The Jewish Community Should Walk

By Sherri W. Morr

Just recently I joined a senior group, Chai Village LA. Among their programs, caring services, and activities they have a weekly 2.2 mile walk around a park in Los Angeles. At 8:15 in the morning. In LA one can walk almost daily, never fearing ice or snow. Aside from fresh air and exercise I have appreciated the value of walking and conversing as an added boom to how to interact with people, learn about them, and have uninterrupted dialogue … a new skill for an older person like myself.

My involvement came about as a result of a walk. I reached out to Rabbi Laura Geller a well-known and highly regarded rabbi in Los Angeles and beyond, and co-founder of Chai Village LA. I have known of her and her accomplishments as a dynamic rabbi, a spokesperson for women’s rights forever, and more recently attention to seniors and keeping us independent and vibrant, but I had never had a one on one meeting with her. When I contacted her to meet she suggested a walk rather than a meeting in a physical space. I immediately thought well gee that’s unusual for me, how will I write anything down, take notes to be able to recall what we discussed.

But walk we did, for about an hour, getting to know each other as well as discussing my desire to possibly become involved in Chai Village LA as a member and active volunteer. Almost 2 months later I am just that … an active member and volunteer. I was so welcomed; I so appreciated the kindness and vetting, it’s hard to believe it all came about because of a walk.

Thus the Jewish Community should definitely walk more! I think back to my walking with the rabbi and no interruptions except occasional bird chirping, and no presence of electrical devices, the walking truly allowed me to focus. It reminds me of stories of Harold Grinspoon founder of the Grinspoon Foundation, innovator of the PJ Library and other outstanding Jewish support. He is well known for taking walks with his staff, potential funders, as well as others. His belief in being in our great outdoors decreases the usual disruptions and distractions to a productive dialogue. Aside from perhaps watching where you are walking, one is truly able to listen to the conversation. Responding comes with quiet reserve and I am convinced more thoughtful and even profound. On a walk because you listen more intently your recall is greatly improved.

Being a bit of a foodie the idea of planned walks for Jewish involvement reminds me of the early days of food trucks that would put an announcement on a few social media sites and then we would know where to find our favorite truck. Very important information in order to avoid long lines to receive savory tacos at lunch.

The walk meetings I would like to suggest can be more focused/precise, or just show up at a time and place, similar to a park boot camp. One sticks to a few important issues but also because of the freedom of being outside one can be more creative, more bold to even suggest wild and crazy ideas, not intimidated facing someone eye ball to eye ball.

I see a future of walking with new prospects telling them new information, trying to close a donation, or acceptance of involvement for more dedicated leadership. I can project for example a federation walk in a forest to recruit mission participants for Israel travel; I can see Jewish camp directors walking with prospective donors to help kids have a terrific summer and maybe even pick up a few tips on staying Jewish. I can see social justice agencies bringing a few people together to walk and discuss interfaith dialogues so sorely missing from our Jewish agenda. Because of late I am particularly interested and concerned with retention and recruitment of strong Jewish community professionals I can imagine crafting a walk with senior organizational staff to discuss professional development to show our community of professionals how valued they really are opposed to just thanking them for often working 24/7.

The list is endless. The concept is simple, name a date, place, time and encourage a hat, good walking shoes, and then just show up.

What I love most about this idea is the concept came from a senior group. Some people say the boomers are finished, and do not understand our current population, or their needs. Hmmmm … not so fast folks!

Sherri has spent the last several decades working & consulting in and out of the Jewish community as an expert in nonprofit management. Most Recently she was the Director for the West Coast for the American Society of University of Haifa. Prior to this she was director for the Western States for 12 years at Jewish National Fund.