Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Comfort and Be Comforted

I made a condolence call tonight at a friend’s home whose father passed away this week after a very difficult few months. In the Jewish religion following a person’s death, the family observes shiva. For up to a week, the family welcomes visitors to sit with them for comfort and prayers. I believe that this is one of the most beautiful traditions in the religion. It is such an amazing expression of love by a community to the family of the deceased.

Following my dad’s death, my family and I sat shiva at my mother’s home. I was incredibly moved by the love and support of my parents’ friends, my brother’s friends and my friends. It is extremely touching to see who shows up during difficult times. Years ago, a friend said to me, “It is easy to be a friend during joyful times, but you really find out who your friends are during the sad times.” I didn’t really understand this until I went through some hard times and saw those who stood by me. There is nothing greater than being surrounded by your family, friends and community members when your heart is breaking. My natural instincts were to avoid everyone, but with this tradition, you must accept comfort from others.

If you ever have the opportunity to comfort another during their time of mourning, I encourage you to do so. It is an extraordinary gesture of kindness and it is pretty good for your soul too!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

React Wisely - It Will Set You Free

In the past 4 days, I have reacted wisely in several situations. In addition, I spoke with others who shared their feelings about how a reaction can enhance or diminish the energy of a situation. So I thought if we all can take responsibility only for what we do and say then that would free us. To be free would mean that we need to look at ourselves and when engaging with others, we should react thoughtfully and carefully in the situation. Below are a few areas that I will free myself:

• Stop Criticizing Others – When faced with the opportunity to criticize others, I will stop and refocus. I will consider the actions that will help me make the situation positive and address the real issue in the situation rather than the person’s behavior.

• Stop to Process – Many years ago, I was in a very anxious state and I told my therapist that I could not make a decision (which of course only heightened my anxiety). She looked at me and very directly said, “Then don’t make one.” It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to make a decision. She explained to me that if trying to make the decision was causing such anxiety, then stop, wait, and when you are ready, you will make the decision. She never spoke of right or wrong. She just made me understand that if I couldn’t decide, then I didn’t have to and with some time, I would either make a decision or the universe would take care of it. And that is exactly what happened. This is advice that I use to this day both in my personal and professional life.

• Be Kind – When my daughter was younger and asked why some kids are mean, my answer was that most mean kids are sad first. I tried to explain to her that when kids are sad, they act out in mean ways. This often led to a discussion of why one of her friends was being mean and she would give me a few reasons why her friend might be sad. For example, the girl’s brother was mean to her, a grandparent just died, or she was having trouble at school. In that moment, my daughter showed great compassion. After some of these discussions with her, I thought, this is an exercise that I need to apply to my interactions. And so I did. If I am in an uncomfortable situation, I consider that there is something more going on with this person than our simple interaction. When someone overreacts to a situation, I ask, “Is everything all right, can I help?” When someone is upset with me, I try to apologize first and then work out the problem. In my experience, most people want to hear “I’m sorry,” whether that solves the problem or not. It is the simple acknowledgement of their anger and then we can move onto solution.

• Stay in Solution – In my very first job after college, I had a boss that made it clear that the phrase, “I can’t” was unacceptable as an excuse. She told me that if you can’t complete a task, come back with a solution. I have taken that lesson seriously and tried always to find the solution in any problem. Now, 25 years later, I try to pass that onto to junior executives and fundraisers. In my office, we call it the “Solution Room.” This is definitely a lesson that I hold dear, that makes a visible impact on energy of the team, and works in every aspect of my life.

I’m on the road to freedom! Hope to run into you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fundraising by the Numbers

There are a variety of ways to raise significant dollars and it is all about the numbers. What is the most effective way for you, the donor and the organization? Here are some strategies by the numbers:

• One + One solicitation – This is a very effective strategy. This allows the donor to share emotional stories about his/her family and if necessary, private financial information. There is a certain comfort for the fundraiser as well to know that you are in the privacy of the donor’s thoughts. Because there are only two of you, there is a quiet freedom to ask more personal questions that you might not ask if a third person was in the conversation. This is an effective method for the solicitation of any size gift.

