This week has been filled with a lot of emotion, excitement, and memories. Today, is the yartzheit (the 11th anniversary of his passing away). So quite obviously I've been thinking quite a bit about him and all of the memories I have with him from growing up, and the desire to be able to sit with him for just one more chat or one more hug.
As you may already know I didn't grow up in a chasidic home, or even a particularly observant home, but my very last conversation with my father was telling him Devorah's and my dream to open a Chabad House and become a rabbi. This brought him a lot of joy. In fact, one of the last things he said to my mother was "My son the rabbi; I like the way that sounds" Those words have brought a smile to my face for the past 11 years and served as a major motivation for what we do at Chabad at Oberlin.
Talking about family I was moved by the photo of Aushwitz survivor, Shoshana Ovitz who celebrated her 104th birthday with all of her living decedents...over 400 of them!!! It is such a powerful image to see this matriarch, her four children and then hundreds and hundreds of grand children, great grand children, and great-great grand children. Makes me think about what we are leaving as a legacy in this world.
I watched this TED talk from my friend Mordechai Lightstone who talks about the internet being a powerful too for good, and the power we all hold to be messengers of good and inspiration into the world.
A podcast that I've been listening to for a while now, but keep falling in love with is Ear Hustle. Reporter Nigel Poor goes into San Quinten State Prison and along with some inmates from the inside, she produces one of the most authentic podcasts I've ever listened to. Having been a volunteer Chaplain for the past 9 years in Ohio prisons there are many facets that I have identified with and I've learned a great deal about people through this podcast.
Last week, along with tens of thousands of other fellow Jews, I concluded the annual study of Maimonides work called the Mishna Torah, where he explains every mitzvah in the Torah. Come and join me in the study, it takes about 3 minutes every day. Every year when the cycle concludes It feels very gratifying to look back and see how much was accomplished and also knowing that I am unified with so many others across the globe in learning the same thing.
Have a great Shabbos,
Listen to this week's Soul Searchers ChabadCast where I shmooze with Jon Madof OC '96. We talk about his transition from majoring in Japanese to running a record label and fronting his own band. He was a really fun interview, we had never met before and we still have a bunch more to talk about, so look out for a 2nd episode at some point.
This week was one focused on reflection and planning, which means a lot of goal setting and refining my vision for my life and for our wonderful little Chabad House. Also I'm still in Brooklyn which has afforded me the ability to meet up with some really great Obies from the 70's all the way to current students. It has been amazing, and they have also inspired me with some great content and fodder for my mind.
I'm watching a short documentary Jacob Baron OC17 shared with me. He made just before he graduated called Protest: Oberlin Across The Years. I have always been curious about the history of being a revolutionary, and the culture that surrounds it. This film didn't disappoint in giving a glimpse into Oberlin's long and fascinating history.
I just ordered a new calendar, because believe it or not the new academic year is about to begin which also means that Rosh Hashanah is getting close. This calendar is unique in the sense that the artwork is gorgeous, and the calendar itself is a circle. It symbolizes the cycle of the year and of self. They made a little youtube vid explaining it too.
I'm reading two interesting articles, one by Brian Blum OC83 about cultural Judaism and how tradition and culture intertwine (and dont'). I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of a large swath the Jewish community. Read it here. The other article is about a middle school graduation and what the focus of the speeches were about. It helped me think about what is important to me, and where I want to put my focus for the future.
I always love hearing what you are learning, reading, watching, and listening please keep sending me what has you inspired.
Also listen to this weeks Chabadcast with Oberlin Alumni Mark Finkle. Mark graduated in 1976 is one of my mentors and helps guide me when I feel a bit lost. He has been on quite the spiritual journey, learned a ton, and in his retirement he chose to teach others! In the podcast Mark talks about meeting his wife at Oberlin, going from a history major into the business world, and working as a Jewish person in places like Afghanistan and the United Arab Emerites, and he drops a ton more knowledge too. Listen, you won't regret it.
