person who's in it. I am so thankful in my life for having her in it--this post goes out to Shifra M!

 Sometimes Shifra steals my Dad when I'm not aroudn...NBD though. It's cool.

Shifra or "Shif'd'ra" was one of my favorite friends that I made during my time in NFTY-GER, meeting at our first Conclave in the Summer of 2000. We have been through a LOT together and can go for ages without speaking, only to have a two hour conversation one night when it's least expected (or when one of us is driving home late at night and wants a friend to debrief with). 

Throughout my entire high school experience, Shifra balanced out my ridiculousness with her calm demeanor and rule-following, making sure that I continued to not get kicked out of another camp, a conclave, or whatever setting I was making a fool of myself in. She followed carefully every relationship/drama struggle that I may have gotten into and always calmly and patiently endured every crying spell, hysterical laughter, and explained that perhaps, by thinking things through, I might be able to get over whatever "tragicomedy" had just played out in my normal life. 

 Can't. Stop. Laughing. (2003? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
P.S. Hi Joey!

Even as I started to really grow up, moving through college (pictured below) and planning moves to Philly, and then eventually to New York, Shifra was on the phone for every major moment. We cried together over losing Mama Malkin (to this day, I will never forget that phone call), cried over the ending of a seven year relationship on my part, cried from laughing over the reality of certain men never really knowing what they want. Her compassion never wavered. Shifra walked me through the balance of understanding that when I returned to NFTY-GER as an advisor, I wasn't really looked at as a kid anymore (i.e. I could use my cell phone without it getting taken away!), but should really act as a role model for my whatever way I could make that happen. She listened as one relationship ended and another began, and understood as I was moving away from being in any relationship at all. She understood every fear, every concern and treated every single moment with a special type of compassion, leading me to believe that even as I was packing in a blackout (thanks Hurricane Sandy), everything would be all right. 

Straight thugging. Outside my GWU apartment.

If it weren't for Shif's ability to endure all that I've put her through, our friendship would not be nearly as strong. I am so thrilled that we still remain close, and that we'll continue to be friends for a long time. Shif'd'ra, whether you're laughing or shaking your head at me for all the pictures (or stories), know that I love you and that I'm proud of you for all you do. Can't wait for your next late-night car call!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Netzach

When writing these posts, I'm pretty well aware of what my strengths are (mostly chesed and yesod) and I need to work on (mostly everything else). Netzach is a particularly difficult week for me to write for--I often struggle with endurance, tiring out after walking too far (don't get double pneumonia) or struggling when goals aren't met as quickly as I would like. Gevurah or self-discipline/restraint is another one of my struggles (okay, but really...I have trouble saying "No." I'm working on it).

I'm thrilled that the immediate person that I thought of when coming to this particular day was another one of my closest and oldest friends. I dedicate this one to the only person that can understand what I'm saying when English isn't my friend--this one's for you Josh L.!

He'll be thrilled that I pulled this picture from Facebook. (So disciplined).

Josh and I have been friends (somehow) since the summer of 2001 [we are SO old] when we bonded over the lovable and wonderful Kutz Camp. (Pictured below, we were adorable). Since that moment, we've spent countless hours on the phone, shared many a meal, enjoyed my senior prom (he was an excellent date), and most recently, he got the chance to lecture me on my very decent inability to keep myself out of a doctor's office [it should be noted that I saw him mere days before being diagnosed with pneumonia...]. He has a wicked sense of humor (and a horrible love of puns), a great sense of adventure, and is loving, caring, and committed to those he truly cares about. 

So why pick this crazy kid for the most serious of disciplines? When you think of discipline and endurance, you don't necessarily think about adventure, fun, and arguments with cab drivers. But Josh manages to do all that while working extremely hard (he's already disagreeing with me here) and planning out his next move for how to go further, do better, and take the next step (now he's nodding). But when you share a friend/familyship with someone for fourteen years, I'd call that enduring. Josh's discipline helps push me to make better decisions, to talk out confusing fears and failures, and to DREAM BIG (but only if I'm willing to put in the work to get there!). 

Every conversation that Josh and I have somewhat revolves around "starting from the beginning" and making sure that we're both hearing all of the details of every story/problem until we start co-problem solving. His cross-country concern and calm are often what puts me back on track for my own goals and processes--it is the combination of discipline and endurance that help us reach the highest of our goals. Josh for me is a friend, brother, coach, and not shy about sharing when he disapproves (which might be rare, but still happens enough for me to recognize the change in tone!) of what I'm doing. 

As promised, the photo of...2 years into our friendship?

Kutz Camp & UMC (Photo Cred: Shif'd'ra!)

*Personal note to JBL: I am very thankful for all the discipline and love you've put into this friendship and can't wait to hear about your adventures in Paris. Love you kiddo!

#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Netzach

We're currently about to be in the middle of the fourth week of the Omer (and I'm a little behind), but we are currently in the week of Netzach, thought of as endurance in this particular blog experiment. As I've been writing over these last few weeks (and catching up over the last few days!), I've noticed something--each blog MEANS something to someone. It may affect the person it's dedicated to, or a friend of theirs...but either way, that person who inspires ME may end up inspiring another. And that's a pretty cool reaction. Train of thought over...back to writing this blog. I hope that the #BlogBOmer posts endure until next year (and that I don't lag too badly once I've caught up!), but am thrilled that each week starts with a familiar theme: Chesed.

Chesed, if you remember, refers to loving-kindness. So when thinking about how these two things interact (loving kindness & endurance), I started thinking about people who really put their all into everything they do, especially when it comes to caring for others. I started thinking about coaches (shout out to my own volleyball coach who had enduring patience for me), teachers, and friends. I decided to dedicate this particular blog post to my own enduring teammate in the trenches: Becca M.

 Oregon Hillel family team again (Photo Cred: Paul Gitelson)

Becca came into my life in April of 2013, excited and well-prepared to begin a life in Eugene, Oregon as our new Director of Student Engagement. I was excited and nervous and happy and unsure of what it would mean to have a new coworker...I've never been particularly good at uncertainty. Regardless, Becca came into my life with a kindness, a brand of chesed and happiness that cheers me on a pretty regular basis. Whether it's dancing in my office, singing the Lego Movie theme song with me ("Everything is awesome....." during a particularly tough moment), sprinkling happy aura around me, or visiting me when I'm quarantined, Becca's kindness is abundant.
What you might not know about Becca is that she's also a marathon runner (woooo!) and that she uses her own personal endurance to get through every race, task, and opportunity that's handed to her. She's even managed to use her chesed/netzach combo to guide her in her personal weekly community service work with Girls on the Run, working with young girls in constructing their personal confidence as they find their stride both in their runs and in life. As the staff member currently working with Oregon Hillel's intramural team (I merely get to come and cheer them on from the sidelines!), she's already 2-0 in their spring season; it's her kindness and dedication that cause a warm and welcoming team atmosphere, regardless of the game's outcome.

