By Matt Weiner
My life moves at a pretty non-stop pace this time of year. As an assistant camp director for JCC Camp Chi in Chicago, my busy season is wrapping up, but only to leave a mountain of information, feedback, and lost and found to process as quickly as possible before the cycle of preparing for next summer begins anew. Somewhere in all of this I also need to find the time to catch up with the family and friends that I have basically neglected for the last 3 months, make sure my apartment is still in one piece, get caught up on Game of Thrones, and figure out what moves have been made in the offseason by my beloved sports teams. Oh, and maybe I will take a nap too. But take time to intentionally reflect? No, that will have to wait for … er … another time I guess.
I have a hunch that I am not the only one in a situation similar to this. Maybe you / your kids are gearing up for a new school year, or maybe life just feels like a constant sprint year-round. You go and go and go, and then all of the sudden, it is Rosh Hashanah: a holiday where we stop and reflect on the year we just finished and what we hope for in the year to come. But are we doing the work we need to do leading up to the holiday to actually put ourselves in a position to be truly open?
There are a number of sources in the Jewish world that provide prompts, discussion platforms and other “food for thought” avenues to their communities during this upcoming month of Elul, but there are few that promote or can provide space for introspection. Additionally, many Jewish millennials, myself included, tend to be hesitant to join congregations and the like due to lack of funding or just lack of connection and/or access. My Jewish identity lives primarily from the months of June through September while I am at camp, or in the occasional Shabbat dinner I host with friends in my apartment in Chicago. I don’t have the time to commit to much else.
Heading into the high holiday season last year, I remember having this conversation with Rabbi Dan Horwitz – a good friend and former Moishe House colleague now running a project in Metro Detroit called The Well. We were talking about how fast life seemed to be moving. He and his wife had their first child, I was in a major work transition and not sure where life was going to be taking me. It was all happening without me having the time to really process any of it. He asked what I was doing for Rosh Hashanah and I responded something along the lines of “Wait that is coming up too? Ugh; I have no time for ANYTHING anymore!” That is when he told me that The Well was going to try a month-long social media challenge of introspection leading up to Rosh Hashanah, called #TheWell30Days. It mimicked the #365grateful, #loveyourspousechallenge, and other similar social media ventures that went viral so quickly. eJewishPhilanthropy actually ran an op-ed by Dan about it ahead of time. When he pitched me this idea, I knew it was a keeper, and so I participated (along with dozens of others from all around the world!).
So, this year, in an attempt to scale up and take this project to the next level, Dan reached out to me and a number of our fellow former Moishe House colleagues (we loved working together and this has been an amazing chance to reconnect from all across the country!), and we’ve rebranded the project as #Reflect4Rosh. This group of former colleagues/current friends are owning this movement in our free time to inspire Elul intentionality worldwide. It is 3 simple steps and here is how it works:
Step 1: Stop. Take a moment beginning September 4th each day until Rosh Hashanah, whether it is the same time every day, on your commute to and from work, when you wake up in the morning, or when you are walking your dog at night. Just stop for a beat. Take a breath. In through your nose, hold it for a second or two, and then exhale through your mouth. Repeat.
Step 2: Reflect. During this time, take a moment and think back on your year. What was amazing? What was less than stellar? What were the unexpected surprises that took your breath away? Where were some areas where you took a big step forward as a person? What are the areas ripe for self-improvement? Who do you need to apologize to? Who do you need to forgive?
Step 3: Share. Each day, post a thought, or a picture, or something relevant to your moment of introspection to the social media outlet of your choice. Follow that post with the hashtag #Reflect4Rosh, which will allow all of our posts worldwide to be linked together.
When participating last year, on some days, I realized that my 2-3 minutes of intentional introspection yielded deep thoughtful goals for the year. Some days I just realized how much I truly respect Chicago style pizza, or how awesome a new band I had been listening to really was.
With the success of last year’s campaign, we are incredibly excited to see what this could become. We encourage you to participate and share this opportunity with your community. At the end of the month, we hope to curate an incredible and unique collection of thoughts, aspirations, goals, regrets and apologies, and reflections to bring people around the world together during this High Holiday season. In addition to using #Reflect4Rosh, please feel to create your own hashtag for your own specific community, so that you can reflect within your local network as well as participate in the global one we are fostering.
Looking for more details / a short and easy description of the 3 steps to share with others? Visit meetyouatthewell.org/reflect4rosh
I as well as hopefully scores of people around the country and world (including you!) will be posting daily reflections. Whether or not you do, I wish you a month of fulfillment leading up to a happy, healthy, sweet, and most of all intentional year ahead! #Reflect4Rosh
Matt Weiner is the Assistant Director of JCC Camp Chi, and the former Midwestern Regional Director for Moishe House.
The #Reflect4Rosh team, all former Moishe House staff teammates, also includes Rebecca Bar, Michael Gropper, Rabbi Dan Horwitz, Roey Kruvi, Martin Storrow, and Tessa Wells.