Posts Tagged ‘Passover’

 

Want to Advance understanding of American and Israeli Jewry? Think Networks!

Posted on: April 28th, 2014 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

I returned from Israel a week ago after spending Passover in Jerusalem. It’s not so bad to be able to purchase kosher for Passover take-out food for Seder and have the option of eating out at restaurants during that week! Those are very different experiences than I would have in Minneapolis or most other Jewish communities in the United States. But within only 24 hours of my return, Israel was brought right back into my living room in three powerful ways:
 
1. A very close friend of mine described the terror of being in Sederot in Southern Israel with his family, when a “Red Alert” rocket warning sounded. He described the immediate anxiety of knowing that Hamas-fired rockets hit, and the general anxiety of not knowing when the next ones would.
 
2. A news story described a program called Dancing in Jaffa in which young Palestinians and Israeli children were learning how to dance together, and the positive social impact this initiative was having on them and their families But as a part of the story, one of the interview clips that they showed was a 10-year-old Israeli girl saying, “My father would kill me if you knew that I was friends with a Palestinian.”
 
3. And the news that wasn’t news to anyone following: The collapse of “peace talks” between Israelis and Palestinians, with Palestinians blaming Israelis for continued West Bank settlement expansion (correctly) and Israelis stating a powerful truth: a unity government of Fatah and Hamas, with Hamas’s avowed destruction of Israel, is a deal-breaker.
 
Israel_and_Palestine_PeaceHow do you ever convey to American Jews the vibrancy and complexity of Jewish life in Israel, and is there a way to help Israelis understand that while the American Jewish community is clearly confronted by demographic challenges, Jewish life in America is thriving in many ways?
 
Here’s my take away from my visit: don’t only think “programs,” think networks. It’s time to do a network mapping project of the existing groups of Jewish Israelis and Americans who spend or have spent decent chunks of time in one another’s respective communities. Currently, we don’t have visual maps of just how many different networks there are of Israelis who get to know American Jewish communities, and Americans who get to know Israel on the deeper level.
 
Who are the Americans who regularly visit Israel and who are the Israelis who visit America regularly? For example, from the American side, businesses people and investors (who may or may not be Jewish), academics, students who spend a gap year in Israel, families who host Israeli scouts or develop deep relationships with community shlichim, and of course, those with family in Israel. And on the Israeli side, journalists who who cover American jewelry, former Israeli citizens who still visit Israel regularly, community shlichim who work in a number of communities over a period of years, doctors who trained in the States and practice in Israel and to stimulate thinking about the existence of hidden networks–groups of individuals who exist already but don’t appear on any organizational chart–even Israeli airline personnel whose routes take them to the States frequently.
 
We have Israeli advocacy, educational and political organizations. We have programs. But we don’t have a clear understanding of the the likely large number of community bridge spanners, people who move between the Jewish American and Israeli communities. What would happen If we could identify these networks, create spaces for them to connect and nurture (not control) their interests? I have a feeling that these networks of bridge spanners are an asset waiting to be tapped that can help add a dimension of nuance to the often blunt, one-dimensional pictures that are used to describe our respective Jewish communities. Any thoughts? Please send them to me by clicking Contact on my website.

 

 

Jewish Cultural Affirmation: Great Intent, Misguided Action

Posted on: December 16th, 2013 by Hayim Herring No Comments

 

 

First, thank you to Steven M. Cohen and Kerry Olitzky once again for opening up a wide space for conversation about the future of the American Jewish community. These two prominent observers and activists of Jewish life continue to challenge us with unconventional thinking. With regard to their idea of Jewish Cultural Affirmation as a new option for formal identification with the Jewish people, great intent, but misguided action. Here’s why:

 

The Jewish people worldwide as an entity is already fractured by competing definitions of Jewish status. Why compound the confusion?

 

Seriously—how possible will it be to gain agreement by a group of scholars upon the canon of knowledge and experiences required for Jewish Culture Affirmation? A definition by one group will spawn a number of alternative and likely contradictory ones, creating disputes among self-appointed Cultural Certifiers, and casting doubts on the bona fides of graduates of these self-guided programs.

 

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A Call to Action: Make Jewish Learning a Global Seder

Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by Hayim Herring

One of the characteristics of free people is their ability to ask questions. The more free we feel, the bigger the questions we’re able to ask. In the spirit of Pesach, the quintessential celebration of freedom, here are a few big questions that seem appropriate for a holiday in which learning about our identity as a people is so central.

 

What would happen if we created a true revolution for adult learners who want to learn about the Jewish civilization – those who are Jewish and those who are not Jewish? What are the implications for the global Jewish community and for the world if we created universal access to Jewish learning? Theoretically, we actually have the technologies to do so. We can take the model of massive online open courses (MOOCs) to create a revolution in learning about Judaism, for anyone who is interested. Academics and qualified instructors who teach Judaics around the globe, from topics as varied as Jewish medieval history to Jewish mysticism, could be recruited into the ranks of MOOCs teachers. We know that there’s an interest in learning about things Jewish. Just look at the phenomenon of daf yomi (those who commit to studying a page of Talmud daily), or websites as diverse as MyJewishlearning.com to Jerusalem Online University. (more…)

A Call to Action: Make Jewish Learning a Global Seder

Posted on: March 21st, 2013 by Hayim Herring

One of the characteristics of free people is their ability to ask questions. The more free we feel, the bigger the questions we’re able to ask. In the spirit of Pesach, the quintessential celebration of freedom, here are a few big questions that seem appropriate for a holiday in which learning about our identity as a people is so central.

