Tag: ccar11

My Hero: A Heartwarming Aspergers Tale

I have a new hero. Someone who I look up to, venerate, and applaud. Someone who inspired and inspires me. I met this hero in New Orleans, while away at a CCAR rabbinical convention.

Sitting in a club listening to some great jazz, I heard my hero’s story. There were tears while it was told. My heart both sanked and soared while I listened. I vowed to always remember the story and shine light on the heroicism.

It’s a story about Aspergers, a condition on the autism scale, which – among other things – leaves those with it, without the crucial ability to read social cues. Unable to tell if you are bored, irritated, or busy, the person with Aspergers just drones on, seemingly acts out, or worse. He sometimes say things that are out of context, not funny, or are offensive. It’s hard for her to maintain friendships because people just don’t get her or can’t handle the challenge.

Worse yet, like a person in early stages of Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s Disease, many people with Aspergers know they are different. They know their life will never be normal. In my hero’s life, the dream was to have one day (just one day!) to be normal, without the Aspergers. A far cry from the new car, new jewelry or an iPad 2 that most of us covet.

It wasn’t working for both mom and dad to work. Aspergers Boy (call him “Abbie”) was not thriving; friendships were not abiding. Mom and Dad were dividing, a load of pressures and responsibilities that threatened to bring them all down. ‘Twas difficult to focus other siblings when Abbie needed such help, guidance and advocacy. Everyone suffered.

Oh, did I mention that mom was a highly successful professional, targeted by many to become the next CEO in her company, while Dad was a well paid craftsman, sought after for the quality of his work. They happily lived near family, surrounded by dear friends.

But life was getting oppressive. They couldn’t keep going. No one was thriving. Something had to change.

So they took a radical step. They searched the country – yes, all over America – for a town that provided real resources for children with Aspergers, in an organic way. They found a place where Abbie could thrive, where mom and dad’s stress would subside, where the needs of the other kids would not collide with the sacred responsibility of raising an Aspergers Boy.

So dad transferred to a new job a half a country away. They bought a house out there. They registered the kids in new schools.

Abbie won’t quite get his wish to be without Aspergers for a day, but he is going to a community where being an Aspergers boy might just be … normal.

Who is my hero, you wonder? Why it’s mom!

Mom is giving up her high profile, highly successful job and career, moving away from her family, leaving her friends, and plopping herself down in the middle of nowhere (well, relatively nowhere) because the family realized that Abbie and family needed full-time attention and guidance.

What’s a hero? Someone who, without thinking about her own needs, acts in a way to nobly put the wellbeing of others first. Think MLKing’s march through Selma. Think rescue workers in the remaining World Trade Center tower on 9/11.

And think of Abbie’s mom, who selflessly is giving it all up for Abbie, for her family and for the sacred gift of nurturing a child with Aspergers.

Abbie’s mom goes nameless, unless she wants to out herself in cyberspace. May she, and the others who have made similar choices, know that they inspire so many of us to strive to be heroes too.

Snarky Post #36: Jewki Leaks: Top 10 CCAR Convention Fundraising Ideas that Surely will be Suppressed

Serving on the Revenue Enhancement Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis provides me with an opportunity to shnorr the schnorrers.  While at our CCAR Rabbinical Convention in New Orleans, I did a little brainstorming and came up with some brilliant fundraising ideas.  Sadly, I’m sure they all will be suppressed:

1. Have conference in city that serves mainly treif food so that no one eats. With extra money and no where to spend it, rabbis will donate more to CCAR Annual Campaign.
2. Use small group discussions in more conventions sessions/plenaries, thus saving money on speakers budgets.
3. [self censored]
4. Auction off the control of the thermostat. How much would you pay to be able to have sole control on determining when to make the room warmer or cooler?
5. Extend convention privileges (though require full payment of tuition) to rabbis who received their ordination over the Internet.
6. Sell CCAR tshirts and sweatshirts. Make sure the designs don’t suck.
7.  During the convention service – our CCAR “high holy day” convention service – pause after president’s sermon for a holy day appeal. We could raise 1000′s of dollars in tzedakah that way. (Note to program committee: make sure convention service doesn’t suck, just saying). (Ed. Note: services in this and past years definitely did NOT suck.)
8. Hire photographers to case out high treif restaurants and, after 10pm, on Bourbon Street. Print picture at One Hour Photoshop. Offer colleagues appearing in pictures the opportunity to keep pictures private in exchange for a significant, tax-deductible donation to the CCAR.
9.  Just saying, next time we hold a convention in New Orleans (or Las Vegas or Atlantic City of old), schedule an MMC dinner opposite the WRN. Think of the entertainment possibilities!  For added income, try a variation on idea #8. (MMC = Men’s Minority Caucus).
10.  Keep planning conventions with the same high level of involvement, musicality, collegiality, intellectual engagement, practical rabbinic innovation, accessibility, technologicality – and the CCAR will assuredly continue to rise up in our collective esteem… thus influencing people to  donate more to CCAR, or put CCAR in their wills, or refer people with means to the CCAR for naming opportunities on our convention programs or conference projects. (Note to Program Committee: there’s a big compliment in there for you somewhere.)
[cross posted at: nola.ccarnet.org]

