Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Want To Be Like Her/Him - Ideas for Goal Setting

Years ago, during a difficult time in my life, I received great advice, "When you walk into the room, scan the room.  When you see someone who reflects your future self or at least that one you want be, hang out with that person.  Odds are he or she has gone through similar things in life and can help guide you onto and within your own path."  That advice helped get me through some sad times.

And then I realized it was more than just great advice for a difficult time.  I began to use it as a guide for any situation where I was uncomfortable in the room.  I would scan the room to determine who seemed to have the confidence and the knowledge and I would sit right by them.  In the office, at meetings, it could be the speaker, the leader of the meeting, or simply putting myself in the front row so I can focus on the presentation.  

In social situations, it is often the person who is talking about a subject that interests me.  This "scan of the room" may take a little longer, but it is worth it.  Or I find myself with the person who is smiling the most.  This always works because I am often curious as to why others are happy or since they likely are sincere about these reasons for celebrating, who doesn't want to share in good news.

Truthfully, it comes down to this.  I don't want to waste time or the time of others.  Through my practice of meditation, I am mindful of using my time in the most productive and fulfilling way.  I want my experiences to have purpose and intent.  Over the years, as I have gained more confidence in myself, this practice is easy and I often know with whom I will look for before I even walk into either a meeting or a social situation.

This practice is similar to setting goals before every encounter.  Many people have different expressions for this - visualize, imagine yourself, set an agenda, goal setting, and create a plan.  It has helped provide me with a meaningful path in all areas of my life.  In my office, I use the world "clarity" as the focus point for all our discussions.  I've asked my staff to create for themselves a monthly intention.  With practice, this will allow everyone to come to the table with his or her thoughtful ideas to give themselves awareness of their own work ethic and what goals they actually want to accomplish.  I ask them to write 5-6 sentences about their Intention for the month.  One the same piece of paper, I ask them to use the 2nd half of the sheet as a place to write their own Reflections about past month.  During the last staff meeting of the month, we share our refections of the month and prepare for next month where will we repeat the process.

So far, it is proving effective - at least for me!  It helps me understand what goals I want to prioritize and it gives me the opportunity to be honest about what I could accomplish.

Good luck with accomplishing your goals!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Be Your Best and See the Best - Inspired by Joseph and Potiphar

Another Shabbat morning fills me with inspiring meditation and text study.  With the backdrop of Chapter 39 in the Torah, the striking connection for me was the power of seeing one's potential and nurturing one's professional development.   We read that Joseph is successful working for Potiphar.   The text says,

39,3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.  39,4 And Joseph found favour in his sight, and he ministered unto him. And he appointed him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.   
Abram, Simon (2012-01-21). Torah (Hebrew Bible) (Kindle Location 1219).  . Kindle Edition. 

I immediately connect this to my professional experience.  For me, Potiphar sees something special, something extra, more than just an employee completing tasks.  Maybe Potiphar sees Joseph's leadership skills, his ability to work well with others, his ability to keep his focus on the project and his strength and compassion in the workplace.  As a supervisor, colleague and mentor, I want to see the potential in others.  Isn't that the best way to create a positive work environment?  To know that you are leading a great team, that you can depend on your colleagues or that you know where to go when you need to be inspired, encouraged, and motivated - isn't that what gets you up in the morning?  It does for me.

As the Co-President of the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California (JCPSC), along with Saul Korin, I am proud to say that we continue to deepen our commitment to professional development.   In 2014, our JCPSC Conference inspired the next generation of Federation professionals to ask for more.  Today, they have created an in-house professional development program and excitement has grown as we all see the incredible possibilities for the future.  The desire to learn and hone skills is ageless which is what makes this new program fantastic.  Young and old, new to the field and seasoned executives are working together to build an internal corporate program that will engage all staff.  Learning from each other, teaching each other and offering support and encourage reinforces a team environment.  Employees from different departments are working together on this program and finding new ways to interact beyond the program either socially or to benefit their own productivity in a new way.  

We are already planning an exciting calendar of events for 2015.  Visit our website at JCPSC for membership information and upcoming events.  Like Potiphar, I will look for the potential in our staff  to nurture and guide them to be the best and like Joseph, I will work hard to be my own best self and serve the community.  