Listen on itunes, stitcher, spotify, or your favorite podcasting app
Happy Friday! I'll be honest this week was a hard one to be motivated to get stuff done. Maybe I was finally feeling the vibes of summer, but I mostly pushed through. I got to meet with some great alumni (from before I was even born) caught up with some friends, and got some good family time (minus Hadassah who is at sleep away camp and we miss her). Amidst my lack of motivation I've still found some inspiration in a few cool places.
Earlier this week I visited my friend who sells Jewish books and he had a book there that caught my eye called Homeward Bound. It is a book of short stories of folks getting in touch with their Jewish heritage and identities. As luck would have it, the compiler of the stories is from my home town in Atlanta, so many of the stories are about people that I know, makes it a little extra special and gave me a taste of home. So far its been a good read, quick stories with little bites of inspiration.
I'm also listening to some more new podcasts, being in NY and riding the train is prime time for listening. So I stumbled into this Podcast called Jewish People and Ideas. I heard this episode with Yossi Klein Halevi speaking about growing up in Boro Park in Brooklyn and living on the border of the Jewish neighborhood, and then moved to Israel and lives butted up next to his Palestinians neighbor. Yossi once embraced an extreme political position and found himself migrating toward the center over time. I found myself not agreeing with everything Klein Halevi said but was fascinated how he articulated his beliefs.
A quote I've been thinking about related to Tikkun Olam
"If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly in the world, then it is you, yourself that needs repair." -- Rabbi MM Schneerson
Have a great Shabbos
p.s. You might with to listen to our summer Podcast series. This episode was with my good friend Didy Waks who is the Chabad rabbi at Hamilton College, we give out some good secrets :) Listen here. Or search for Soul Searchers on your favorite Podcast app.
We are still in Brooklyn and it's been a busy week. Yanky turned 10 and I also had my Birthday so lots of good things to celebrate. I with thinking a lot about Rabbis (shocker right) and anonymity this week. Here in Crown Heights rabbis are aplenty and its one of the few places in the world where I can just be a face in the crowd. Crown Heights is a Chabad community, and also pretty transient, so I don't really stick out. I can walk into a room and no one wonders who is that guy. So on one hand its pretty nice to be a nobody, on the other hand it sometimes feels pretty strange. At the same time, coming into this community is rather uplifting and realizing in what seems like a homogeneous community each of us are unique personalities.
Earlier this week I was at a friends house and there was another (rabbi looking guy there) and casually he said he was a photographer, I didn't think too much about it, though he was the "run of the mill" wedding photographer, but later in the week I found out he is a high fashion photographer and he started a photo project called The Rabbi Project. He does an awesome job at showing the color in the black and white world of Chasidic Brooklyn. I've visited this site about 25 times this week, just memorized by the photos.
I've also watched a great documentary about some rabbis who are very, VERY far from Brooklyn. Outback Rabbis is about 2 rabbis and their families who move to the Australian Outback to find the Jews spread around the huge area. Awesome film, and quite inspiring.
On the theme of anonymity, I've just listened to an episode of Beautiful Anonymous with Chris Gethard. It's a cool podcast where people call in and tell the host, whatever they want for an hour. Only rule is they have to stay anonymous. This week's episode was a woman who has been through quite a tough life, but her outlook is remarkable.
I also did a Narcan training course yesterday with an organization call Amudim, where I had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing our communities around Opioids, and how to help folks who are suffering from an overdose. The class was eyeopening and I hope to never need to use the Narcan, but just incase someone is in crisis now I can be equipped to help. If you are interested in having this kind of one time class offered in Oberlin, please let me know.
Have a great shabbos,
We finally made it to Brooklyn and it feels good. We've got Obies around and in the heart of chasidic NY. Devorah and I also were able to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary together with a beautiful dinner and even more beautiful conversation. (btw if you are in NYC we would love to see you, so please send us a message). As the old Jewish adage goes if you change you location, you change your "mazel". So my mazel has become pretty introspective this week here is what I've been up to.