Celebrating after their FIRST win! (Photo cred: ME!)

We've made it through two and a half terms so far and I'm very excited to see how our future unfolds. Regardless, I hope that some of Becca's chesed/netzach combination will rub off on me--running's not so much in my blood!

Monday, April 27, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Tiferet

I am getting there! It's hard to believe that I am wrapping up the week of Tiferet (even though I know we've already legitimately entered into the week of Netzach--whoops!). I find that I struggle with many (but not all) of the sefirot that we discuss through the Omer, but none more so than malchut--this idea of leadership or sovereignty. I think that I am constantly trying to find the type of leader that I hope to be, that I wish I could be, that I feel comfortable being...or some combination of the three. Being able to understand how leadership leads to compassion and harmony is a sign of maturity, creativity, and generosity.

One person who I think has this combination covered (and in style) is Lillian F-H. And so this blog begins...

Lillian, Lisa, and Me at Kutz Camp (Photo Cred: Lisa)

First and foremost, I have to thank HUC-JIR and Melissa Z-S for bringing Lillian and I together in a ridiculous, incredible, and wonderful manner. As participants in the HUC-JIR Certificate in Jewish Education Specializing in Adolescents and Emerging Adults program, we had an incredible amount of time to problem-solve, program-write, and personally reflect on what it is that we were trying to accomplish in our respective personal and professional lives. While she's across the country from me now, I am lucky enough to know that we've still got that ability to get together at a moment's notice to bring us back to that place of mutual reflection and reaction.

Lillian is an incredible leader in her own right, knowing herself to her fullest extent and knowing when to speak, when to hold back, when to step-in and when to let others shine. She's always one of the first people to volunteer, to set an example, or to debate a point, but she's also known for her incredible compassion and listening ear as others tell her their about their fears, fallacies, and faiths. I was lucky in my program to often sit near her (and Facebook message her) during our sessions, to watch her creatively approach problems with an artistic eye, and to sing incredible (if not incorrect) lyrics in our shared hotel room. 

It's no surprise to me that Lillian's doing well in her new job in MD, one of her (NOW MY) students at UO tells me all the time about how they've kept in touch...and at times, he even delivers messages from her to me. While I don't necessarily have the time always to keep in touch personally, every time I get a message from TJ (from Lillian!), I stop and smile, reminding myself that there's someone out there that gets it, that gets ME, and that I am very very lucky. 

But...most importantly, I introduced her to Crumbs.

This picture is awesome. Photo Cred: ME.

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Tiferet

This is  my third week writing about yesod (bonding), but every time I write it, I think about yesod as a foundation, something that made me who I am. The first week (Yesod B'Chesed) I wrote about my brother, Adam. The second week (Yesod B'Gevurah) I wrote about myself. So this week, when thinking about my foundation and who I think of immediately when I think of compassion & harmony, there's no contest: I dedicated this to my best friend and favorite person (aside from Ellie), Joey L.

My fabulous date at my brother's wedding (Photo Cred: Julie Wallick!)

Joey-bear has been one of my oldest and closest friends (really family) for as long as I can remember. He is all of the sefirot combined: loving and kind, disciplined, compassionate, enduring, humble, a strong leader, and a huge part of my ability to bond. His friendship, passion, and caring are a lot of what keeps me smiling (even if we don't get to talk as much as I'd like to.

But Yesod B'Tiferet, this idea of bonding in harmony and compassion: that's our friendship in a nutshell. There is never a time that I head home that I don't let Joey know first, and thus far he's managed to head back to Rockland to spend some time with me on each visit (that's FOUR hours of driving round-trip!). He's one of the first people that I ask to be my date to any family function (and to be fair, he's usually my family's first choice as well!) and I know that whenever we're together, everything's going to be just fine. 

For all of my craziness and up and down moving around, Joey is stable, happy, and my go-to favorite second brother. We are bonded for always, he is definitively a huge part of my foundation. Now if only all of his sefirot talents could rub off on me---then we'd be in harmony

*On a personal note, I love you Joey-bear. Thank you for always being a part of my life.

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Tiferet

In all full humility (and honesty): I am not much of a blogger. I think that I thought this challenge would be much easier than it's actually become--(but perhaps that's what makes it a challenge?). I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on an AEPi banquet the other evening, where one of my students was given an award and asked to give a speech. "Awards are for egos," he said, and I choose to share this one with all of my brothers here tonight." (Shout out to Connor!). 

In thinking about the people who have inspired me through their own humility, I thought about who also inspired me through their ability to appreciate harmony and compassion in their daily lives. In thinking it through, I dedicate this blog post to Rachel N.

Shabbat at Hillel Institute, Rachel, Jordan, & Esther leading the party!

When I first met Rachel, I was at WHO Conference in the Winter of 2012, approximately three weeks into starting my job. She was my group leader at the time, ensuring that west coast engagement professionals were learning to bond and practice best practices with each other. It wasn't surprising then, for me to begin to look at Rachel as a teacher first, and a colleague second in my Hillel professional world. Rachel (also part of the Lunch Table Experiment) is a staple in my Hillel professional conference life--I can often find her teaching, dancing, or chatting with those around her and her level of compassion for her peers in the field is unparalleled. 

When the #BlogBOmer initiative was shared by Hillel International, Rachel was one of the first people I reached out to--unsure of how I felt about the publicity. Rachel's humility shone through in the conversation when she reminded me that I was struggling because "we aren't in this for the glory, but for the outcome." I don't know how many people are participating in #BlogBOmer (either writing, posting, or reading), but I know that my hope was that it would reach people in a new and positive way. I wanted to ensure that Judaism could be accessible, that it would resonate with people in a relevant manner. I'm hoping that these posts bring forward some harmony, some small amount of humble appreciation for all of the good that these people have done in the world and to hopefully inspire others to act in kind. 

Mostly, I'm thankful to have all these people to thank. They're pretty great. 

