Between the emails, the phone calls, the challenges of running a nonprofit, and the targeted hatred that confronts the Jewish world every day, I always enjoy getting out of my office to talk and interact with people. In my position, there are some extraordinary people whom I get a chance to interact with.
Take, for instance, a series of meetings I had this past week. My week started with a coffee meeting with the president of a local synagogue. The conversation revolved around how to re-engage the congregants while at the same time looking at ways to make what is being offered at the synagogue, besides service, relevant. Later that night, I was invited to a special meeting at the ADL, along with other Jewish leaders from organizations like the Jewish Federation of LA, the American Jewish Committee, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and several others, to share with new LA Sherriff Robert Luna the concerns of the local Jewish community.
As the week continued, I was seated with heads of Pasadena area Executive Directors, discussing the successes and challenges that each of us is facing within our organizations and our communities. It is during these conversations that I find myself thinking about ways that we, the Jewish Federation, may be able to collaborate with other organizations on incredible opportunities. What I found fascinating was hearing others do the same thing. In fact, be on the lookout for a possible event down the road that brings the Jewish community and the African American community together through music. Think of it as a celebration of our cultures through the beauty of our rich musical traditions.
A lot of my attention as of late has been focused on security and antisemitism… you know… small things. And when I think about these, I look at ways that our Jewish Federation, and me in particular, can combat them. As I have previously stated, I am not naïve to think that I alone can solve these problems, but I feel it is my job to try. And yet, I am reminded of the value and opportunities I have every day through my interactions with others that help bring about the change I am trying to make through our work. It is in these moments and experiences that we establish and strengthen the relationships we develop with others. And it is through these bonds that we better understand and see one another.
There is great power in those moments, and we sometimes forget that by getting to know someone and looking them in the eye, we truly see them, and they see us. It is through this understanding that we can affect change. Often times we see a problem that is so big that we feel whatever we are going to do is not going to have that great of an impact on eradicating it. However, it’s through these experiences, these one-to-one relationships we develop with others that can be the starting point.
We are facing great challenges today. Instead of trying to fix society, we should start by focusing on one person in that society. After all, as the ancient Chinese proverb teaches, the only effective way to eat an elephant is to take small bites.