Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way – I’m happy to tell you what I’ve learned so you might be able to learn from my mistakes and avoid learning the hard way.

A Litany for Black Lives Matter – written by the Church of God in Christ – adapted for the American synagogue.

Leader: Today, we stand together in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters. We unite with all of those who have lost their lives to the unjust forces of police brutality, racial profiling, and systematic oppression.

Congregation: Together, we will stand. As co-created ones, we affirm that all Black bodies mirror the image of God. (Gen 1:27)

Leader: Together, we will march. In efforts to embody the prophetic command, “Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24) We will dismantle racial and social barriers in order to stand as one and march to the beat of peaceful protests, until God’s work is done.

Congregation: Together, we will march. Adonai, you have taught us to march for freedom and justice. We will march together like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. We will learn from the marches of generations past, and we will prepare the next generations to march with us.

Leader: Together, we will remember Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Cameron Tillman, Reneshia McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others who have lost their lives at the hands of police brutality. We hear the ringing of the twelve shots that were fired at Michael Brown’s body. We see the horror in Eric Garner’s face as he uttered his last words – “I can’t breathe.” We grieve the unfulfilled dreams of Aiyana Jones, who was only seven years old.

Congregation: We know that we should not stand idly by the blood of our neighbors, (Lev 19:16) and yet we have ignored the graphic images of tragic deaths. We have ignored the cries of victims, their children, their spouses, their parents. With new awareness and humility, our souls lament.

Leader: Together we will boldly name the unjust acts throughout our nation, the unwarranted deaths and shamelessly prejudiced acts. Yet, we are honest enough to also name the reality that resides within these four walls. We too have been unjust. In our ignorance, we too have persecuted. In our privilege, we too have closed doors and silenced voices.

Congregation: Together, Adonai, we seek your forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbors.  We have ignored the cries of those whose stories did not beckon the media’s response, whose graves went unmarked, whose bodies remain missing, whose memorials are forgotten.

Leader: Together, Adonai, we refresh our commitment to justice. The Prophet Micah taught us to walk humbly with God and to love mercy. We are also called to act justly. (Micah 6:8)

Congregation: We will walk with humility, and we will love mercy. Our humility and love would be empty without our just action. Together, Adonai, we strengthen our commitment to act justly.

Leader: Together, we proclaim the value of Black bodies. We will deconstruct discriminating stereotypes that have legitimized the death of African Americans, criminalized Black boys and girls, and dehumanized Black women and men.

Congregation: Together, we will proclaim: Black Lives Matter.

Leader: For the parent who grieves a child she will never hold again, we will proclaim –

Congregation: Black Lives Matter.

Leader: For the child who lives in fear because his neighborhood is barricaded by police, we will proclaim –

Congregation: Black Lives Matter.

Leader: For the father who feels compelled to teach his son how to keep his head down rather than hold his head up, we will proclaim –

Congregation: Black Lives Matter.

Leader: For the sister who is doubly-subjugated because her skin is labeled ugly and her gender is less-valued, we will proclaim –

Congregation: Black Lives Matter.

Leader: Throughout our congregations, our cities, our classrooms, our work-places, and our homes, we will continue to declare: All of us are created in the Divine Image. This is a truth older than the United States, a truth that America cannot erase. Therefore, we proclaim –

Congregation: Black Lives Matter. African American Justice Matters. Black Freedom Matters. African American Dignity Matters. Black Lives Matter.

 

Thank you to the Church of God in Christ for the Black Lives Matter Litany and other powerful, meaningful prayers which respond to current events.

Peace Already. Please.

This post isn’t about loving Israel, though I do.
This post isn’t about a specific cease fire I’m praying for, though I do.
This post isn’t about picking sides.

Today, I read this sad article, which describes the Israeli citizen response to an arson attack on a school in Jerusalem. The school is the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School. Here is their website.

I guess I should be happy that the first thing on the school’s website is a thank you note from the school staff. They thank everyone for the support since the attack and describe how they are progressing in their response and recovery.

