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Los Angeles Centennial Mission

By Carly Einfeld

To celebrate the centennial of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, 400 Los Angelinos of all ages set out on a trip of a lifetime to Israel. As part of this trip there were a number of young adult affinity groups from the Federation, including Real Estate, Entertainment, Russian and the newly formed YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles) group.

Having returned from Israel in June from the National Young Leadership summer mission, I was excited to go back and experience Israel with people from Los Angeles.

There were a number of people on our bus who had not been to Israel before, and it was wonderful to see the country come alive through their eyes – it made me feel like I was experiencing Israel for the first time, even though this was my sixth trip.

We visited many of the must-dos on a first trip to Israel, but like all Jewish Federation missions, we also visited with organizations that the Los Angeles Federation supports. One such visit was to Ayalim, a new development in the Negev, which was founded by a group of IDF solders to renew the Zionist ideals for the 21st century. To reiterate the idea that developing Ayalim is an ever-evolving process, the building that was being unveiled as part of our visit was finished within just a few hours of us arriving. It was really wonderful to see firsthand what we are supporting with our involvement in Jewish Federation, and it solidifies my belief in what we do everyday. It was also great that rather than a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the unveiling of this building in Ayalim, they installed a mezuzah.

Besides this inspiring visit, which included a delicious BBQ meal with dancing and fire dancers, we were also treated to many other amazing events as part of this once-in-a-lifetime mission. In Tel Aviv, we all came together for a concert that featured drummers, opera singers and host Chaim Topol – yes, Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof.” It was a truly amazing night. We also gathered in Jerusalem at the end of our trip to hear speeches from Natan Sharansky, president of the Jewish Agency for Israel and former Soviet refusnik, and Tzipi Livni, who had left the first night of Parliament to give us an update on the current state of Israeli politics.

There were so many wonderful moments during our trip, including new friendships formed, and special memories made, but it was truly amazing to watch many families share this life-changing trip. We had a number of people on our bus whose parents were on other buses, and although they were not together 24/7, when we came together as a larger group, these families could share in the mission experience. I also know that many people who were not involved in the Los Angeles Federation before the trip will now have a new excitement about Jewish Federation and Israel. I feel so lucky to be part of such an amazing organization, and I’m excited about the new programs for young adults that we’ll see in the coming year. And, of course, I can’t wait for my next mission to Israel.

Carly is originally from Sydney, Australia but now resides in Los Angeles, California where she is pursueing a career in Television production. Carly was involved in the Sydney Jewish communtity and has continued that involvment in Los Angeles. Carly has participated in two National Young Leadship Summer Missions, attended TribeFest in 2011, co-chaired the young adult bus for the Los Angeles Centennial Mission and is a member of the YALA (Young Adults of Los Angeles) board for 2012. Carly is passionate about Jewish causes, you can follow her on twitter at twitter.com/carlyeinfeld.
Posted by: stesler1 (December 05, 2011 at 11:53 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Hineni

By Cintra Pollack

Now that I have finally almost recovered from the whirlwind of a week that was the General Assembly, on behalf of the Denver community, I want to thank all of the NYLC members, and other folks between the ages of 18-45, who volunteered for the GA community service project on November 6. We saw familiar faces and scores of new ones – 550 strong! – including members of Colorado’s YAD, BGS, local fraternities and sororities, Hillel, and more.

Inspired by the New Orleans GA service project, Colorado’s project, dubbed “Hineni: Here to Serve,” went fabulously well. According to the official reports from the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, together we made an amazing impact in Colorado and throughout the world. We sent clothing to 8,500 people in Africa, sorted much-needed medical supplies to be sent to communities in need around the globe, changed hundreds of light bulbs to increase energy efficiency around Denver, made blankets for the homeless, organized the entire JFS food pantry, made rice bags for Sudanese refugees, baked challah, painted walls, cleaned a teen treatment center, enjoyed bingo and Wii bowling with the elderly, and much more. (By the way, I loved organizing the JFS food pantry with my Chevre, but Wii bowling? How do I get that assignment next year?)