I just started listening to a podcast called Potential State. Someone recommended this podcast to me and when I heard the name i realized it was my friend Galit Romanelli's husband Dr. Assael Romaneli. The topic of the podcast is about best relating to yourself and others and Assael brings his knowledge as a therapist into your ears. Its pretty awesome. I'd start with the 2nd episode called Supermen, Superwomen. Some episodes are 2 minute, most are around 15 minutes and a few are longer.
Some art I've been enjoying is called Parsha Posters from Hillel Smith of California. He makes amazing graphic representations of each weeks Torah portion. Kinda want to get some prints for the Chabad House walls.
In a similar vein to the podcast I'm listening to, I've started reading "It's Within You It’s Within You: A Detailed Road Map to Igniting, Deeper Self-Worth, Richer Relationships, and Greater Personal Freedom by Aryeh Weinstein and Ilene Cohen PhD . It's a fantastic book that is a powerful synthesis of modern psychology and Ancient Spiritual Wisdom. What if you could just stop worrying about what others think of you? How much more could you accomplish in life?ONE simple shift could make it happen…Burned out. Struggling. Undervalued. Conflicted. Invalidated. Anxious. Angry. Empty. All signs that your self-worth isn’t coming from within. We’ve all been there, and it’s not a place where healthy relationships, personal freedom, and peace of mind can thrive.
And lastly, I've watched this video about three times already. I've wanted to express so many of the thoughts here but could never find the words. Brian Strauss the rabbi of the Conservative synagogue Beth Yeshurun in Houston Texas shared some of his thoughts and experiences about Chabad and summed it up rather perfectly here.
Have a great Shabbos
p.s. I'd love to hear what you are reading/listening to/watching. Let me know. And for a bonus follow me on Insta for some great pics of Brooklyn @Obierabbi
Wow, this week has flown by! Devorah and I are wrapping up our second week teaching at the Jewish Summer Fellowship, and it has been fantastic. We are teaching women between the ages of 19-30 who are exploring their Jewish identities in new ways. We have served as scholars in residence where we are teaching classes and fielding questions throughout the day. It has been intense, and a whole lot of fun too. So in between preparing classes, teaching, and fielding a ton of questions I've been reflecting back on the past year a bit and also filling my mind with new things.
I've been listening to some past episodes of my "Soul Searchers" podcast. Particularly the episode with Rami Teeter OC '20 where we get into a some pretty thoughtful conversations about how he was raised, and if G-d was a topic of conversation in his home, or schooling. This episode went on a bit longer than all of my others and it was worth every second.
What I'm Watching
Last summer I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a Fellow in a very special community. It is called the ROI Fellows. As a closing ceremony we took part in a really unique experience with an organization called Kooloolam. It is a group singing activity. Wherever I rewatch this video I get a little emotional. The experience of us all taking a song and learning it about 45 minutes and then singing our hearts out brought about this amazing feeling of unity that is quite difficult to articulate. I low key (well not so low key) want to bring this group to Oberlin and get us all together and just SING!!
A story that I read
Psychologist Barry Schwartz and political scientist Kenneth Sharpe in their book Practical Wisdom tell a story about a hospital janitor named Luke. In the hospital where Luke worked, there was a young man who'd gotten into a fight and was now in a coma, and he wasn't coming out. Every day his father sat by his side in silent vigil, and had done so for six months. One day, Luke cam in and cleaned the young man's room. His father wasn't there; he was out getting a smoke. Later that day, Luke ran into the father in the hallway. The father snapped at Luke and accused him of not cleaning his son's room. Luke could have snapped back "I did clean your son's room" but he responded by cleaning the room again, so the father could see him cleaning the room. What do you think you would respond?
One other important thing
Chabad at Oberlin, along with some other campuses is doing a summer fundraiser. We are hosting a raffle, where you can win $10,000 and some other great prizes. Tickets for the raffle are $36. Over $30 from each ticket goes directly to supporting the work Chabad is doing at Oberlin, like shabbos dinners, holiday programming, and all kinds of great classes, etc. So please think about grabbing a ticket (or a few). And if you win the $10,000 its a double win because you got $10k and you are helping to support the great Jewish community at Oberlin. Feel free to tell your friends and family about the raffle too!!! Last day to buy tickets is July 21st.