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Tiferet

As I type this, there's some definite need for personal endurance...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can BLOG! I know I've said this before, but blogging every day is a real personal challenge--more often than not, I've usually started and skipped around on these challenges. When I realized that I was five blog posts behind, I knew that I had two choices: miss the days I missed OR slowly, but surely make my way back to the day at hand. I chose the latter because I think there's a special harmony to completing what you start...even if your pace is a little slower than it should be.

I want to dedicate this to another fellow Fellow of mine, someone who has a passion for helping others to endure, who finds ways to create compassionate opportunities for other Hillel professionals and her students to create harmonious communities. This particular post goes out to fellow #Hillelpro Jenna C!

Jenna with two of my other favorite #Hillelpros (shout out Rachel &; Jason!)
Photo Cred: STOLEN from Jason Oruch's photos

Jenna is by far one of the hardest working people in show Hillel biz. Her personal and profession endurance are unparalleled by most--this is part of the reason that she's one of the three Hillel professionals running the Hillel Mentorship Initiative, and is always one of the first people willing to help another #Hillelpro (or human!) in need. Jenna's confidence and kindness encourage those around her to put their heads down and get to work--to be the best people that they can be.

I got the pleasure of working with Jenna on a program during our Taglit Fellows Cohort I session in Chicago (August 2015). During the writing portion, we were struggling as a team to come up with a concept that we felt we could really get behind (there were limits/boundaries on our program with an unexpected twist card doled out). 45 minutes into the program, I had an idea pop into my head that I thought could get us past our problem--Jenna jumped on board and her enthusiasm (and ability to quickly write and streamline creative thinking) helped us come up with one of the most creative programs in the room [which is supposed to be in a database...somewhere].

All of this may seem small...unimportant even...but when running a marathon, it helps to have someone set a great pace in front of you--it gives you something to aspire to be. While I'm not a runner by any means, I enjoy having Jenna always being a little bit ahead of me--it inspires me to put my head down and work smarter, enduring for another day, month, or year as a #Hillelpro and attempting to find a work/life balance in the process! Thanks for being a connector to the Jewish professional community Jenna! <3 p="">

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Tiferet

In a week that's dedicated to Tiferet, I've noticed that Tiferet is a connector, something that hangs in the balance (one of its many definitions) of the rest of the sefirot. Let's pull up that sefirot picture again, shall we?

Check it out: Tiferet is in the MIDDLE, connecting all of the sefirot together in some way.

This particular week has been not so fabulous for my ability to keep things in balance, certainly, but it has been one of compassion, one of connection, cone of community. It's been told when you miss a day/night of the omer without counting, that you can count the day, but without the blessing. For me, at least, I may continue counting the omer with a blog post (or a million of them). 

Today's post, concentrating on the ultimate Tiferet B'Tiferet (Tiferet squared?), we concentrate on all of the things that Tiferet can be: harmony, compassion, connection, beauty, balance, equilibrium. As I'm catching up on my own blog posts (hey, never said this wouldn't be a SELF-challenge!), I think about those in my life who are the art of grace in their own connections and abilities to embrace the beauty, harmony, and compassion both inwardly and outwardly. So for this particular post, I think to one of my own beautiful inspirations: Danielle N. 

Danielle, always the life of the [Purim] party!

I am VERY lucky to have Danielle in my life. It is rare that you see someone with incredibly beautiful gifts and a large depth of compassion and Danielle has an abundance of both. At multiple conferences (and through the gift of Facebook videos), I have had the pleasure of enjoying Danielle's singing voice MANY many times and she has a gift of actual musical harmony while creating a harmonious community all around her (or around her campfire!). At conferences, you can often find Danielle chatting up friends and strangers (or friends-to-be) at every opportunity and she has an amazing knack for finding the beauty in almost every situation: not sure where exactly the next scheduled place is? Great time to meet someone new and ask. Have a 15 minute break in between sessions and not enough time to nap? Awesome time to sit outside, enjoy the trees, and have an excellent conversation. 

I was lucky enough to be randomly roomed with Danielle at a WHO conference within the first three weeks at starting work at Oregon Hillel. Besides being granted the ability to visit Starbucks every morning with her, I also got to enjoy a rare introduction to what it is to really be a Hillel team player, West Coast performer, and how to connect with the other professionals around me. Here's a fun photo from that fabulous time:

 I'm on the floor, Danielle and [beardless!] Andy dancing? Moving? Who knows!

Since then, much of my Hillel professional experience has been shared with Danielle. Chatting at lunches at professional conferences (she is also a member of the Lunch Table Challenge), debating the benefits of pre-school freshmen Shabbatons, and this year sharing in not one, but TWO simultaneous fellowships (shout out to E2E/Ezra and Taglit Fellows!). I feel lucky to be friends with someone who is so quick to find the beauty in every situation, who shares compassion with all those around her, and when all else fails, can literally create harmony as needed (as long as she has someone to provide the melody alongside her). On a personal note to her: thank you Danielle for connecting me to the Hillel family on a personal level, and for always finding a fine balance between fun and function at every event we share. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Tiferet

As I was exploring the topic of Gevurah (Discipline & Restraint) and Tiferet (Compassion, Beauty, Harmony, Balance), I kept thinking about how I've been noticing new things during the Omer. As I've been working for Oregon Hillel, I now know when Rosh Chodesh falls on the calendar. Every year there will be a Rosh Chodesh during Chanukah. There will be more than one Rosh Chodesh during the Omer, the first of which happened last night (Sunday night) and started the combination of Day 16 of the Omer (theme above) with Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, the beginning of the second month of the Hebrew calendar. When it comes down to it, there's no better person to pick for a Rosh Chodesh/Omer crossover AND she's a rockstar at this particular theme. This post is inspired by and dedicated to my E2E Mentor and friend before that: Esther A!

That's MY mentor! (Jealous?)

Esther loves Rosh Chodesh. In fact, every month I get an email from Esther about the month that's coming up (or just been introduced) and what's happening in Israel that fits thematically around it. Iyyar is an interesting month with recognizable Israeli holidays: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut (which are coming up this week!). It's also the time in the Torah where G-d gave us manna from the sky and where Miriam's wells opened with enough water for all to come and drink.

But wait...what does this have to do with the theme of Gevurah within Tiferet? Oh right! Thanks for reminding me. On top of everything else, Esther is the point person for all of Hillel's Israel Programming--my first go-to on every Birthright trip that I've been on, and a constant comfort to all Hillel staff that works on one of her trips. It takes a lot of gevurah to organize a Birthright trip and stay on top of everything (discipline, organization, restraints, boundaries) in order to reach a true state of tiferet, a harmonious rakaz or satisfied staff members. Esther needs to ensure that her trip leaders, tour educators, trip organizers, and participants are all working together smoothly, and that includes following certain protocols and working within clearly set frameworks.