• Two + One solicitation – When the triad is perfect, this is a very powerful solicitation. This can work in a couple of variations. First, two professionals can solicit one donor. This elevates the solicitation by signaling to the donor that he/she is very important to the organization. Next, one professional and one lay leader (volunteer) solicit one donor. This also elevates the solicitation by bringing a peer with the professional to discuss the organization with the donor. When a donor hears from a peer their commitment and trust of an organization, it allows the creation of a new partnership for the professional and the donor.

• Two + Two solicitation – Similar to the above. In this scenario, either two professionals or one professional and a lay leader solicit a couple. What is most illuminating in this scenario is that the professionals learn a lot about people when there are together with their spouse or partner. This could be difficult if the couple is not philanthropically in alignment, their values or interests vary or even their anxiety levels about money are very different. The professionals need to listen carefully to cues from the couple.

• Ten – Twenty Donors in a group solicitation – This is used most effectively to raise significant dollars. This must be choreographed with the sole purpose to allow for the donors to share their ideas and bring them to a point where the solicitation is successful. The success of this group solicitation is peer encouragement. When donors are together with like-minded peers, the impact is genuine and powerful.

• Large groups – Similar to the small group solicitation, this must be designed to move the donors emotionally to give a significant gift. The speakers must be articulate and emotional. Their speech needs to bring the donors to understand their role in helping the organization. In this scenario, the speakers should be beneficiaries of the organization which allows the group to see the impact of the organization’s work and therefore the justification of the donor’s gift.

With all of these, the solicitors must be confident and proud of their work. Knowing their donors and which of the scenarios will work best is critical to the solicitation. In my experience, most donors genuinely want to be philanthropic, trust their organizational partner and see the impact of their work. It is exciting when you can offer wonderful opportunities for donors that satisfy their philanthropic goals. And even better when they are grateful to you for bringing them the opportunity.

My Perspective on Aging

I guess now that I’m on my way to 50 it seems pretty reasonable that I think about this a lot now. In the past few months there have been these mixed emotions about getting older. When I was younger, I only wanted to be older. At 15, I want to be 18, and at 18, I wanted to be 25, and so on… At 30, I was thrilled, as if I was walking through a door or shedding a huge heavy coat. I was free to begin being me. At 40, I was given a swift dose of reality and learned to feel my emotions, discover my strengths and decide how to handle my weaknesses. So here are my perspectives on how I feel today about aging:

Surprise – I don’t remember what I thought being 49 going on 50 would feel like, but this is not it. I believe that I thought I would know more, have more answers, and not have so many questions. This seems to be the biggest surprise to me – my desire to learn is stronger now than it has been in years, I want to know what you think and I have a lot of deep questions. The most surprising question and the one I ask myself most frequently is “Why now?”

Anger – This really is manifested as frustration that I’m here and maybe I should have, would have, and could have done things differently. Maybe if I realized sooner that time goes by quickly, having more of a process is a good thing and one should have big dreams, then I might not feel so resentful at those who I feel did it right. Sometimes I look at people in their 20’s and wonder how do they know what they want to do for the next 50 years? How do so many know their paths at such a young age or even younger?

Confident – I am sometimes giddy with the confidence that I feel at this age. Other times, it feels like new shoes that are not yet comfortable. As I woman, I search for ways to enjoy the confidence and learn to stay in it. It is not always easy with societal pressures, but I have surrounded myself with love and friendship that guides me.

Joy and Gratitude – These are felt in the deepest part of my soul and I seem to be able to hold onto them for longer periods of time. At this age, I am willing to let go of anger more readily and therefore, choose to live in joy. And it is the small moments filled with love and connections that give me the greatest joy.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next decade brings me and what I bring to it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's Your Reflection?

