Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jeff's Farewell Post :'(

I'm a pretty big fan of the Hillel Intl's campus program Ask Big Questions.  They do what the name says...ask big questions.  This week they tweeted the question, "What do you want your legacy to be?" I tweeted back that I have been thinking about that a lot.  When their tweeter asked me to elaborate I couldn't get it to fit in 140 characters.  Why? Because the answer needs context.

First of all, I like the question, but I also don't like the question.  Here's why I have such likelessness for it.  How can you answer the question without being selfish? The question is basically asking, "What do I want..." the dot dot dot is whatever you want it to be.  The other questions have asked, "Where is home?" "Are you free?" yada, yada, yada... Touchey-feely nice questions, that get at an opening up for deep conversation...not as self absorbed as the legacy question. Ok so those are my 2 cents on why I don't like it and I felt like I needed to express that before addressing the question. Now I'll give in to my self-indulgence and address it.



Some folks know, some don't, but I am leaving the UF Hillel at the end of the semester, and starting a new career at B'nai Israel, the conservative synagogue, just north of the Hillel building.  While I am thrilled for the new opportunities and challenges that will be await me at B'nai, I know I will miss working with the students, and my great staff. I have been looking back on the last two years at Hillel quite fondly and thinking like the ABQ tweet timely asked, "What will my legacy be?"

It better involve a sukkah and a Guiness World Record.



Anyone who regularly reads my posts knows that I have been striving to accomplish several goals. The first is to make Hillel "cool".  The second was enliven what I said when I interviewed for this job, "Hillel is not a building, it is a concept." And third was make our Hillel the best known/most visual Hillel.

I think I have accomplished these goals, I really do.  Hillel doesn't hold the stigma here it does at other universities, or even did when I was a student here.  Hillel's reach is farther reaching now than it ever has been.  We are deeply connected to student affairs in the administration, we are one of the leaders in our area for social justice work, and we are on campus constantly.  In the world of "being known" we get better press than any Hillel, and have more visitors to our Facebook FanPage than other Hillel, host this incredible blog, have a highly viewed YouTube Channel, and we're on Pinterest.  Our PR team is hard-working and passionate, and knows how to get us the right kind of publicity. I owe a huge thanks to them. (Jordan and Samantha, thanks.)

All of those are great, but they just bring Hillel up to the level it is now, and not further.  That is the job for our incoming staff.  But back to me and my illustrious legacy...

I really hope I was able to provide contact for unaffiliated students by meeting them, and finding them on campus, and bringing an experience to them.  That's what I would like the legacy to be.  I think experiences are under-rated.  They take an intricate recipe that is formulated in an ethereal space and rests between two people.  It's a relationship between our subjective views and mutual assumptions that becomes a memory, or a thought, or a sight, or a sound.
These ideas are greatly influenced by this book.
This author greatly influenced my dog's name.
Like driving down University Ave just seeing that largest sukkah this side of the Mason-Dixon line.  Like walking to class and being grabbed to come and swab your cheek to maybe save someone's life. Like leaving class to find us having a shofar blowing flash mob in Turlington.  Additionally, an experience is individual and unique. It's yours, you own it.  I may have planned for one thing, but you took from it another.   If I'm lucky, you even came to Hillel for an experience.  I'm I'm really lucky, one of these experiences changed you permanently.  Or those memories will never be forgotten.  Or the friends you met here will be your friends for life. I'd like a legacy like that.

***If you missed those things, go to www.youtube.com/ufhillel ***

I will miss my staff.  Learning with Rabbi D, taking adventures with Corby, climbing around Blair's office, the guidance of Kiki, cleaning Josh's litter box, and working with great students. But I think I'll miss pranking Jessica the most.  But do not fret loyal blog reader, I have something seriously epic planned for this week.  Look for the FB posts and tweets very soon...


And because this is my final blog post there is one more thing I have to do.

I never get the chance to blog about my girlfriend Danielle, because she isn't really involved in Hillel.  I mean she's in Vet School so she doesn't ever have any time to dedicate here.  I get that.  Anyway, I need to publicly thank her for always supporting me here.  Thank you for listening to my crazy ideas and helping me refine them and turn them into something somewhat tangible and borderline reasonable.  Thank you for taking care of our pets when I work 15 hour days here.  Thanks for listening to me vent. Thanks for making hospital visits with me.  Thanks for coming here when you can find the time. Thanks for putting up with this crazy schedule.  And thanks for putting up with me.

Goodbye folks!  Come visit me down the road at B'nai Israel!
...we need UF students to teach our hebrew school classes, just gonna throw that out there...


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Didn't We Do This Last Year?

It’s Passover again – already???  For many people, Passover is a time to come together as a family (be it close family, extended family, or even the “Hillel Family”), read through the Hagadah telling the story of our exodus from Egypt, eat some matzah, bitter herbs, try to make it through four cups of wine, and for the steadfast, conclude the evening with some traditional songs.

 Probably like last year. 

And the year before that. 

And the one before that, too. 

The same thing year after year can accustom a person to the evening to the point where going through motions can be an enjoyable, but all too often a spiritually vacuous experience.  But if that’s the case, it means we’re doing it wrong! 

In the middle of the Hagadah we read at the Seder we are implored “to see ourselves as though we personally are leaving Egypt”.  There certainly still exists literal, physical slavery throughout the world in the form of child soldiers, human trafficking, and, well, slavery!  But most of us, thank God, are not personally experiencing such forms of slavery.  But slavery exists in other forms as well.  We can become enslaved to our jobs, our ego, our past decisions, our smartphones, fashion, society, and so much more! 

The Seder is a time for introspection – we are all meant to ask ourselves “how am I enslaved – today?!”  And we spend the evening breaking through our slavery.  We eat the matzah to remind us that we need to free ourselves today.  We experience an evening of reclining and drinking wine – the conduct of royalty – in order to show ourselves and the world that we can be truly free!

 The Seder is not simply a commemoration of a historical event; it is an opportunity to relive that emancipation every year and to draw freedom into our own lives as we connect with those closest to us! 

Chag Sameach!