This week is a special one. This Shabbos marks the anniversary of my spiritual mentor and guide the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Additionally, Devorah and I have been serving as scholars in residence at the Jewish Summer Fellowship for Women in upstate NY. So needless to say this week has been filled with lots of personal content and inspiration. So here is some of the things I've been filling up with, and this week you might notice a theme around the Rebbe and his message.
What I'm watching over and over again is the CEO of WeWork, Adam Neumann, tell his story of being one of the most successful people on the planet yet feeling so unfulfilled. One day he found something that changed his life forever, deepened his relationships, elevated his business, and made him feel like he had a purpose. Watch it here.
A quote I often revisit when reflecting of the greatness of the Rebbes guidance and leadership
"A true leader does not seek followers, he wants to teach others how to be leaders. He does not want control, he wants the truth. He does not impose his leadership on others, nor does he take away anyone's autonomy. He inspires by love, not coercion. When it comes time to take credit, he makes himself invisible; but he is the first to arrive at the time of need, and he will never shrink away in fear. He is so passionate about your welfare that when you consult him for guidance, it is like coming face to face with yourself for the first time." -Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
What I'm reading
Toward a Meaningful Life gives Jews and non-Jews alike fresh perspectives on every aspect of their lives - from birth to death, youth to old age; marriage, love, intimacy, and family; the persistent issues of career, health, pain, and suffering; and education, faith, science, and government. We learn to bridge the divisions between accelerated technology and decelerated morality, between unprecedented worldwide unity and unparalleled personal disunity.
Wishing you the most inspiring Shabbos, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
p.s. We will be in NYC for a few weeks this summer and if you are going to be there. please let me know. Devorah and I would love to invite you for Shabbos in Brooklyn or meet up for coffee or drinks in the city.
A video that shows what true joy looks like
This little clip of an awesome kids choir from America's Got Talent. They are having so much fun, and the raw happiness at the end is worth the 5 minute clip
The book I am currently reading
Second Mountain by someone named David Brooks. I found this book in an actual book store (gasp!). When I walk into a book store I feel like it is a religious experience of it's own. I walk around and look at books until one seems to call me over. This one called me, but I kept walking away from it, but after an hour of wandering around the Barnes and Noble, I knew that was my book. And is has not disappointed. He's a "recovering conservative" with a new look on living a purposeful life. Check it out. I was hooked before I finished the introduction.
Filling my ears with this podcast
A New Conversation is a podcast started by my friend Peretz and his wife Chanie, they are the Chabad family at Brandies. Last year they starting rethinking their Chabad House and the role they have on campus. So far they have posted 12 episodes, you can pick which one is gonna be your first, so far they all been good and they are short, usually less than 15 minute.
Have a great Shabbos,
A quote that was sent to me and made me think
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” - Anne Lamott
An amazing story I heard (get some tissues ready)
This story of being in the right place at the right time, and how just a little love and caring can go a long way. Check out the short video.
The book I just ordered
Social Vision is about the only rabbi ever awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Despite wide recognition of the Rabbi's impact, this is the first volume to seriously explore his social ideas and activism. he not only engineered a global Jewish renaissance but also became an advocate for public education, criminal justice reform, women's empowerment, and alternative energy.
You might not know that I'm a bit of a podcast junkie.
This episode came out last summer, when I heard it I got hooked to the Unorthodox Podcast. It's pretty thoughtful, slightly irreverent, and talks about all kinds of stuff that impacts all corners of the Jewish world.
Have a great Shabbos,
p.s. Chabad at Oberlin is offering you a chance to win $10,000. We are taking part of a raffle where you can win some great prizes and all ticket purchase help Chabad at Oberlin directly. Grab a ticket or two (or more) also pass this link to your friends, parents, family members etc. Our goal is to sell at least 200 tickets. Get your tickets here