As we celebrate Hanukkah next week, I think about the candles glowing at night.  Each of us can be that candle with our work.  Work hard, enjoy what you do, and develop deeper partnerships so that everyone shines.  Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Let the Light In - Lessons from Shabbat

It is a beautiful Shabbat morning in Los Angeles and as I sat in shul, I noticed the light coming in from the windows.  I forgot that most Shabbat mornings I sit in the main sanctuary of our shul without windows.  In fact, most rooms in our shul are without windows.  Today I enjoyed looking at the sunny skies and the trees outside.

I'm sure it also helped that our room today was packed with community members all sharing in the light of our teens who were reading Torah today.  My daughter and her friends (part of our shul's Torah Club) made us all proud today as they led us in this morning's service.  As one who only started appreciating the benefits of prayer as an adult, I was deeply moved and continue to be charmed when I see our teens take on this kind of beautiful community participation.

As our Rabbi shared thoughts about Jacob and the masks we wear, I found it the perfect conversation as our teens put forth their best self today with great skill.  I'm sure that years from now in either this shul or some other far away from home, they will find comfort in their ability to participate in any prayer service, in any synagogue with any community.  What a beautiful thought for a parent.

Perhaps I only noticed the light outside when it was the emotional light inside that was making the impact on me.  Today is my dad's birthday and he passed away five year ago.  My daughter read Torah today in his memory and it was the perfect celebration.

Shabbat Shalom and let us all make our best effort to "be the light."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

To Tallit or Not to Tallit

Eighteen months ago, I bought several tallitot in Israel hoping that my husband, my daughter and I would all be draped and wrapped for her upcoming bat mitzvah.  My daughter picked the one she liked, my husband clung to the one he always wore, and mine sat in a drawer.  I wanted to wear it but I felt like an imposter.  I thought it was a sign that I was more observant that I am, followed more rituals than I did, or one might think I am more knowledgeable than I am and therefore might ask me to participate in a synagogue ritual that I am unable to perform.

And then, something shifted.  The desire to wear the tallit came strong during a conversation about egalitarian prayer.  How can a synagogue be truly egalitarian if men and women don't perform the same rituals?  How can I expect my daughter (or son) to want show up more, to learn more, to participate more if I don't do the same?

Some say, "What is the big deal?"  For me, it is the desire to be part of a community and not outside.  So I made myself a deal.  Even though I became a bat mitzvah almost 10 years ago as an adult, I still felt as though I hadn't earned it.  I decided to do some research about my Hebrew name Leah (see previous blog) and once I understood more about Leah, I could wrap myself in my tallit.  As I began to read about Leah (and I have so much more to do), I was struck by her connection to prayer.  And there was my moment, I may not know every ritual, speak Hebrew or even read all the prayers, but when I am in meditation or services, I am deeply connected spiritually to God and my community.  And to go one step further, I found a deep sense of connection within me to my whole being.  The tallit is now a symbol of my journey, a reflection of the work that I have done for myself that has brought me closer to God, my family and to my community.

Today in shul I wore my tallit.  I fumbled over the Hebrew prayer, but I recited it perfectly in English.  And it felt great. It felt natural.  It was my celebration and my alone.  And no one made a big deal, no one noticed (except my sweet husband who smiled when he saw me wearing it), and I was proud to be in this moment in time.

So what is the big deal?  The big deal is that for years the tallit belonged to others - men mostly.  And now mine is no longer sitting in the drawer.  My tallit means something to me - I'm wrapped in my family, my community, and my own learning.  And that is a big deal.

Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam
asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hitateif ba'tzitzit.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe,
who has sanctified us with commandments,
and commanded us to wrap ourselves in fringes.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה
אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך-הָעולָם
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָנוּ בְּמִצְותָיו
  לְהִתְעַטֵּף בַּצִּיצִית

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My Story As Leah

At 42, I studied to become a bat mitzvah.  At that time, the Rabbi asked me if I want to change my name to reflect the moment.  I thought about it as I had never really connected to my Hebrew name Leah.  As a believer that there are no coincidences and out of respect for my parents, I chose to keep my name.  The day was powerful enough as I released years of "missing out" when I read a few short lines of Torah surrounded by family and friends.

Curiosity of my name continued and I wanted to know, "Who was Leah?"  All I had read was the sad beginnings of her story, she had dim eyes, married a man who loved her sister, and she wanted her husband to love her.  And then I began to learn a little more about her.  With the birth of each child, Leah's spirituality grew.  Her desire to be loved by her husband was great, but it was her deepening connection to God that grew over time and drew me closer to her.

