Recently our Vice-President of Education, Natalye Black, shared with me that each day presents an opportunity for leadership. It is up to us to seize the moment. Since that conversation, I have become innately aware of those “teachable moments” and try to lead by example. Sometimes it’s not very easy and takes a conscious and dedicated effort. Those are the moments that are the most important. One of our Religious School students, Blaze Bernstein, said in a Jewish Values class this year, “Some values are harder to keep than others, but it’s important to follow through.”
When our children see us “living our values,” they learn by example. This goes way beyond serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless or donating blood in an emergency situation. It means behaving like a “mentsch” in common everyday situations and taking the high road – when it’s easier to go with the flow. It means standing up for those who are facing injustice, sometimes even sacrificing a luxury so that others can have necessities and taking care not to compromise those values, even when you’ve been wronged.
In this same Jewish Values class, Emily Domash said, “Some values are not as easy to swallow as others.” A few weeks ago I was out to dinner celebrating a friend’s birthday. This was a small, intimate gathering of very few people. My youngest son was with me. One of the guests started to criticize my family life. I was left with two options, either to engage this guest and ruin my friend’s celebration or to let it go. Without much time to consider, I chose to let it go. After dinner, during our ride home, my son asked why I hadn’t responded. I explained to him that while I know the other guest was wrong and I wanted to put him in his place, this was not my night to ruin. This was someone else’s evening and her celebration. Out of love and respect for her, I did not engage. We discussed this in detail and both learned something that will guide future decisions. The next day my friend texted me to thank me for not responding to the comment which might have created an uncomfortable situation.
As we approach Rosh Hashana, I commit to making this year VALUable in our Religious School and AJE. Please join me in modeling our values to our students and weaving them into the fabric of our daily lives. This will render strongly grounded mentschen as our children grow into adults of whom we can be proud.