A few weeks ago I posted a request on my FB page. I asked for people to post their favorite organizations that brought Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis together. No one responded. I can think of a few projects, but I wanted to know where other people find hope and inspiration. But there was no response, no hope, no inspiration.

This school is one of the most exciting projects out there.

A few summers ago, a camp friend of mine told me about the Hand in Hand school. She is a teacher at the school. (I’m not mentioning her name here because I don’t want to expose her to arson or any stupid internet hate.) The school is so cool. Here are the first words of their mission: “Building shared society. One school, one community at a time. Our Mission at Hand in Hand is to create a strong, inclusive, shared society in Israel through a network of Jewish-Arab integrated bilingual schools and organized communities.” (Read the rest of their mission here.) This school works with students and families of different backgrounds, different religions, languages, ethnicities, etc. Through meaningful education, this school brings people closer together, closer to peace.

And THAT is why stupid racists lit their classrooms on fire.

Now I’m mad. Usually, I try not to get too mad. Anger erodes my ability to think before I speak. But I’m mad now.

What will I do with this anger? I’m not sure yet, but I wanted to make sure that I told all y’all about it. Mostly, I want you all to know about this amazing school. There are awesome people out there working hard to bring Jews and Arabs together in Israel.

About the arson, I’m not sure what I want to do yet. I’m going to find something productive to do about this. I’m sick of racism. It’s dangerous, in America, in Israel, everywhere. We have to do something big, something different, something soon.

 

A Dream Team – We will work better together.

I’m grateful to have had some amazing jobs and some amazing colleagues. I’ve learned so much about myself and about teamwork in general. Of course, I recognize that all jobs and all teams come with particular frustrations, but sometimes I let myself dream of a perfect team. My dream job includes a dream team of colleagues.

Progress – This Dream Team consists of individuals who want to improve – ourselves and our work. We are dedicated to reviewing the work we do – talking about and recording what worked, what didn’t work, and what we are missing. We don’t take mistakes personally. We work together to make our work and our organization better and better.

Communication – The Dream Team talks things through. We know each other well because we communicate. We support each other when we are sad and happy, which we are aware of because we communicate often.

Planning Ahead – We sit down together regularly to look backwards and forwards. We dream up zany ideas together. Even though we strive to plan ahead, The Dream Team isn’t afraid to follow through on a last-minute plan if enough of us agree that it’s a fantastic idea.

Conflict – We argue, and it’s okay. Sometimes, we argue opposite sides just to consider an idea or a plan from every angle. We respectfully disagree. We handle conflict with respect and openness. We never pretend to agree or hide our opinions. We work together toward resolutions that everyone can get behind. Individuals are allowed to change their minds without worrying about winning or losing an argument. We try to accept each other’s differences, and, if something gets particularly tough, we try to address it within 24 hours.

The Benefit of the Doubt – The members of the Dream Team give each other the benefit of the doubt. We assume that we each want what’s best for each other and for the team.

Vision – The Dream Team has a big picture mentality. We have a shared vision of our goal and our path. When we get stuck on a problem, our team reviews our next steps in light of our biggest goal and our shared values. When we review our successes and failures, we use our goals as a guide to our next steps. Our shared vision and our shared values help us do our best over and over.

I’m hoping that – if I can imagine it, then I’ll be able to recognize it when I see it. And I really hope they will recognize me as the team member they want and need.

Honest – To a Fault

I’m all about honesty. How can we work together well if we can’t have an honest conversation? I believe that we can talk anything through – if we start with honesty.

Unfortunately, lots of people see honesty as rude or inappropriate.

After seven years in Texas, I’ve learned that many people would prefer a gentle change of subject to my honest reaction to their question.

I think Texas has taught me this lesson. Here’s my evidence:

I had avoided talking to her for months, maybe years, because she seemed to twist my words and then spread them around. We ended up in the same place. I felt afraid. I smiled.

She threw her arms around me and gave me a long hug. Then, she told me that we ‘need’ to get together for coffee.

With a big smile on my face, I managed to respond: “I like coffee!”