Tag: Lists

My 25th Trinity College Reunion: 8 Lingering Impressions

They say you can’t go home again. But when the intervening years have brought distance, maturity and humility, you can at least visit. 
I loved my alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut; especially it’s small classes, intense conversations, and accessible faculty. I left with fond memories, a wider perspective on the world, and a solid group of friends.

25 years ago, “Camp Trin-Trin” was my home away from home for three years, until I graduated early in 1985. (I entered Trinity as a freshman but received a full year’s credit for my gap year studies in Jerusalem; nonetheless, I still consider myself a member of the class of 1986.)  And now, 25 years later, I came back home. Here are 8 lingering impressions:

  1. 25 years later, college-era social separations (cliques!) gave way to almost universal interest to connect with classmates – whether they were close friends or not – to find out who they are now, and how they have grown since college. I found myself talking to as many people I was not close with as I did with my college circle of friends. How the years seem to change people! Why is that?  (Read on)
  2. Most people seem to have gone through difficult times in these intervening years. Whether involving their health, love life, finances or family, few have made it this far unscathed. I sense a healthy dose of humility permeating the crowd, as if each of us has been through enough challenges that we rather focused less on outward looks or status, and more on inner meaning.
  3. Some memorable conversations:
    • One woman, Warden of her Episcopalian Church (a role comparable to a Jewish temple president), shared “trade secrets”, strategies for warming her church community, budgetary challenges, and the central importance of fostering positive relations between clergy and leadership. