Life is all about choices and decisions. A friend of mine wears the same colour and style shirt and pants every day to avoid having to use any of his brainpower on “trivial” matters so that he can apply all his decision making acumen to decisions that matter.
Frequently, it is impossible to know whether a decision is the right or wrong one. We only know whether it turned it out well or not. We cannot engage in comparative shopping, hit a reset button, and see if a different decision would work out better or worse. Some decisions we make on our own, while others are foisted upon us.
When I was 15 years old, my mom decided that the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) was important for me to try out. Much to my chagrin, we headed over to the home of a childhood friend who was hosting a meeting of the local chapter aptly named L’Chaim (to life). In the interest of full disclosure, this was far from my 15-year-old self’s preconceived notion of a good time. When we arrived, I refused to get out of the car. So my mom and I sat in the car and argued. Then we argued some more. Finally, my mother gave me two choices: either I get out of the car and go inside to the meeting or she would ring the doorbell and point to me sitting in the car, which would be excruciatingly embarrassing.
Bested by my mom, I reluctantly rang the doorbell.
Thirty years later, mom, thank you for the experience as it proved to be profoundly positive. BBYO taught me leadership skills and helped ignite a passion for Jewish life and living that has only become stronger through the years.
I could easily write several columns extolling the virtues of BBYO. Instead, I will use it as an example of making a Jewish choice. While my mom made the initial decision for me, and despite my best effort to dislike the experience, I subsequently chose to immerse myself in BBYO, deriving enormous benefits, including Jewish identity enrichment, Jewish learning, lifelong Jewish friends, and leadership skills from the experience. For me, BBYO was a reluctant, but ultimately game-changing Jewish choice.
Today, when I am asked about the biggest challenge facing our Jewish community, my answer is to help more people make more Jewish choices.
When Charles Bronfman, a founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel, provider of free Israel trips for Jewish young adults, was asked at the onset of the program what success looked like for him, his answer was that he hoped returning participants were motivated to add a Jewish experience or practice to their repertoire. Essentially, he invested significant philanthropic resources in the hope of helping more young people make more Jewish decisions.
As Rosh Hashanah approaches, let the sound of the shofar be your call to action to make more Jewish choices for you and your family.
Ottawa’s Jewish community has a plethora of rich, fun and meaningful experiences for all ages. Every two weeks, Federation assembles an electronic newsletter with all things Jewish in the community. Peruse it and find the right experience for you and look for the right experience for your child. If you are not already on our mailing list, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily add you to our distribution list.
This, year, add something new and meaningful to your Jewish repertoire and bring a friend along for the experience. Shana Tova! May 5776 be a year of peace, happiness and meaningful Jewish experiences for you and your family.
P.S. If you are already involved, please take note that when I first entered that BBYO meeting 30 years ago, wanting to dislike it and never go back, a difference maker was the warmth and friendliness of the people who immediately welcomed me and did their best to make me feel comfortable.