Tonight, my husband and I went to see “Just Imagine,” a wonderful show about John Lennon. In Lennon’s short time on earth, his music changed the world. Besides wondering what his music might be like today, I was mesmerized by the change in Lennon’s music throughout the years . Truly reflective of the times, his music told the story of our lives. It is easy to see how music and art reflect the passions and ills of our society, but what about the rest of us? Are our actions reflected in society or by society?

The Beatles changed our lives. They created music for our times and about our times. Their songs still resonate with us. And to me, John Lennon’s songs and messages for peace were not just meant for the world, it was something that he was personally searching for in his own life. Inner peace and World peace. To Love and Be Loved.

I believe that we do the same in our individual efforts whether we are teachers, doctors, trash collectors or waiters. So many of us are influenced by what we see, read and hear. And what about the influencers, who inspires them? I am inspired and influenced and I hope that with my writing and my voice I can inspire and influence others.

We may not be The Beatles, but we all are influenced by others and we definitely influence those around us. What messages do you take in and reflect back to others – love, anger, sadness, joy? Like you see in a mirror, your reflection is extremely close to the reality so know the message you want others to hear. While we can’t guarantee how others will respond, we must understand that every action makes an impact. So start looking at the effect you have on others, you might be surprised by your own reflection.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Big Book Is a Must Read

About 9 years ago, someone recommended that I read The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was going through a tough time and I thought I would give it a try. I heard the story of Bill Wilson and I knew he was pretty amazing.
And then I gave up. I decided that since I was not an alcoholic, the book was not for me. So I put it down and there it stayed for 7 years.

Then my dad died. I walked around numb for a few weeks maybe more. It is all a blur. Then one day, I found The Big Book on my shelf. I am not sure if I looked for it with purpose or if it appeared to me. Regardless, I decided that I will start reading it.

What I know now and I didn’t realize then, is that I was looking to read something about people who are also sad. I was unable to articulate my feelings so I found comfort in the words of others. The Big Book of AA is a compilation of incredible stories of despair, recovery and hope. I read the stories of real people who found themselves in sad, dark places and with action and time, they were able to heal. And if it worked for them, then maybe it would work for me too.

It took me only a few days to read the book and I cherished every word. The book helped me during the darkest time in my life.

Whether you are an alcoholic or going through a difficult time, this book can help you regain some hope.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fear Will Not Take Over

How do you process overwhelming tragedy in the world? This week when I heard about the Rabbi Sandler, his two children and the other child who were gunned down in Toulouse, France, I felt sick. I saw the pictures of the families and community grieving and I was transported.

My kids go to Jewish Day School. “What if?” I thought. I had 24 or more hours of terrifying thoughts about what if it happened here? Scary things happen in schools in America and it has nothing to do with religion. But this did. This hit me in the gut. I just kept thinking bad thoughts.

For the past two days, my heart has been breaking for the mothers of those children. I can’t imagine what it is must be like to send your child off to what you think is the safest place they will be all day, and within 20 minutes of them leaving your arms, some evil psychopath steals them from this world.

As I have said before, the word “sad” is just too tiny to express what I am feeling for these families. To these mothers, and all those who have lost children, my heart goes out to you.

And where is the world’s outrage? More people seem to be interested in George Clooney getting arrested or Snooki’s pregnancy than the evil senseless murder of 4 children. Is it because they are Jewish? Or because they live in France? I want to scream, “Children were murdered because they were Jewish, don’t you care?”

I’m scared. I admit it. I want to feel safe. I want to be okay, but I know that there are people who want Jews to die. I work in the Jewish community, live in the Jewish community and love being part of the Jewish community. I will not let fear take over. I will fight to make sure that I do everything I can so that the Jewish community sticks together to fight this evil.

I will work with my colleagues, Jews and non-Jews, my donors and community members, Jews and non-Jews so that we are safe to send our children out into the world without fear. Nurturing my children to walk this world with confidence with people of all religions, cultures and communities is my promise.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


When is enough? In my Meditation/Torah class yesterday, we discussed when G-d told the Israelites that they had brought enough gifts to the Temple. How can bringing gifts be too much? At what point, do we need to tell ourselves to stop giving so that we can recognize and acknowledge the beauty in our work?