Snarky Post #43: Top 10 Kvetches at the CCAR Convention

I recently attended the CCAR Rabbinical Convention in New Orleans. I love learning and connecting with colleagues; I love making fun of my kvetching colleagues.  Here’s my top ten list.  Incidentally, when it comes to kvetching, there should be no limits (thus 10 morphed into 17):
  1. No buttons inside the elevators. This hi-tech system requires us to push in the number on a keypad outside the elevator banks; it then tells you which elevator to take. Main kvetch: what if I don’t want to take Car B? This is so deterministic.
  2. Being forced to choose between looking at the speaker vs. looking at the screen. More problematic when the speaker is not good to look at and his/her words are boring.
  3. Having to choose between listening to what the speaker is saying vs. reading the tweets about what the speaker is saying.
  4. Some of the pretzels were moist/wet and I don’t like chocolate on my nuts.
  5. Our colleagues don’t seem to know the difference between kvelling and kvetching. Kvelling is when one finds something to say that is nice or will help make the program better. Kvetching is what the rest of you do.
  6. The room is too warm.
  7. Green is a foolish color for the siddur (translation: prayerbook); it makes me want to recycle it.  Especially since with Visual T’filah, we don’t need them anymore.
  8. Rick Jacobs being chosen as URJ president-nominee evidences the ascendency of a previously sidelined, but tireless and powerful shadow interest-group within our movement: men with full heads of hair. We all thought (hoped) that Steve Fox was an anomaly.
  9. All those numbered PowerPoint lists. Very discriminatory against those of us who can count on our own.
  10. The room was too cold.
  11. Because there are so many rabbis in this city now, many of whom know each other, means that we can’t hang out on Bourbon Street and do what we really want.
  12. 7:00 am breakfasts. Talk about East Coast-centric programming!
  13. Sheraton mints are chalky and bland. Ayelet mints were way better and they put out other candy.
  14. The water dispenser on the 5th floor, near the elevators, was out of water.
  15. There are so many younger colleagues here that it forces me to acknowledge being one of the middle aged rabbis. As it says in the Talmud, “That sucks!”. I liked the olden days when i was young enough to be making fun of the AKs.
  16. The room is too warm.
  17. The CCAR program committee chairs don’t seem to care about the fact that the room was too hot/cold/humid/warm.

Enough said?

New Orleans: 10 Things I’m Looking Forward to Doing

The rabbis of our Reform Movement gather in New Orleans for an annual convention to study, to reflect, and to explore the intersection between Jewish tradition and our daily lives. Being in New Orleans, home to the most devastating hurricane in recent American history, presents an added challenge: how does Jewish tradition respond to the continued dislocation and poverty of many thousands of New Orleans residents?  What responsibility do we have for the care and rejuvenation of this city and it’s population?  I look forward to grappling with these, and many other, significant issues.

In addition, I would list these as my top ten things I am looking forward to doing in New Orleans:

  1. Reconnecting with Colleagues and making new friends
  2. Listening to great jazz, blues and gospel music
  3. Further exploring Jewish involvement in community organizing
  4. Discovering what has been done to rebuild New Orleans and grapple with our American responsibility for it
  5. Reviewing how our community responds to interfaith families and couples
  6. Learning some thought-provoking Torah
  7. Walking the alleys and byways of New Orleans
  8. Raising some much needed new funds for the CCAR
  9. Deepening some of my rabbinic skills
  10. Contemplating the Holy One
  11. Learning about the growth of progressive Judaism in Israel

Or 11 top things…

I’m excited to be there.