As a mentor, Esther is NO different! Some of our first moments in every session are about my health (sheesh, get double pnemonia once...twice and everyone worries!) and my working hours. Next up, we usually talk about my expectations for work/the year and what concrete steps I'm taking to meet those expectations (sometimes the steps are not so concrete, but that's why I have a mentor!). It's easy to see that by framing the conversations/educational moments (using gevurah as a way of setting easily defined limits and utilizing self-discipline), there will almost always be a harmonious result (tiferet as a beautiful balance in compassion and comprehension).

Either way, I can't wait to spend time learning from her in person IN ISRAEL THIS JULY!


#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Tiferet

Going slow with writing these blogs, but mostly making sure that I'm writing what I really mean...and that the examples I'm setting for myself in choosing my exemplars is on point: these people that I'm sharing/you're reading about really embody these particular qualities for me--and give me a higher level to aim for in the areas of each of these sefirot.

We've entered into Week 3 of the Omer at this point and the first day of each new week has the same focus: Chesed (acts of loving-kindness). I find this a bit comforting, knowing that each week starts off with acts of loving-kindness in each arena: it makes us focus on the positive first and foremost and then we move on from that bright point. Week 3's major focus is on Tiferet: a word that has many meanings--it can mean compassion, harmony (as we've cited in our #BlogBOmer examples), but it can also mean balance and beauty.  When thinking about the person to whom this blog is dedicated to, I realized that there could only be one real rockstar choice: Carly F(B!).

Shout-out to Erez (who is also an inspiration!)
P.S. Carly looks super kind and harmonious in this picture!

At almost every Hillel professional development conference, you can easily find me spending time with Carly--she is my conference person. She knows that the better party is always in our room (rather than down on the ground floor), that you can learn more in a half hour one-on-one conversation than you might in a two-hour planned session, and that you should always always always travel with a corkscrew (thanks Carly's mom!). 

I can't necessarily recall how I got involved with the crew at Illini Hillel, but I can say that my friendship with Carly has progressed past professional niceties and into something that I deeply respect. Trying to figure out how a program might work? Call Carly. Delving into marketing strategies? Carly. Figuring out what next steps there are for professionals to help train each other when at an equal level? Debate with Carly. Carly's always there with a smile, a joke, a hug, and a kind word. Her chesed is appreciated by all those who know her well, and so is her love of the Beatles!

I think that Carly believes that there's a certain pattern to the universe--that there's a way of balancing acts of loving-kindness with pragmatism in order to get a harmonious and compassionate campus. More often than not leading by example, Carly has been a part of the Lunch Table Experiment (see prior posts), is a part of the Hillel Mentorship Initiative (can't think of a greater mentor!), and really believes that the best professional development sessions are those that can further deepen our relationships with our students. I know that in my own way of interacting with students (I aim to be as non-judgmental as possible while simultaneously providing a safe space for communication), that I aim to be a part of this harmonious pattern. I also try to lead by example, emphasizing tzedek, g'milut chasadim, and kavod as three tenets of my own brand of Judaism (for the Hebraically-challenged: righteousness, acts of loving-kindness, and respect). 

A special end for this particular post: 


Monday, April 20, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Gevurah

I never realized that blogging every day would be such a struggle! Definitely a lesson in gevurah (discipline!) and making sure that even if I miss a day, that I get to it at a later date. But, even late at night--BOOM. Blog post. This particular post is about Malchut B'Gevurah, the last day in the week's theme of Gevurah (Leadership/Sovereignty in the area of Discipline/Restraint). This post goes out to an old college friend and buddy: Yael B.

Oh Captain, My Captain {Looking out for small dogs}
I tend to think that Yael's going to be surprised by this post since we haven't spoken in a minute--life gets in the way and things get busy and before you know it, another six months has flown by. HOWEVER, Yael was one of my closest friends and supports in college and was by far my favorite study buddy. So why Yael for the topics of leadership within the area of discipline & restraint
Yael was my inspiration to stay true to my goals and dreams of working in the Jewish world post-college. Aware of every intimate moment of my life with my pre-med textbooks, Yael was there when I realized that pre-med wasn't the right lifestyle for me (I wasn't very good at math or science!). As my library study partner, Yael pushed me to work harder in the fields of Psychology & Judaic Studies when I decided to double major while making me crack up in between sneaking in food to the library from Fridays, or staking out small study group rooms and pulling all nighters. Between the two of us, I think it was Yael's discipline that got me through those nights of color-coding, iPod shuffling and note-taking...all the while watching her work through creating and defending her own major at GWU and planning out what she would create once out of college.

On a personal level, Yael's leadership and disciplinary demeanor also helped me with my music and my social life in college. We were in the GWU a capella group Shiluv together and Yael encouraged me to compose, work on original songs and ideas, and has been the inspiration for many mash-ups/compositions since (though she's probably forgotten hours of hanging by my keyboard in a tiny dorm room!). Afraid of putting myself out there (and presently, forging back into old habits), Yael made me leave my apartment or dorm room and explore new friendship opportunities, new restaurants, new reasons to laugh and explore and TRY. 

Sometimes I miss my college years--the ability to go out and try new things, to figure out what my restraints were (or what restraints I had placed on myself that could be pushed wider). I was very lucky to have Yael's leadership in this particular area--she always convinced me that I was better and more capable of anything that I could dream up on my own.

~Miss you girl--hope you're living it up!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Gevurah

It's not that I haven't wanted to write my blog post all day (in fact I probably had some time in the morning where I may have been able to fit it in), but I've been struggling with the idea and the level of honesty that I feel comfortable in hitting these topics--gevurah (discipline/restraint) is a challenge in itself for me: saying no, watching my weight, watching my words, filtering my thoughts.

Yesod is about bonding, about finding a foundation within this concept of discipline. And all I can think about are diets, fasting, working out, and personal struggles. Obviously this particular combination on this day is a major place for growth for me--it's appropriate that it comes on the 13th day (the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Day!) of the Omer--as I explore this process in ways to find people who inspire me through their actions, to give me a chance to aspire to be better in areas where I don't thrive.