There are great pressures that we place on ourselves or that society places on us. In addition, we often place great pressure on others to do for us, make us happy and fix our lives. We have to find the strength to tell ourselves that it is enough and the courage to tell others to stop. We need to appreciate the work that is done and to accept it as complete so that we can move onto the next task.

As I listened in class to those around me, I realized that so many of us just keep going every day and the days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and so on. We have so many distractions in our lives - school, work, cell phones, computers, television around the clock, music whenever you want, and information overload everywhere you look.

When I look back at my childhood, I had so much more quiet time than my children have today. Cable didn't arrive until junior and senior high and it was mostly movies. I had more freedom than my children. And now, I work hard to give my children opportunities for quietness so their imaginations can be nurtured. I find ways to teach them that projects have a beginning, middle and end. I try to find the balance in teaching them that when project is done to the best of their time and ability and if the grade is not an “A,” what could they have done better?

I want to teach my kids to be competitive, to work hard, and to feel confident in their work. In doing so, they can find the right moment to stop, appreciate the work they have done well and to know what is necessary and expected for the next project.

For me, I want to take from this Torah portion the lesson of finding ways to stop the everydayness that is our life and see the beauty in what we accomplish as a family. Work is tangible, we set goals, we complete projects and we get paid. Family life is not tangible, lessons that I teach my children today may not show up for 2-3 years or more. I want to make the most out of vacations and time spent together outside of our daily routine. Those moments will help enrich our daily lives and our wholeness as a family.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seeing Messages In My Dreams

My dreams have always helped me during difficult times. Once, after I had broken up with a boyfriend, I was feeling terrible. After weeks of feeling bad, I had this very intense dream where we had one final fight. In the dream I screamed and yelled at him and said everything that I had held in for weeks. When I woke up in the morning, I felt a wonderful release as if we had actually had the fight. Since he lived in another state, I knew that we would never actually have a final conversation. It was very healing and I was glad that I remembered everything when I woke up.

So last night, I had one of those dreams that felt so real that you remember specific details. In the dream, someone wanted me to go right, but I wanted to go left. I told my friend that if we go left, we have to make two lefts to get to our corner, and if we go right, we only have to make one right, but we will end up at the same destination. In my life right now, I feel that many people want me to go their way or follow their directions. However, now I am finding the confidence to travel my own journey even if it means I have to take a few more turns.

Dreams can be powerful, comforting, scary, funny, boring and healing. I like to think of my dreams as messages to myself. Sometimes it is the best time to listen to the truth I know in my heart. Be open to the messages. You might learn something about yourself.

Sweet dreams…

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why Can't We Fix the World

In all the different countries in the world, will poverty always exist? If there is an opportunity to make money, do we as humans naturally give in to that desire? With all the geniuses in the world, why can’t the great minds of our countries come together to solve the world’s problems? With all the wealth in the world, why is it that the disparity of the poor and the rich are so wide? And finally with all the poverty and sickness in the world, why are people still fighting about reproductive rights and who some can love and marry?

These are my questions and not sure if there are any answers.

Sometimes, questions like this overwhelm me and I am concerned about what life will be like for my children in the next 20-30 years. How are we supposed to make life better for our children’s future when we are not taking care of each other in the present?

There are wonderful organizations doing incredible work to make lives better for those in need – we need to help those organizations so that the world’s problems can be solved. I know it is a ridiculously huge goal, but I can dream, can’t I?

Perhaps I’ll have some easier questions tomorrow!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Great Words

I have always loved words and this week I found myself listening very carefully to people speaking around me. Throughout the week, I noticed how people used words to express different tones, their unique accents, and their diverse emotions. I am always fascinated how two people say the same word and it conjures up completely different feelings in me. Here are some of my favorites and others that made me to take notice.

