Full Circle: The Rashi Purim Tamchui Project

Grade 3 with the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura

An Unlikely Request It's not every day that the director of a nationally touring orchestra personally requests to perform in the auditorium of a Reform Jewish K-8 Independent School - or any school, for that matter. When Rashi parent Anna Levy was contacted by Favio Chávez, director of the Orquesta de Reciclados de Cateura, she jumped at his offer to visit The Rashi School for a private concert. You may recall stories of this inspirational orchestra composed of children and adolescents living in the community of Bañado Sur, a village located around the Cateura landfill in Asuncion, Paraguay. Since stories of their inspirational work spread, the "Recycled Orchestra of Catuera" has played symphony halls and arenas, been special presenters at international social justice forums, business summits, … [Read more...]

NFTY Convention Youth Summit, 2015: Blowing the Roof off in Atlanta with Hope, Challenge and Double Espressos

NFTY Convention 2015 - Opening Night Celebration; photo courtesy NFTY.

By Julie Fingersh Want to feel hopeful about the future of the Jewish people? Land yourself in downtown Atlanta at the URJ NFTY Convention and Youth Summit Weekend. Sit back and watch “The Big Moment,” when 3,500 NFTY and BBYO teens from all corners of North America and beyond nearly blow the roof off the Hyatt with their energy, joy and conviction. Feel old and proud as you watch these teens celebrate, learn, pray, sing and agenda-set their way towards changing the world. … [Read more...]

What’s the Cure for an Immunity to Change?

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By Rabbi Joshua Rabin A few years ago, Professors Charlotte and Patrick Markey published a study in the Journal of Health Psychology about how often people searched for information on Google about weight loss programs. The researchers found that Google searches for keywords such as “diet” or “Weight Watchers” increased roughly 29 percent every year from December until the end of January, and then fell every month until the end of the following year, at which point the process would repeat. The statistical trends in this study confirm what most of us already suspect, that one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions falls into the category of something many of us claim to want to change, yet consistently fail to do. As someone who works in the Jewish community, I’m involved in a lot of … [Read more...]

To Thrive – A Response to Making Parents Feel Heard

By Rabbi Joshua Fenton In a recent blog post by Chavie Kahn, To Thrive, Day Schools Need to Make Parents Feel Heard, the case was made for greater engagement of parents in day schools through the solicitation of regular feedback. The argument was a sound one. When parents say great stuff about our schools their friends listen. The best kind of marketing is grassroots; the best kind of marketing is word of mouth. And this is really true. For a while now the for-profit world has understood that long-term satisfaction is best measured through an individual’s willingness to stand by a brand. In a 2003 Harvard Business Review article, The One Number You Need to Grow, Fredrick Reichheld explained that “…the percentage of customers who were enthusiastic enough to refer a friend or colleague - perhaps … [Read more...]

What About an Inclusive Jewish Gap Year Program?

By Stephanie Millman Smerling Over the past decade, gap year programs in Israel have become increasingly popular. In fact, MASA Israel Journey’s website lists 160 gap year offerings for students between high school and college from the North American Jewish community. What’s more, many colleges and universities are now encouraging future students to take a year off, finding that those who take this opportunity arrive for their freshman year more mature and ready to learn. Yet, as I learned from personal experience, if you are a young Jewish adult with cognitive and social challenges, there are few if any gap-year options available. Two of my daughters were able to participate in a transformative gap year in Israel. But the other, who has some learning and social challenges, was told there … [Read more...]

Helping the Homeless through Socks

Adina Lichtman handing out socks to those in need

By Adina Lichtman Let’s start with the basics: Why socks? To those of us who are fortunate enough not to be homeless, it’s a reasonable question. After all, we often see people asking for food, for money - but never for socks. But sometimes it’s the smallest things, the things we rarely take the time to think about, that can be most important. A few months ago, I was handing out sandwiches to people experiencing homelessness in NYC when one man approached me. "It's great that you're giving out sandwiches,” he said, “but one thing we really need is socks, especially as winter approaches." Here I was, sandwiches in hand, assuming I knew the best way to help people. In reality, helping is about listening, and hearing the needs of different communities. It was a powerful lesson, and I wanted to … [Read more...]

Never Before, Never Again

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For those of us deeply engaged in Jewish life, as lay leaders or professionals, it is no longer “business as usual.” By Sandy Cardin It has been almost 25 years since I became a Jewish professional, a stunningly long time from virtually every perspective. And while it is hard to remember much from the early 1990s, I recall feeling a sense of optimism as an American, as a Jew and as a Zionist. The world seemed poised for unprecedented peace and prosperity; the Berlin wall had been dismantled, the shackles had been removed from Soviet Jewry and the first Oslo Accord had been signed. Indeed, Francis Fukuyama suggested in The End of History and the Last Man (1992) that: “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, … [Read more...]