And who should I dedicate this blog to? My family--who support me in everything, but worry about my health? My friends who have asked (or politely not asked) about every gain or loss in exercise or health? My personal trainers from the past--or group exercise instructors? It's a struggle--but for now, I'm going to dedicate this one to me.

Me at age 17; happy-ish and rocking the bandanna!

I have always hated having my picture taken. Always. Thin or not thin, it's been something I've avoided more often than not (you can ask anyone, I'm usually the one behind the camera...or behind the one using the camera!). Bonding moments that were captured on film and saved in people's memories were lost to me due to my hatred of how I looked on camera. As someone who has always struggled on and off with my weight (for the last 8 years, definitely ON), even now I need to be really pushed to be put in front of the camera. My discipline gives way to what I consider priorities: getting my work done, being on the phone with friends, attempting (!) to get enough sleep. Meals might get skipped during the day, but often I make up for it with chips or junk food (or too much food!) by the end of the day. 

Tonight, I saw myself in a picture taken by my job at an event that I was at. I am in NO WAY the focus of the picture. But I'm in it. Can you see me?

Me tonight at age 28--can you see me?

In case you couldn't see me, I'm the one all the way to the left. I couldn't believe it. Is that what I looked like? Through trying to dress well for my size, I often forget how much weight that I know I need to lose in order to be healthy. But was that really me in the picture? Had I really lost that much discipline in taking care of myself? (The answer, in short, is YES). But how can I utilize bonding (yesod) to get it back? By talking about healthy habits (did I mention I've taken up yoga again?). By utilizing support groups. By taking small steps to get myself back in order (working up to larger steps as I feel up to it). Those who support me will do so through successes AND setbacks--the point is to be honest about both.
I understand that this blog is a bit more open and honest than most. I'm not asking for open support or comments. I just felt like this is an area that needs a lot of work--and thought that maybe a post like this might be inspiration for someone else to think about which sefirot combination you most want to work on.

Thanks for reading. ~AKW

Friday, April 17, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Gevurah

Somewhat caught up--although a new blog post will have to be written sometime between tonight & tomorrow night in order to really be back in the game! Hod B'Gevurah or the ability to make humility a special type of discipline. This post is inspired by and dedicated to Esti S (P!).

First things first: on my first ever trip to Israel without Esti in my immediate staff team this winter, I had probably my worst day ever on a Birthright trip (well...up until that point anyway). I was trying to breathe in the crowd that was ridiculous as a #Taglit event in the Bedouin tents where a million people were staying all at one night. Exhausted and frustrated and in pretty regular contact with Andy over some major things happening at home, I found myself really missing Esti's cheer and calm in my life. A few minutes before our meal was served, I was tapped on the shoulder...ESTI WAS THERE! Bursting into tears and hugging her really tightly, I basked in the sunshine and support that IS Esti.

Esti's got a GOAT!
(Ran fell in love with the goats)
Photo Cred: ME!

What most people don't know about Esti is how humble she is in the organizing and managing of all of the Birthright trips, whether she's rakazing, working behind the scenes, or celebrating secretly-staged Shabbat staff onegs (or attempting to buy me York peppermint patties in Israel...and FAILING. But then she bought me ice cream...and that's what counts). Her discipline whether in managing exhausted and cranky dehydrated trip participants (or staff members) is amazing...she manages everything with a cheery tone, a smile, and a calm demeanor that ends up passing on to her sometimes stressed-out and always sleep-deprived staff members. But Esti never asks to be in the foreground, is always willing to sing into the mic if late, and is always ready to be the support or the backup that's needed in any scary situation. 

In my own Birthright experience, I've often been given the position as the lead staff person on our Birthright trips, often being teamed with first-time staff members and having the opportunity to mentor and guide. This summer I'll have the ability to work on my own balance of humility and discipline as a support staff on our campus trip--I will definitely look to Esti as my exemplar. I hope to be able to handle daily activities and needs with the tact, grace, and enthusiasm that Esti brings to the table--thanks for inspiring me to work on these parts of me in tandem, Esti!!! 


#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Gevurah

Apologies for the late blogs (these won't be the last ones!), work has been remarkably productive and busy lately--meaning work first, blogs later. Consider it a bit of personal netzach (endurance) b'gevurah (in discipline) --the blogs will get done, but not always on time [whoops!].

This particular post goes out to someone very special in my life Chaya B.

Chaya at the EUG airport (Photo Cred: CHAYA)
P.S. Nice shirt!

Chaya was my remarkable chevruta partner during my second year at Drisha Institute, a place that didn't quite necessarily know how to cater to a Reform Jewish strong-minded student, but loved the talents that same student had at building strong communities amidst VERY different personalities. Enter Chaya, someone who shared my talent and love of building community AND who was willing to be patient with someone who was struggling with the language (or who created up very dumbed down translations). Chaya and I clicked immediately: it just made sense--we hit the books (not really, Jastrow and the Talmuds deserve respect) with a sense of humor that was pretty unparalleled. Jokes for days.

Whether it was talking about our struggles with relationships (or lack thereof) or singing down the streets, Chaya and I connected over our love of music, mensch-work, and making fun of ourselves (and everyone around us). When I moved out to Eugene, Chaya was actually my FIRST friend to come out and visit [to be fair, I have had a few more come out since: shout outs to Shira, Adam, Gabby, M&D, Josh, Ashley, & Chris!], but Chaya was the first. She helped me paint an office, organize a library, hang out with AEPi brothers, and generally got first-hand knowledge of how much I loved my job. In return she got to spend a decent amount of time with one of the many furry loves of her life.

Chaya and Ellie are BFF (Barking Friends Forever)

Generally speaking, Chaya is one of the most resilient and enduring individuals that I've ever met. Whether it comes down to her personal or psychological health, her social activities or her studies, Chaya's enthusiasm and endurance are unparalleled. With regards to gevurah (which can be discipline, restraint, or even strength), Chaya has it in spades, starting running programs, creating Purim shpiels, or even most recently getting engaged! (YAY!). In her second year of rabbinical school, Chaya has a lot to juggle, but still manages to deal with her friends cross-country coming up with crazy blogging initiatives.

Chaya loves Ellie

In my own way, I look up to Chaya a lot--seeking out her strength and wisdom when I feel myself faltering in the fields of endurance (I give up much more easily than she does!) or getting excited about the potential for new ways of incorporating discipline in my life (I love my Passion Planner--even if I don't use it correctly!).  I think she won't even mind having a post that's a day or so late--because she knows that usually, the surprise is worth waiting for!