Pioneer – In my work, I meet incredible people doing amazing work. This week was no different. Dany Gliksberg, one of the founders of Ayalim, a community in the Negev was here speaking to various donors in Los Angeles. To me, pioneer is such an old fashioned word that brings up visions of the old west or medical breakthroughs like polio and chicken pox vaccinations. However, after hearing him and one of his community members speak, I felt their passion and commitment. I understood their desire to create a new future and now pioneer has had a rebirth in my vocabulary.

Content – I am referring to content with the accent on “tent,” not “con.” We use a lot of words to express some variety of joy – for instance, happiness, gratitude, glad, and content. What I like about content is that it means to me that you are fully satisfied - and there is less pressure than saying, “I’m so happy” or “I’m so grateful for…”

Solution – People in my office know that I like to solve problems. I feel productive when I can come up with a solution. And I like to say the word, “solution.” I think it is the “u” sound.
Fantastic – Like pioneer, this word seems like it is from another time. However, I love it. When you want to express great joy, try to use this word. Mostly because you really don’t hear people use it that often so when you do, people now know that you mean business.

Voice – This word has made an enormous impact on me. How do you use your voice? When do you use your voice? Use your voice! Most importantly, we all need to learn to use your voice with kindness, compassion, love and respect.

Words are beautiful and I love to hear how people use them. Be careful because words can also be harmful and sometimes without thought, people get hurt. Be thoughtful, someone is listening.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just Some of My Favorite Sayings

This Too Shall Pass – Everyone should live by this. When things are great, remember it can be fleeting so appreciate the moment. When you are struggling, take a deep breath, hold on and know that with time, things will change. This saying reminds you to be humble when you should and gives you hope when you need.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished – You know that feeling when you have really good intentions and somehow it gets misconstrued? This doesn’t stop me from doing good deeds and now I even get a good laugh about it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, my friends and I now take a moment to say this out loud and have a great laugh.

People are Weird – I am not saying this in a mean way. I simply use this to stop myself from overanalyzing why people do things that I cannot explain. So picture this, my friends and I are sitting around trying to figure out why he said this or she did that. Sometimes we can sit for hours rehashing and dissecting everything someone said or did and frankly, I don’t really enjoy that anymore. So in order to stop myself from over-thinking and criticizing someone else’s behavior, I say, “People are weird” to notify those that I am speaking to that the discussion is now over. It frees us up to move on to talk about something new.

I never really thought of myself as someone who had sayings until I noticed that I naturally referred to these. I found comfort in them and they seemed to explain things that were happening in my life. Think about the sayings that help explain your life and hold onto them because words bring great comfort.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Transformative Experiences from a Mission

While I was talking to a philanthropist today, I was reminded of a transformative experience I had 18 months ago when I staffed a trip Lithuania, Latvia and Israel. It was truly one of the perks of my job. As I shared my experience, I remembered with great joy some of the people I met.

When I arrived in Vilnius, I had no expectations of what I would see. It was my first Holocaust education experience. After a walking tour of the former Jewish community and the ghetto, we took a bus to the Ponar Forest with a surviving partisan. This beautiful 88-year-old woman is a warrior from the past and a witness and storyteller now and forever. When I asked her how she could keep doing this she answered, “As long as I have legs to stand on, I will always tell their story.” I was deeply touched as I saw the truth in her eyes.

That night at dinner, we met the next generation of Jews who are starving for any Jewish experience we can bring to their area. One of our most successful program partners is Limmud Baltics. This Jewish conference is held in February when the weather is 20 below brings over 1000 young Jews together to learn and sing. Our LimmudLA Conference held in February in Los Angeles brings only ½ of that. In Los Angeles, we have so many choices. The successful attendance in the Baltics is simply due to the fact this is how they experience Jewish life and can learn new prayers and songs to take home to continue their own Jewish education.

The next day, we visited the Jewish Day School there and later, we delivered clothes and toys to the poorest Jews in the world. Giving clothes and toys to children who are in great need was a profound experience for me and my entire group.

