Getting Organized

Well, here we go again! Hello to my 6th semester of rabbinical school.  WOW! At the end of this term, I will officially be at the halfway mark of my 6 year journey to ‘becoming rabbi’. Pretty exciting!

This semester, Ziegler is spicing things up! Instead of reporting to our usual classes this week, the semester is being kicked off with a week-long specialized intensive with concentrations in either community organizing, death/dying, or addiction/brokenness.  They all sounded incredible, but I eventually went with the community organizing path – and I’m SO glad I did!

This morning about 20 students, several rabbis and others met at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Sherman Oaks in a large meeting room upstairs (it’s a huge and beautiful shul). We were welcomed by VBS’s own Rabbi Noah Farkas (I shadowed him 2 years ago) along with visiting rabbi (and Ziegler grad) Rabbi Elan Babchuck and Organizing professional Jeannie Appleman.

How’s this for an icebreaker question:

What have you most recently learned about yourself? 

Rabbi Elan lead the fun and engaging opening activity that instantly made the room personal and intimate.  I was excited to hear what others had to say, and in a way, felt a little weight lifted off my shoulders when I shared.

 I am learning yet again, that I am an incredibly controlling person, and I don’t always trust others enough so I take control too often – I have faith issues with God and am working on healing that. 


Jeannie Applemen
is the Senior organizer and trainer for an organization called JOIN for Justice .  She was awesome! Here are some pieces I gathered from her talk:

Shuls have become a transactional marketplace – pay dues for services. Instead we need to engage our communities in crafting a solution [for where there is a need]. A rabbi, she says, should be a talent scout – helping identify who is in the community and encouraging them to do what it is they do best. 

IMG_7126Next was an activity lead by Rabbi Farkas who taught that community is built on stories. Our stories are what make us who we are and how we can relate to the world. He asked us to reflect on our own story – why rabbinical school? And asked us a series of questions to consider through the partnered 10 minute breakout.

The final activity of the day took the majority of the time. Rabbi Elan guided us through a form of meeting called a ONE on ONE – a 30 minute meeting which initiates a public relationship (with someone new), allowing you to assess who they are and identify how they can contribute/benefit from the community in which you are a part.  Listening, asking questions and engaging the person – using personal stories to create trust, it is an extremely effective model for building community and establishing relationships.   After learning about WHAT it is, we were then shown HOW as he demoed a mock ONE on ONE with a student volunteer.  He then asked for a few more brave volunteers to try it out.  I was picked.

First two soon – to – be rabbis took the ‘stage’. One engaged the other with questions as the Rabbi tried to help guide the conversation along. We assessed, they took their seats. Then it was my turn. Adir, a 4th-year whom which I don’t know that well would be my counter part.

After publicly complementing my soulfulness to the community, Adir asked me, out of complete nowhere, about why I felt compelled to offer Jewish activities to the undergrads at AJU.  I was so moved by his kind words, I instantly felt safe to share my true story. It’s hard to write about what happened next exactly but all I can remember was being showered with appreciation, comradery and encouragement. As if my attempts to bring community to a place that wasn’t really their own has positively effected them some how.  Rabbi Elan was so moved by the dialogue he burst out ‘This girl is going to build a great community – wow’.  Jeanne shared she wanted to know more about me and what drives my (so called) relentlessness. It was a showering of love I don’t think I had ever felt. It was quite humbling.

The end was dedicated to some private one on one’s and closing reflections.  Some much had been covered in such a short period of time. We’re back at it bright and early tomorrow morning!


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