By Robert Lichtman
Published in eJewish Philanthropy
David Eagleman wrote a terrific little book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which considers scenarios for what happens after this life. His very first conception is that we re-live every moment of our lives, the difference being that all the experiences are grouped together by likeness: 200 days in the shower; 5 months on the toilet; 6 weeks waiting for the light to change; 51 days making wardrobe decisions. So how much time might be spent re-living our “Jewish” lives?
It seems that “Jewish” is just another one of those categories, a siloed, isolated slice of life. Not life itself.
So often we use the catch-all expression “Jewish life” when we might mean “communal life,” or “synagogue life,” or “federation life.” Surely these are all aspects of Jewish life, but so is showering, toileting, waiting for green lights and dressing. And love. And work. And money. And politics. And friendships.
There is no such thing as Jewish life.
A colleague and I were reminiscing about Operation Solomon, the truly remarkable redemption, rescue and resettlement in Israel of thousands of Ethiopian Jews. This was 1991, and I was Director of Strategic Planning for the MetroWest Federation. I was in Israel for a month-long program with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), as part of my responsibility was to oversee the Federation’s allocations to JAFI and the JDC. Little did I know when I left West Orange that I would be on the receiving end of one of the greatest gifts ever to bless the Jewish people.
Digital technologies have educational value, but nothing beats the rich experience of interacting with others. Luckily through J-SERVE Jesse was able to combine the two!
Last spring Jesse was the teen leader for the J-SERVE project "Get Connected: Teaching Seniors Computer Skills" at Lester Senior Housing. During the event, Jesse matched 12 teens with seniors to teach basic computer skills and engaged the teens in Jewish learning, discussing the importance of helping our elders according to Jewish tradition.
"My J-SERVE project last year inspired me to do my Girl Scout gold award at Lester with the seniors."