To see The Jewish Federation at work in the Baltics transformed me. I came home with a different perspective and with a renewed gratitude for all Jewish things in my life.

Thank you to The Jewish Federation for giving me an opportunity that I will cherish forever.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Listen Carefully and Scream Louder

Today I wondered why we don't scream louder at the injustices of the world.  I have been watching many people on the news talk about what should be done.  What a great luxury it is to have your own talk show and spew out all that is wrong with the world.  When do we take action?  How do we take action?  We can't even agree on who should be in charge of a women's body!  While the pre-election debates and commentaries take place, I am frustrated to hear so many conflicting reports from people who are so sure that they are right.  And the more heated they get, the nastier they get.  I can't even watch a network reporter without feeling that he/she is biased.  What happpened to unbiased reporting?  I try to focus on on the 3-4 minutes of information.  Here are the issues that concern me:

Education - what the hell is going on in our public schools?  How is it possible that this has not been a priority for our communities?  As parents, my husband and I send our children to private school.  We chose a school that is a Jewish Day School with a dual language program. We sweat every year to make it possible for our children to attend this school and we believe that they are in the best place for them and for us.  My husband and I are lucky; we make it work.  What about those who can't afford to choose where they want their kids to go to school? Education has changed so much here in Los Angeles.  When I was growing up, I knew very few (and I mean very few) kids that went to private school.  When you planned on having kids, you moved into the area with good schools and that was it, your kids went to the neighborhood schools with all the other kids. I hope we can figure it out soon.

Women's issues - I am not sure how to make this any clearer - I do not want anyone telling me what I can or cannot do with my body.  That is the first issue.  Secondly, I want society to care about educating both men and women about equal rights, which means to me that men and women have the freedom to choose who and what they want to be in life.  Shouldn't we spend our energy teaching our children how to be productive members of society rather than she can't do this or he can't do that?  Man or woman, we should be able to teach our children that both sexes are our best partners and together we need to solve our communities problems and not create more.

Gay marriage - can't we just get this done already?  It is going to happen.  Let's just make it possible already.  I think it is ridiculous that we are preventing people who want to simply express their love for each other.  The weirdest part is that the heterosexual community is not that successful at it, so I am not sure why we feel we should prevent others from doing it.  This really takes up too much of our time and eventually it will happen, so let's just make it happen.  

Israel - I am Jewish and I want/need Israel to survive.  My generation does not know a world without Israel.  It scares me that there are people in the world who want the Jews to die (not just go away, but actually die) and this does not seem to get people crazy.  I want peace.  I want to help to achieve peace.  I want people in public office to also want to achieve peace.  I also want Amercians to support Israel simply because it is a thriving democratic society.  I hear Americans criticize Israel and I wonder if they criticize our country so harshly.  Maybe they do, and yet we still have our own problems to solve.

Poverty and homelessness - I don't even know where to begin.  The older I get, the sadder I get seeing so many homeless people in our society.  I drive by them or walk by them and feel guilty.  How is it that we have not fixed this problem? How is it that we allow people to live like this?  I understand that many of us allow ourselves luxuries, but after seeing Tom Shadyac's documentary I Am, I really wonder at what point do we stop collecting stuff?  Why are waiting in line for the next better phone when we just bought our phone within 6 months?  I feel guilty having the choice to write this blog on 4 different devices.  This ill in our society truly saddens me because I know that I am not doing all I can to help those who are suffering.

These are the issues I think about when I read and listen to "the experts."  And these are the issues that sometimes overwhelm me, scare me and upset me.   And sadly, these are the issues that I often feel powerless to fix. I promise to read more, watch more, listen carefully and scream louder and maybe together we can get something done.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Put Forth Good Energy

This past week, I have been thinking a lot about energy vs personality. In several experiences last week, I was drawn to everyone’s unique energy rather than their personality. To me, personality is who I am and energy is how I share it. In my exploration of who I am and who I can be, I first thought about my personality and how I use it to make an impact. But something didn’t feel right.