The best part about the day for me was not performing the service or the camaraderie created, though those things were fantastic. My favorite part of the day was the potential ripple effect: many people enjoyed their service projects so much that they want to organize groups to go back to their sites on a regular, and even monthly, basis. The CEO of Colorado’s Federation, Doug Seserman, was so pleased with the results of “Hineni: Here to Serve,” that he wants to incorporate a large annual service project, based on the GA service day, into our young adult program, Be There.

All in all, we couldn’t have hoped for a better service project. I’m thrilled so many of you were part of it, and I am very grateful to the Denver team who worked so diligently to make the day possible.
 

Cintra hails from Denver, Colorado where she is an investment manager by day and a (wannabe) chef by night. When she's not doing either of these things, she may be found hiking, writing, rowing, reading, golfing, knitting, practicing yoga, or indulging her cat.

 

 

Posted by: stesler1 (November 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Denver is GAlicious!

By Stephanie Block

It’s the 80th GA! But it’s my first. Go figure?  

I’m sitting in an orientation for first timers. National GA Chair Judy Silverman says that her first GA was in Dallas in 1978. The speaker was Golda Meir.

Sitting next to me is a chap from London, and I walked over to the Sheraton with Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon, the new head of MASHAV. Not only is it international up in here, but it’s multi-generational. There are sessions for baby boomers and there are adorable reps from Jewish fraternities in the Exhibit Hall. Judy tells the room about the Matisyahu concert tonight. She adds, “It’s rap, so it’s for 25-35 year olds.”

As of 1 p.m. on Sunday) two hours before the official opening plenary, there were already 3,000 Tweets with our official hashtag #JFNAGA. Travelling Tweets were filled with people kvelling over GA luminaries on their planes to Denver. A NYC Tweeter said the GA started when she got to the airport. @shainaniganss slyly surmised that we’re all members of the mile high club now…because we’re all in the Mile-High city! What were you thinking??

The streets of Denver may run blue and white this weekend, but it’s also crazy green here. Which is why, for the first time ever, the GA did not do a full printed schedule. They are only printing up-to-date daily schedules, and yes, there’s an app for that! It’s a download must – a very powerful app with speaker bios and local info. You can make interesting sessions your favorites, and the app will create a personal schedule for you. Yay technology!

Denver also boasts the most volunteers ever in any host city. Tweets abound about their welcoming warmth and helpfulness.

Now you must be wondering about schwag. Rabbinic scholar in residence Elie Kaunfer gave us all copies of his book in our super fab totes: “Empowered Judaism”. He will be speaking at all plenaries, setting a course of study that will build in each speech. And there are buttons. Jars of all kinds of buttons to add to your lanyard. I’m thinking if I pass by a TGI Friday’s, they’ll yell at me for being late for my shift.  

Back at orientation, Judy demonstrates the app on her iPad. Then she tells us that this will be an experience of a lifetime. I’m ready! Hineni! I’m here!

Stephanie is an award-winning writer and editor and the go-to social media consultant for Bay Area women's nonprofits. She successfully completed the Women Moving Millions Donor Institute and is a champion of the women's funding movement. When she isn't envisioning groundbreaking outreach movements, she has for two years applied her love of people and networking skills to chairing Spark's Black & Pink Ball, a gala boasting almost 1000 young professionals. Stephanie is also an avid traveler, having visited over fifty countries and numerous international projects focused on women. Stephanie is proud to serve on the Board of Directors for SparkSF.org, the Jewish Federations of North America's National Young Leadership Cabinet, the Steering Committee for the UN 5th World Conference on Women, and the United States National Committee for UN Women.

Posted by: stesler1 (November 07, 2011 at 9:56 AM) | Comments (1) | Permalink

Shabbaton 2011

By Shelly Kupfer

We just finished up an amazing first-ever Cabinet Shabbaton with over 30 of our chevre participating. Lisa Perlmutter and Stephen Rutenberg put together a thought-provoking and meaningful program. We were very fortunate to be able to partner with the Wexner Foundation and learn from their scholars Yehuda Kurtzer, Rabbi Joe Kanofsky and Avraham Infeld. We talked about power, leadership and activism, as well as "four questions they ask you in heaven."