"The Rabbis are lavish in their praise of Leah. She was like the rafter of a house, on which the entire world rests; she was a prophet, and the names she gave her sons allude to each tribe’s future. The midrash asserts that from the day that God created His world, He was not praised by anyone until Leah came and said (Gen. 29:35): “This time I will praise the Lord.” This act was a positive example for her offspring, who learned from it, followed in her ways and also praised the Lord. "  JWA - Leah Midrash

I was happy to read this passage.  It states that Leah was the first to be written as one who praises God and she was a role model to her children.  While I too felt a deeper connection to something greater than myself after my children were born, I also became more vulnerable.  Following the birth of my second child, I worried about the world we lived in and had serious anxiety about my children's future.   Working in the Jewish community gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to feel as though I doing my part to solving some of our community's problems.  And then with time, I found Jewish meditation and Torah study.  It is how I learned to pray.  It became my way to "praise God."  My spirituality, my curiosity and my love of Judaism grow as I continue to devote my life to our community.  And it gives me even greater pride and joy that my children want to share this with me.

Through my work in the Jewish community and my commitment to our Jewish life, I have found a way to be Leah.  I have a lot more research to do about my name and today I am proud to continue sharing it with our matriarch.

Lessons from Meditation - Toldot

Over the past three years what I have learned most from meditation is that as I sit amongst my group, I am always in awe of our groups' diversity in experiences.  This past week, as we studied Toldot, we shared our impressions of how digging the wells is a metaphor of our lives.  

* * * * *

18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham; and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
19 And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of living water.
20 And the herdmen of Gerar strove with Isaac's herdmen, saying: 'The water is ours.' And he called the name of the well Esek; because they contended with him.
21 And they digged another well, and they strove for that also. And he called the name of it Sitnah.
22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not. And he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said: 'For now HaShem hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.'

* * * * * 

During this study, we shared about digging up the wells of our past allows us to be released from whatever it is that might be holding us back.  And as we begin our journey to the past, just like in the Torah, the first well, Esek, might bring some contention.  And as the journey continues to the second well, Sitnah, one may still find strife as the look deeper into one's past. And finally we come to Rehoboth, where we have found our place.   This allows us to expand our hearts and let others in.

This session made such a profound impact on me.  If every journey has a beginning, middle and end, not just moving forward, but also going backwards, perhaps we can take time to "dig up our past." When we are far from it, then we can have the perspective to review it with new healthier insight.  I know that meditation and study led to great interest in prayer and learning, which then lead to more study of Jewish ritual and text. And through all this I have found some resolution to old traumas, wounds or simply bad habits.

I am enriched by my meditation group and I even surprise myself by my weekly dedication.  Through meditation, I have found healthier and more productive ways that now follow me into my work week.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am truly blessed by all that surrounds me, by the weekly Shabbat teachings, by the moment that led me on this journey, by the richness of the spirituality and lessons that guide me, and by my teachers, friends and strangers all whom share their lives and allow me to learn from them.

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hope at the Airport - on my way to the GA

In a cab, arriving at the airport, I see LOVE.  I am witness to LOVE and my imagination bursts with stories of couples leaving each other, families traveling together to reconnect, and single individuals traveling to who knows where or for why?  But in my mind, I can make up some great stories of heroes, lost souls, magical love stories and comedic family reunions.

The airport has always made me feel adventurous, excited and full of hope.  When I was little and my parents told me we were moving from NY to LA, I was excited.  And I remember that a friend who was sad to see me go asked, "Aren't you sad?"  And as I was getting into the car, I responded quite strongly, "No."  As far as I was concerned, I was moving much closer to Disneyland and for an 11-year-old, that is prime real estate.  (The truth is that I wasn't as close to Disneyland as I thought and we didn't go as often as I thought we would).

As a young professional, I traveled with business people which is a completely different and fun experience.  I was lucky to start my career in the entertainment business which allowed me to attend several conference that really were the epitome to networking and fun.  I would travel with great confidence as a professional woman and enjoyed this time in my life very much.

Once I changed my career, the conferences that I chose to attend took on a different tone.  I began a path of learning, finding any resource that would help me grow as a professional and in my personal life.  Women's conferences, Jewish conferences, local lectures, and fortunately, even my job and my synagogue gave me extraordinary opportunities for learning.

As I sit on the plane, I wonder, "How did I get from LOVE at the airport to my own love for learning?"  Not that giant of a leap I guess.  As I make my way to the General Assembly, I am filled with excitement and hope to learn with my colleagues and partners from all over the world.  To be among like minded people who are all working to create a better world for the Jewish community and beyond is a gift for which I am truly grateful.

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