It occurred to me that I was really looking at everyone’s energy. One’s personality is unique to them, but their energy has the ability to change constantly. You might have the greatest personality, but if you are having a bad day people can feel that.

Next time you are in a meeting or with a group of people, consider the energy that you and others bring into the room. Can you bring in energy that nurtures and heals? Do others do the same? When you or others bring in negative energy, can you notice it and make the switch?

Meditation has helped me focus my energy not only during meditation, but in many other situations. I now notice subtle behaviors that go unnoticed by others in the group. Years ago, during a difficult time, in order to heal, I needed to create an emotional bullet proof vest. Looking back, what that did for me was to teach me to stop reacting to others and allow me to learn to act with integrity and in truth.

For many, including me, the truth can sometimes be painful, sad, hurtful, and ugly. It can also be beautiful, healing, glorious, and joyful. To live in truth is freedom, participation, clarity and hard work.

On Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday today with Gary Zukav, she said, “When my personality comes to fully align with the energy of my soul and I allow my soul to be the guide that is when I am most powerful.” Right on! Let’s all become our most powerful selves and put forth the positive energy this world needs.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Meeting Shimon Peres

Well, not exactly meeting Shimon Peres, but I did shake his hand. I was one of the lucky professionals at The Jewish Federation who was asked to be on the team to create a special evening in Los Angeles with President Shimon Peres. Having just seen him in Israel as part of a Los Angeles delegation, I was incredibly honored to have a 2nd opportunity to see him so quickly. And frankly, I was glad because I was pretty awestruck back in November and barely remembered anything he said.

Having staffed many events in my career, I love that moment an event starts. Like traveling, the minute the plane takes off, I am always smiling and bubbling with excitement. This was no different.

Since I had already seen Mr. Peres in November, I knew how mesmerizing he was up close. He fully embodied the mystery, power, presence and dignity of a President. From the moment he walked into the room, my mind and heart were swirling with emotion. I was moved by the gratitude of those who felt as fortunate as I to be witnessing this moment. And sharing it with others in the Los Angeles Jewish community only enhanced the experience.

While Mr. Peres spoke, the room was silent as we all listened intently to every word. He was serious, funny, warm and incredibly thoughtful with each response. He said many great things that I am not willing to misquote. He is committed to peace, wants women treated equally and with respect and wants us all to look to the future. I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by how much he and his peers have done to start and build a thriving, resourceful, and passionate nation.

This was definitely one of the highlights of my professional career. Wow – I know I will hold this moment in my heart and mind for many years.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tennis Is More Than Just A Game

Three months ago I began taking tennis lessons. I used to play every weekend over 15 years ago and in the past couple of years I have wanted to play again. This is one of those experiences that is even better than I expect...and I expected a lot. I play once week with a great group of people and I just signed up for two classes in the next session. And my teacher is French and frankly, the instructions sound better with a French accent. Here are a few other things I like about my tennis lessons:

• After a crazy day at work, it feels great to smack the tennis balls. If it was a particularly annoying day, I name each tennis ball before I smack it. I had a friend who told me that to relieve stress she went to the batting cage and did the same thing. I borrowed it and truly, it feels really good.

• I love that when I get to the courts, I see men and women, all ages, from beginners to experts. It is so refreshing to be where everyone just wants to be and have fun.

• Tennis has some great metaphors for life – first, when playing a game, each player begins with “love” which represents having no points, like beginning life without any experiences just love. Secondly, when you serve so that your opponent can’t return the ball that is called an Ace. As in life, when you serve others and get nothing in return, you get the most reward spiritually. This might be a stretch, but I still like analogies.

• Tennis is fun and social and can be played with anyone. I have as much fun playing with my kids as I do playing with adults. Okay, maybe I have more fun playing with my kids.