Shabbat services were great, and there was an all-around special feeling of being able to be together and learn. After Havdallah, Susan and Trip Stern hosted all Cabinet chevre in town at their beautiful home. Many thanks to all of the JFNA staff and Cindy Chazen at Wexner for making this Shabbaton a huge success, and what I hope is the first of many to come! 

On to the GA...

Shelly is co-chair of National Young Leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America. She also served as the vice chair for Education and Leadership Development of the National Young Leadership Cabinet. She has held several positions at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, including Women's Philanthropy Campaign chair and chair of Women's Affinity. She is currently on the board and is a past recipient of the Jerome J. Dick Young Leadership Award. Ms. Kupfer has served as a board member for the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation's Capital, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning.  She is also a past president of the parents association at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital. Ms. Kupfer is owner of The Paper Chase, a stationery and gifts business and is a graduate of Barnard College and Boston University.

Posted by: stesler1 (November 07, 2011 at 9:50 AM) | Comments (0) | Permalink

Let’s Go: Teshuvah

By Cintra Pollack

The realization came on a stunningly lovely Sukkot afternoon on a Moraga golf course. I’d just smacked a golf ball straight and long. It wasn’t my shot that pleased me, though there is an undeniable satisfaction when the golf ball flies off the club just right; it was my revelation pertaining to the Yom Kippur that had just passed. I turned to Alex, a former coworker/sometime golf coach/always mentor and fellow Jew and exclaimed in joy, “I didn’t have to forgive Jack this year!”

Even though I do not attend synagogue on any regular basis, I do spend a lot of effort reflecting and atoning during the High Holidays. Engaging in the process of forgiving and being forgiven on an annual basis is a tradition I always observe. It’s an important component of my Jewish identity.

But back to my former coworker Jack . . . on multiple Kol Nidres, I found myself wrestling with anger towards him. He had demeaned me, behaved arrogantly towards me, and had been extremely patronizing. Suffice to say, his acidic comments made me cry on more than one occasion (which I did as any professional woman would: subtly, in my own office, while pretending to build spreadsheets). Each year I would pledge to just get over it, and the next year I’d find myself in a familiar seething state.

Last year, though, the anger had lifted. The change came partly from my professional development. I had proven myself a competent analyst and once I had made Jack money, he was much more respectful to me. More likely, though, the shift came because I changed jobs and I no longer worked under him. I daresay that by Yom Kippur last year there were aspects of Jack I missed and admired such as his dry humor and his ability to do complex equations in his head during meetings. I also noticed what a great coach he was of his daughter’s basketball team. What a relief it was not to have had to forgive him and instead to see some good in him!

It felt like failure to forgive the same things over and over. It was even harder to absolve myself of my own repeat offenses. I may have been able to finally forgive Jack by limiting my contact with him, but what could I do about myself?

Self-forgiveness was then and still is the hardest  for me, as I imagine it is for many. The person I was, the person I am and the person I aim to be are never quite together at one place at one time. It’s a work in progress every year. But that struggle is one of the greatest privileges the High Holidays offer.

I used to live near a place that often had witty aphorisms and pithy thoughts on a sign out front. One such saying stuck with me in particular: “It’s hard to fall when you are on your knees.” The process of atoning during the High Holidays reminds me how glad I am that Judaism presents me with more ways to repent than falling to my knees. In Judaism, during prayer, we stand up, we sit down, we move forward and backwards. We use our voices and our hands as we beat our chests and of course, our ears and eyes. When we ask others for forgiveness, we physically go to them. To live life on one's knees may be a method not to sin, but it is not a dynamic way to engage the world or to repent.

We transgress, we progress, and we possibly regress, but we are not static. There is a risk we will misstep and we may fall. We know we may end up in the same place next year, but we also have the possibility of getting there via a different path. Better yet, perhaps next year we will find ourselves somewhere new, somewhere better.


Cintra hails from Denver, Colorado where she is an investment manager by day and a (wannabe) chef by night. When she's not doing either of these things, she may be found hiking, writing, rowing, reading, golfing, knitting, practicing yoga, or indulging her cat.

 

 

 

Posted by: stesler1 (September 26, 2011 at 2:35 PM) | Comments (0) | Permalink