Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Did you know? Adult Education 25 years and counting at Lakeside!

Missed my article in ARJE Achshav?  Read it here:

For over 25 years a group of dedicated, devoted, and enthusiastic adults meet every Sunday morning at Lakeside Congregation for Adult Enrichment. We begin the morning with a small group for weekday t’filah. We also host a lox and bagel brunch and then we get down to business as we meet for 90 minutes; we have about 30 speakers over any school year. Sometimes we have a theme that takes us through a whole year and occasionally we just have monthly topics.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we hosted Jim Kenney from Common Ground in Deerfield, Illinois, who spoke about “Reflections on the 2016 Election.” We had over 100 people in attendance and for our small congregation of 300 families that is a great turnout. How did this adult education solidify and continue to grow over the years? This is not an easy question but one I can attempt to answer.

• We call our Sunday morning lectures “Adult Enrichment” which we hope will signal to our congregants and community attendees that these lectures are not meant to be a class. You can come one week and miss the next 3 weeks because our classes do not build one upon the other. Occasionally we have a series of 2 or 3 sessions on one topic but all Sunday mornings can stand on their own.

• We depend on dynamic speakers and if they are enjoyed one year we bring them back, if not the next year, perhaps in a few years.

• We set the calendar for Adult Enrichment 8-10 months in advance. Speakers are sometimes surprised that we are full for the year in September.

• We plan our topics and speakers by September and then have a bookmark with all of our speakers ready to pass out at the High Holy Days.

• We budget for the speakers.

• We ask our participants to help defray the cost of the lox and bagel brunch by being a “sponsor” once or twice a year.

I am very proud of our program and excited every Sunday morning to see so many adults coming into the building to participate in this program. Both my rabbi and I do one or two Sunday mornings and then we find exciting speakers in our community. This adult study has fostered friendships, spearheaded social action projects and helped us to move forward many different agendas including ritual or even taking a trip to Israel.

 One of our upcoming Adult Enrichment Sunday programs is “the Plight of the Refugee; how you can make a difference in the refugee crisis.” We are planning on sponsoring a refugee and working with HIAS and what a great way to start this campaign. I am getting ready even now to plan more Adult Enrichment programs as I look forward to 2017-2018.

If you have not tired Adult Enrichment out at Lakeside please stop by this Sunday at 10:30 am to meet Rabbi Michael Balinsky from the Chicago Board of Rabbis:

 Come for the lecture and brunch; stay for the friends!

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 9, 2016

I make "to do" lists and nothing makes me feel better than crossing off tasks from my list.  Wednesday morning I put many items on my to do list which may not be crossed off for the next 2-4 years.  I was deeply stunned by the result of the election on Tuesday. I am still not sure why so many people were stunned by the outcome. How did the pollsters get it wrong?  Why didn't we read the country better?

12 year old Vanessa
I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois and I was the only Jewish student in my school besides my sister.  We were the "other" and we routinely talked about being Jewish, visiting Israel (which we did in 1973) and disagreeing with the war in Vietnam.  I don't know if I changed any minds, never mind votes but I do know that there are 100's of fellow students many of whom still live in Crystal Lake, a republican bastion, who remember the funny Jewish kid they knew in grade and high school.

My sister and I in the Old City, 1972
I loved public speaking and took every chance I could to bring up Jewish history and cultural references.  In my American history class when the teacher began in 1492 Columbus discovered America, I promptly and loudly pointed out that this was also the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition where thousands of Jews died and were tortured because they were Jewish.  High Five to my Religious school studies at Congregation Knesset Israel in Elgin who taught me that factoid.

I had an English teacher who when teaching us Shakespeare used the phrase "to Jew someone down" and I immediately told my parents, who called the High School's administration and had me transferred into another class.  (The teacher denied saying it by the way).  I mention all of these incidents to bring to light how being Jewish in a small town can affect other people.

I chose to live in Deerfield, send my children to day school and live in the beautiful bubble of the north shore.  I know from my travels and professional growth opportunities that Jews are leaving small towns by the droves.  As the big box stores come in the Jewish owners of the small personal dry good stores are no longer there.  We no longer have dialogue with the "other". I think that as we go forward for the next 2 to 4 years we must not only work for our candidate, read just OUR facebook feed but we must look to engage with the "other" so we can empathize and hope they can empathize with us.  It is not as easy task to put this dialogue on our to do list but it is going on mine. 

Attending an educator meeting on Wednesday November 9 many of my younger colleagues were wondering how to talk to their young children and tell them about the election; how could they explain to their children when they were very sad themselves.  I was thinking about what to tell my children, all in their 20's and especially to the one who was working for someone who did not get elected and he does not have a job now.  I think my husband put it best when he wrote/texted them the following:

My kids, helping right before Pesach
Good Morning,

 It is OK to be sad and a little depressed, but do not let it control you.  Life always has its ups and downs, and I do think (after first going through my own internal rants and vents and worries about the world and country being doomed.   OK, got that out of the way now), that really,  that life always goes on.  

 . . . So, DON’T EVER LET GO OF YOUR IDEALISM.  Lital, I think your principal is correct and I see you guys and all your friends as the future.
You  must be ready to move forward with your goals and convictions intact.  Mom and I thought the country was lost when a previous candidate prevailed back when we were in college.  We are all still here and the pendulum swung to get President Obama.  We love you, Dad

My Kids

I am looking forward to praying together this weekend and coming together for Religious school and talking to friends and family as together we move on.