SURPRISE! Ellie sneak attacks!
To make a long post shorter (too late), we miss you Chai-T! Come back and visit us soon!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Gevurah

Later evening post due to an eventful day (tomorrow seems like it may be just as eventful!). Harmony, compassion, beauty in the field of discipline/restraint. A difficult balance to be sure; how does one maintain a strong sense of self and self-discipline while aiming to bring harmony, compassion and beauty to any situation? My post for Day 10 is dedicated to my amazing lunch buddy: Joe L-M.

Stolen from FB--but that's because oddly, we have no pics together!

First things first: Joe has taken my #BlogBOmer post challenge and amazed my by beating my posts on a 12-18 hour basis every day. He's come up with his own challenges within his post and most of his posts have a musical basis. Because that's the thing about Joe. When he sets his mind to something, he ACES it...with a bit of self-discipline, he brings beauty to almost every situation. (P.S. We're talking on Facebook right now and he doesn't even know he's being written about--don't you love technology?)

Joe is one of my regular personal Hillel go-tos (I have about 5-6 people that I message when I'm aiming to better myself professionally or personally within a professional sphere). I reach out to him when I'm stuck, confused, questioning, or when I just feel like amazing him with my comedic timing. Mostly, Joe and I stick together at Hillel professional gatherings--creating our own initiative: the lunch table games.

Being a Hillel professional is difficult--you're engaging in conversations and programming all day long while maintaining some semblance of sanity on very little sleep. When you head to Hillel conferences, you sometimes meander back to the high school lunch table days--where do I sit? Who do I know? Wait...they seem to be meeting about something--I can't sit there! Joe and I discussed the many people we saw wandering and looking for a place to sit and thus created the lunch table games. Whenever we saw anyone looking, we invited them to sit with us. Our table got too full? We moved to another table. That table got too full? We added another table to our original table. Our theory was that our conversation was never more important than someone's sense of belonging.
A bit of compassion coupled with the discipline to keep it going has resulted in many full breakfast/lunch/dinner tables (and an epic birthday celebration for Joe in Orlando!). More importantly, it's helped us to build relationships by making sure we emulate in our personal professional lives what we hope our students will do in their daily lives. We reach out to others with a simple gesture--and from that moment, build on creating sustaining relationships in the field. 

And just for Joe, I'll end this post with a music video. Joe, this is how I feel whenever we're together buddy!

Monday, April 13, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Gevurah

By the time I write this, I'll be caught up [I usually write my posts during the day of the Omer and so while technically it's the NEXT day of the Omer already; this goes out to Day #9: Gevurah B'Gevurah or Discipline & Restraint in the area of Discipline & Restraint. I've been thinking about people who are SUPER disciplined in their lives and so this one is inspired by and dedicated to my former and forever teacher: Jon K.

100% stolen from Facebook (Photo Cred: JOFA)
When I first started my time at Drisha Institute, I was asked to participate in a summer program to get myself better prepared for my year-long studies as a Yesodot [anyone remember this word? Yesod? Foundation!] student. From my first day wearing a sleeveless shirt [1. It was 100 degrees, 2. I never did it again], I realized that I was an odd-ball in the yeshiva: a Reform Jewish woman who had no real experience learning Jewish texts but who had a weird knack for language and a huge affinity for accepting challenges. 

Jon took this all in stride. As my Talmud teacher, he pushed me to work hard, appreciating my tables for decoding my tractate pages, color-coded notes, and lists of most-used Aramaic words. He was supportive of my inability to sit still during afternoon lectures and let me doodle or stand or leave and come back, as long as I was proving that my mind was still on the work. If we argued over perspectives or views, he explained patiently (and maybe laughed quietly when I stubbornly refused to give way). When it came to my second summer at Drisha, I studied hard.

Surprisingly I tested into an intermediate Drisha level and into Jon's full-time morning Talmud class. Morning classes were easier for me to sit through because they were split into three different timed sessions. Regardless, Jon pushed me again to work hard, to make sure that I earned my place in the intermediate level. He often quoted the ideal that we should repeat a tractate 101 times in order to make sure we really understood it. He challenged us to memorize Mishnah tractates (I sang mine to the tune of the Can-can). His discipline was one of love and caring (back to chesed) for us and for Torah...but also one of realizing the importance of the discipline in studying Torah, Talmud, and Halacha. 

While I may not have opened a Hebrew book in a minute or so, I hope Jon would be happy to know that my mishnayot and Talmuds came out to Oregon with me...and at some point, I will work again on remembering Aramaic, studying words, and decoding. Discipline doesn't have to be a negative word; it just means sticking to your commitments and putting your best efforts forward.

And as a farewell for this post to Jon--an appropriate:


#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Gevurah

Still belated, but hoping to get back on track at some point. This post, based on Acts of Loving Kindness in the realm of Discipline/Restraint goes out to my 2013-2014/2014-2015 Oregon Hillel Student Leadership Boards (including Laura! --who was in Mexico!).

Last night, at our Board meeting we discussed this topic: I asked the board to describe a time were they had to put a restraint on their kindness. At first there was some opposition, it seemed strange that you would randomly stop yourself from being kind. Slowly, though we explored the idea and each board member came up with a time that they chose to stop being kind.

Generally speaking, when we put a restriction on acts of loving-kindness or increased our discipline towards loved ones, it's because something isn't working anymore. What you'd like to see happening in your mind's eye isn't quite equal to what's in front of you. Sometimes it's a matter of asking for help. Sometimes it's a matter of getting an outside perspective (ask your students' advice sometime--their insights are incredible!). Sometimes it's a matter of having the hard conversations and getting down to business.

I struggle with finding the balance between kindness and discipline: often feeling that when I err on one side or the other, I face a consequence I'm not really happy with. Too much kindness and you might take on too much work on your own. Too much discipline and the event may not happen to begin with. Finding the middle ground is key, but how?

I find that the balance (albeit a new challenge to myself) lies in having the difficult conversations. The discussions about expectations and whether they've been met (or more importantly, understood). The debates over good ideas, great ideas, bad ideas, and questioning why some ideas never made it to the conversation to begin with. When working with any board, you're dealing with varying perspectives and personalities. While it's impossible to please everyone all the time, it's imperative that everyone at the table has the potential to participate, to speak up, to put down their own discipline, to set up their own accountability. Working in a team involves patience and partnership, but also a decent amount of communication and cooperation.