Taking tennis lessons was one of best decisions I made for myself and I hope to continue for a long time. See you on the courts.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sad First, Fulfilled Now

Today, I watched the documentary “Love Hate Love” which is executive produced by Sean Penn. It tells the story of 3 victims of terror and how the survivors dealt in the aftermath. The film follows two families who lost members and one person who lost his legs in terrorist attacks. I was deeply moved by how the film followed these individuals showing their triumph over great sadness.

In the course of the past two years since my father passed away one of the things I have noticed is that it is not that we don’t share feelings or have empathy, it is that we all don’t have the same feeling at the same time. If we all had compassion at the same time, the world’s problems could be solved in one day. If we could even agree on solving one problem at a time, our society would look completely different.

Our society is so enamored with wealth and fame and we use the rich and famous to distract us from our problems. What if People magazine actually profiled people who were struggling and needed our help? What if Food Network profiled all the great programs that serve those who are hungry? Perhaps that would nurture a more compassionate society.

Maybe this is why I work in non-profit. I like working with a group of like-minded people who all want to make a difference in the lives of many. I love meeting others who have great ideas to help our society. It gives me great hope that together we can fix many of society's problems.

Do something today for someone else.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

People I Wish I Met - Part 1

I didn’t always play the game, “Which celebrities (dead or alive) would you like to have around your dinner table?” It popped into my mind today, so it became my blog for today. Here are just a few famous people I want at my dinner table.

George Washington - I have always wondered what life was like at the birth of the United States. As I become more interested in politics, I realize that It must have been an amazing and exciting time. Watching Israeli politics play out today, I often wonder what George Washington was thinking as he stood in the role of our 1st President.

Eleanor Roosevelt – When I was a young girl, I read the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. What I found most interesting is that I admired her strength and felt sorry for her at the same time. In our modern time, we often speculate about what the Roosevelt marriage was like, how did they interact with each other and how did their public personas differ from their private ones. As a woman, I would love to ask her all the questions of what life for a woman was like then and is this the future that she envisioned.

Theodore Herzl – As a true visionary, I would love to hear in his own words what his hopes and dreams were for Israel and are we fulfilling his dream. If he was alive and was in the leadership, what would he say and do. This one I am most fascinated by as I continue to watch the daily politics of Israel.

George Eliot – Frankly, I am more knowledgeable about her personal life than her writings and it is just that reason I would like to meet her. Reading stories of her independence, creativity and shockingly open relationships simply draws me to wonder what it was really like. I wonder at what moment did she decide to use a male pen name and why the name George Eliot.

Rock Hudson – While revealing all our secrets should set us free, we all still carry around something that we don’t want to share with others. Being Rock Hudson must have been so painful especially out in public. To hear it in his own words would be an extraordinary experience. I also wonder what he thinks of how we live our lives now.

Gilda Radner – I began watching Saturday Night Live since I was a teenager and Gilda Radner was always a hero. She was one of those spectacularly funny women. She paved the way for the great female comics to come and I would love to hear some secrets of Saturday Night Live and how laughter helped her during the worst times in her life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Making Good Decisions

Decisions are not always easy to make and yet still so satisfying. I used to be afraid to make decisions and I preferred to have the person in charge responsible to make all the decisions, keeping me free and clear of any responsibility in case something would go terribly wrong.

Making decisions now is productive, satisfying and when done right, feels like I hit a home run. The best advice I ever got was, “If you are not sure about what decision to make, then don’t make it.” Take some time to review your options, get some research and when you are ready, and then make a more thoughtful decision. I use this lesson at home, at work and in all aspects in my life.

Learning to make good decisions came to me later in life. To me, in order to make a decision with confidence you need to do a few things

• Be thoughtful in your process
• Find a method that works for you – write a pros/cons list, talk to a friend, find professional help, your own method.
• Talk to others who have made similar decisions

Teaching my children to make good decisions is one of my life’s goals. I think that we take it for granted and assume that when kids grow up, they will just make good choices. This is not how it works. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children the process to make good decisions.

Like any good exercise, the more you do it, the easier it gets. With lots of practice and awareness, you will learn from others and then continue to make great decisions.

Good luck!