What would happen if we created a true revolution for adult learners who want to learn about the Jewish civilization – those who are Jewish and those who are not Jewish? What are the implications for the global Jewish community and for the world if we created universal access to Jewish learning? Theoretically, we actually have the technologies to do so. We can take the model of massive online open courses (MOOCs) to create a revolution in learning about Judaism, for anyone who is interested. Academics and qualified instructors who teach Judaics around the globe, from topics as varied as Jewish medieval history to Jewish mysticism, could be recruited into the ranks of MOOCs teachers. We know that there’s an interest in learning about things Jewish. Just look at the phenomenon of daf yomi (those who commit to studying a page of Talmud daily), or websites as diverse as MyJewishlearning.com to Jerusalem Online University.

Yes, the MOOCs movement is in its early infancy. It reminds me of where online learning was in the early 90’s-a “fad” that many wise people predicted would disappear. While online learning still has problems and limitations, I know personally how it can open worlds and relationships previously unimaginable (I enrolled in my doctoral program in business in 1996 at Capella University, a leader in online graduate learning). And the MOOCs movement is likely to follow a similar trajectory-a little bumpy at the beginning with overall exponential benefits.

Clearly, MOOCs don’t provide intimacy of experience as a seder or a face-to-face class does and there’s a lot to be said for synagogue and JCC adult education experiences. But these kinds of classes typically attract small numbers and the topics are limited in range. How would the world be different if we intentionally opened up the treasure of knowledge that we possess and made it universally accessible? What would the impact be on non-Jews if they could learn about the richness of Jewish thought, of Jewish communities, of the interaction of Jews and their broader cultures throughout history, especially in countries where there aren’t a lot of Jews?

One of Shakespeare’s characters in As You Like It, said that, “All the world’s a stage.” Let’s dream that “All the world’s a Seder” or “All the World’s a Classroom!” We have the potential to achieve “Jewish literacy” for adults across every continent, whether or not they are Jewish! Philanthropists, in concert with Jewish federations and the Government of Israel, have the opportunity to create a true revolution in Jewish learning. With the same creativity and resources that they’ve brought to initiatives like Birthright Israel:Taglit and Limmud, they could ensure global access to high-quality learning about the Jewish civilization to Jews and non-Jews across the globe. Any philanthropists up for the challenge? Any reactions to this idea?

Chag sameach!

cross-posted to EJewishPhilanthropy

My Zionist Heartthrob, My Zionist Headache

Posted on: April 18th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Olive Branch

From www.soil-net.com

I just returned from Yerushalayim, where I celebrated Pesach with a part of my family. Ayzeh niflah! It was a wondrous experience that I’ve now had three years in a row. In fact, even though my wife and I have been spending some serious time there more recently since we bought an apartment, I still get a spiritual adrenalin rush with each visit and feel my heart overflowing with love. But increasingly, I’ve also been getting an intellectual headache. Israel evokes religious and emotional resonance but is starting to provoke cognitive dissonance. I really felt this conflict during Pesach.

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Leaders Awaken Hope in Those Who Believe in Them

Posted on: April 4th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Seder Plate

from "tastytouring" on flickr

In my last blog post (“Don’t Imprison Your Hope for Change“), I raised the issue of how leaders in organizations sometimes impose restraints upon themselves that they later come to believe to be beyond their control. In other words, they actually participate in making themselves prisoners of their own inability to change their organizations.

If that’s correct, this observation also has a bearing upon one of the critical tasks of leaders. And that is to awaken the belief in the possibility of fundamental change in those who follow them. According to one rabbinic tradition, the Israelites are not ready to be redeemed by God  until they first demonstrate some initiative of their own. They have to perform some action that awakens their belief in the power to help shape their own destiny.

Great leaders do not impose their personal views on their constituents. Rather, they awaken the belief in the power of change in other individuals, and guide them toward a new future with love, support, challenge and patience.

Chag Kasher v’Sameach,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

Don’t Imprison Your Hope for Change

Posted on: March 29th, 2012 by Hayim Herring No Comments
Rusted Chain

from Peter van den Hamer on Fotopedia

What is the psychological process by which people who are free allow themselves to become subjugated by another? Sometimes the answer is clear: you wake up one morning and see a military patrol rolling down your street. But that’s not the case that interests me for the moment. What I would like to understand better is how people who are free gradually surrender some of their freedoms so that after a period of time, they can no longer recall what it means to be free.

That is one of the questions I’m thinking about as Passover approaches.

Classical rabbinic sources are replete with hypotheses on this question.  After all, the Israelites did not become slaves overnight.  Their enslavement was a process that took place over a long period of time until the erosion of freedom was complete.  There were clearly external forces that limited the Israelites’ freedom. But there were also inner forces that enabled their acceptance of these limitations.

Often, organizations and individuals confuse external restraints – those that are beyond their control – with inner restraints that they impose upon themselves.  They attribute their powerlessness, their inability to change their situation, to forces outside of themselves even though they still have more ability to act then they choose to admit.  They internalize these external restraints and over time may even make themselves prisoners of their own fears of using the power that they have to change their situation.

Whether you are a volunteer or professional leader, here’s a question to think about as you prepare for Passover: what situation in your organization do you actually have the ability to change, because you now recognize that what you thought were external constraints are actually self-imposed?

Chag Kasher v’Sameach,

Rabbi Hayim Herring