Luckily, with each group I work with, I learn a little bit more about how to find that balance between discipline and acts of loving-kindness. I thank my two boards for teaching me every day. Strong work, team. Thanks for the memories!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Chesed

A little late, but as I've hashtagged #itsmyomerandIllblogwhenIwantto, For day 7, the theme was Malchut B'Chesed or Sovreignty/Leadership in Acts of Loving Kindness. It's a theme in which I struggle (you'll find this in most of my Malchut posts) as I'm constantly revamping/revisioning what leadership style I feel most comfortable in. However, this post goes out to someone who constantly amazes me through her willingness to take on new and uncomfortable situations in seeking out a greater good--to one of my best friends and sisters-by-choice: Ashley M!

 Ashley & I in January 2010 in Philly!

Yesterday (Saturday, the day this was the focus for) I felt a little overwhelmed. Starting the day off with an hour and a half yoga class, I walked into a 12 hour day full of cooking, running around, and Hillel kitchen-time. [Make no mistake: I love all of this, but 12 hours is hard for anyone!] Ashley posted this morning (Sunday) about her adventures in Malawi including learning a new language, lighting fires, cooking, and impressing her Malawian family so much that they claimed her as one of her own. Oh, you mean I didn't mention that Ashley is a PEACE CORPS volunteer for the next 2 years in a foreign country and decided to do this all on her own? Oh. Whoops. 

But that's the type of person that Ashley is: a go-getter, an adventure-seeker, and someone who always goes above and beyond to be kind and to do good in the world. She is a leader without trying to be, constantly able to navigate a difficult situation or help find the best route to get to a place on the Las Vegas strip. When I met Ashley in Philly (pic above!), it wasn't long before our friendship grew for her to get a key to our house, do laundry there, and take the Ells-bells to the dog park (and introduce her as her dog!). Since then, countless phone calls, visits, debates, discussions and one amazing girls-trip to Las Vegas (shout out to Colleen who doesn't have a Facebook!), I couldn't be more excited to look up to Ashley as someone who's mastered this idea of leadership through acts of loving-kindness.

 Four and a half years later in Eugene, OR (Photo cred: Andi G.)

While I'm not sure when the next time I'll see Ashley (maybe, maybe in Malawi...but we'll see), but as she's about to get placed--my hope is MAYBE, she'll see this post before she goes somewhere and does awesome things for the next TWO YEARS. I'm so proud of you sweet girl and so lucky to be your friend. 

Love you Ash-e-lee! :-)

Friday, April 10, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Chesed

Yesod is yes, a word for bonding, but also a word for foundation. Chesed, as we've learned this week is the ability to perform acts of loving kindness. While working on my physical yesod this morning at yoga (my first one post-recovery!), I was thinking about the three aspects of yoga that our teacher wanted us to concentrate on: discipline, breathing, and the ability to let go. While clearing my mind at the end of the session, it kept wandering back to today's post. Would I have the discipline to write it? Breath was now the easy part (after months of trying to figure out why breathing was so difficult, I had gone through my first class and done just fine!). Letting go of the business of my thoughts was the difficult part. What would I write about? Taking time for myself (yesod as foundation)? Spending time with other people (yesod as bonding)?

And then my Facebook flooded with the daily news: National Sibling Day. And so it hit me: I could write about both: a foundation, bonding, acts of loving-kindness all wrapped into one. This post is inspired by and dedicated to the class act that came 4 years (minus 2 weeks) before me and helped pave the way: my big brother, ABW or Adam W.

Always supportive of his little sister--GO DUCKS! (Photo Cred: ME!)
I have grown up with the unique ability to irritate my older brother. With the exception of my mom, he's tied for knowing me the longest with the Dad. He knows what annoys me, what nicknames I hate and love (and created my first AOL screenname with his own nickname ShortyAKW1), and how hard to flick before I cry out for help (P.S. not too hard, because I usually sell him out quickly). In turn, I hear stories [may be able to corroborate the truth in them] about how I pretended not to hear him, how I pushed back, and any numerous things that I've done to annoy, irritate, or otherwise bother my big brother. In return I got love, WWE moves practiced on me, and a silent mutual agreement over who was crazy or not in our house.
BUT, before I was even born, Adam was pretty sure about my foundation. According to our mother, he'd walk around and tell everyone that would listen (while pointing at my mother's stomach) "That's my sister!". When they challenged him that he might be wrong, he adamantly disagreed. "That's MY SISTER!" He was right. He's right a lot. Any time that I would be anxious, scared, unsure...Adam was pretty sure, self-aware and confident in my ability to find my own direction, to do better, to push myself. Whether standing up for me on a bus, standing up for me to mom and dad, or standing up for me whether I was right or wrong, Adam was always there--and a pretty great guy to have around most of the time. 

While we don't get to see each other often, Adam's still one of the first people I call when things are terrifying me: job rejections, test results (I failed my first driving test, he was very supportive--though mentioned to tell me that he passed his on the first time!), or finding out that my pneumonia had relapsed. My first reaction was always to panic first and then reason it out in my head. His first reaction was always to take a deep breath, bear down, laugh about it, and then get it taken care of. He's incredibly kind and supportive of me, while ensuring I know that I can do more than I even think that I'm capable of. 

At his wedding (shout out to Gabby!) I was entrusted to give a speech in front of a room full of people at their rehearsal dinner--not always my favorite thing to do. Everyone kept asking me what I was going to talk about--and I wasn't really sure, not until I got up there (sorry guys!) of what I was going to say. I decided to go with the truth--starting off with my favorite truth of Two Truths and a Lie--that people ask me continuously if we're identical twins (which is problematic as he's four years older...and a boy). After a few minutes of laughter, jokes, and honest reflection about Adam and Gabby, I sat down--not caring so much about the speech, but happy that I had made my brother proud. 

People bond in strange ways: siblings bond through strange happenings. Regardless, pretty happy to have you as a big bro ABW, and thought you ought to know it. After all I've been looking up to you since Day 1 (you've always been taller than I am)!!! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Chesed

I have always erred when it comes to humility: either I take upon too much (I am a serial apologizer and struggle mightily with compliments [and criticism]) or I fake a decent bravado ("I'm awesome!"). Meanwhile, I've also struggled with finding someone fitting to dedicate this post to (in case, you haven't caught on yet, I'm aiming to dedicate each post to someone who I believe embodies the quality of the day--49+ people that I aim to emulate!). I've decided that for today I'm going to go with the FIRST person that I shared this #BlogBOmer initiative with (she was the first one invited before it got made public!) humility in acts of loving kindness is inspired by and dedicated to the one, the only Felicia L.

Laughing at your latest "Bye Felicia" joke--(Photo Cred: Stolen from Facebook)
Being a Hillel professional is challenging in itself--but being one of the trio that runs the Hillel Mentorship Initiative (shout outs to Brian and Jenna!) is more challenging. The thought, energy, and effort that goes into matching mentees with good mentors is incredible (I should know...I'm already eagerly anticipating next year's mentorship sign-up list). Felicia does it all: creates programs, offers advice, shares in the glee of exclamation points (!!!), shares Facebook initiatives (sup #BlogBOmer) and does it all with an incredible sense of humility.
While she's one of the first people at a professional conference to make a great point or lend a hand or set something up, she's also never one of the first people to talk about herself. Felicia is usually the one that you can see doing chesed: pushing others to the spotlight, cheering on friends' successes, and giving presenters compliments post-sessions. It's one of my favorite times of the day to either share a meal or take a break with her, hearing her insights. For Felicia, it's not about the acknowledgement, but about the action: doing what needs to get done and doing it with a smile.

I aspire to be more like that--to laugh when the going gets tough, put my head down and get 'er done. I love seeing others put a spotlight on their greatness--and helping them expand on that. With time, effort, and inspiration, I hope to be able to grow a bit more in this area of humility within acts of loving kindness, this hod b'chesed. And because it wouldn't be awesome without it--- 

#BlogBOmer #Hod #Chesed #Humility #LovingKindness #JokesforDays

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Chesed

I am ENDURING in continuing to Blog. Normally around Day 4 or 5 of any challenge, I lose patience and interest...but since this one is mine, I'm pushing myself to do better. Endurance in Acts of Loving-Kindness. This post is dedicated to and inspired by the sisters of Sigma Mu Omega.

Greek life is fun. So I hear. Greek life is tough. So I hear. Greek life is family. This I know.

 Me with two incredible Sigma sisters in Israel (Photo Cred: Moran?)

In all reality, I was never in Greek life while I was in college, though I attempted to rush (my GPA was too comment on this was that I proved to be too dumb to be in Greek life) during my sophomore year (shout outs to Jackie I & Jo F who went through the experience with me). But my experience with it at UO is incredible. I'm amazed constantly about the hard work, relationship-building, conflict resolution, and time management that's involved in maintaining a working (let alone thriving) Greek system. And it's impressive.

Sigmas at their annual Beach Retreat (Photo Cred UNKNOWN)

To endure may mean to "suffer something (difficult or painful) patiently." You do a lot of that within any working family: fights happen, someone's feelings get hurt, decisions are made that you don't agree with. In my own family, my mom worked out an incredible electoral process: in any family decision my brother and I each got 1 vote (which were equally counted!), my father got 2 votes, and Mom got 5 votes. BOOM--decision made. In Greek families, it's no different: while you may get to "choose" your family, once they're your family, that's a bond that you can have for life. All of the ups and downs fade away and what's left is the relationship. The sorority or organization construction could disappear and you'd still have an incredible group of amazingly caring, considerate, and communicative women. That's also endurance: the ability to last through any challenge that may arise.

I'm lucky. Because Sigma Mu Omega chose me to be in their lives, to be a part of their enduring family. I get to experience the personal endurance (the challenges, conversations, and conflicts) and the organizational endurance (the smiles, the simchas, the support). These are the girls who message me with "Everything's okay, but..." or send me photos...or come by tabling. These are the women who inspire strong conversations about daily struggles, my misunderstanding of how the Greek system works (I'm learning daily), and how to build a more cohesive and cooperative community both in and outside of the sorority. When Ellie had emergency cancer, they are the ones who gave her the gift of Melvin the Moose (who she still loves, ask Katie!), who gave her pull-toys, who still give her squeezes, scratches, and love. [When I was sick, I got flowers and notes and love too!]

Look at them! Aren't they great? (Photo Cred: Carolyn's Self Timer?)

These are the women who will be the leaders of the future. And I honestly believe that their endurance, their faith, their belief in themselves will continue to be proven through their constant acts of loving-kindness towards each other, towards Hillel, and towards the larger community in which they live.

#BlogBOmer #Sisterhood #Sigmas #Netzach #Chesed

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Chesed

Harmony/Compassion (and some say beauty) in acts of loving kindness...this post is inspired by and dedicated to: Shiran H.

Photo Cred: Shiran
There is nothing quite so terrifying as being told that you're going to be glued to the hip with someone for ten-twelve straight days while maintaining the health, safety, and sanity of forty students, eight Israeli soldiers, and one tenacious tour guide (all of our love to you Ran!). You very quickly need to find a balance when realizing that you'll be spending the entire night in the airport with your co-staff and when you find out that your itinerary has you on your feet and out of the hotels for almost every hour between 6 AM and 12 AM.
Almost a year ago, Shiran and I were both put in this position--two staff members that tend to err on the side of control freaks...err responsibility...while maintaining that our students should have the most memorable and fun trip of their lives. We barely knew each other, save for the fact that we're two hours apart and headed into this trip with perceptions of each other that weren't quite accurate. Our first night in Israel, we decided to clear the air and talk out everything to make sure we were on the same page--little did I know that a two and a half hour conversation where both of aimed to have a bit of compassion for the other would set the tone for the entire trip! Be it dealing with irate hotel staff or insensitive rabbinate members (or hangry tour educators who we fed Laffy Taffy to), we continuously found a balance, a harmony through kindness, humor, and teamwork.

This harmony and balance has continued into our regular daily lives as well. When I became very ill this winter, Shiran was on the phone with me when I couldn't sleep (and couldn't breathe) checking in almost every day via text message and now it's rare for us to go more than a few days without talking [it's already been 3 or 4 now and I miss her already!]. We listen to each other's problems, joys, and discuss/debate dilemmas, helping each other come to appropriate solutions (or at least to see a different perspective). Through our phone calls, Facebook posts (she never goes on Facebook, we'll see if she sees this!), threats on my life (mostly jokes, I think), I find some harmony at the end of each day--acts of loving kindness don't need to be large, they just need to be real. 

The beauty in Shiran's heart, her compassion, and her acts of loving kindness are what make her an incredible Israel fellow and an even better friend. 

אני אוהבת אותך אחותי

#BlogBOmer #Tiferet #Chesed #TalkAboutWhatCounts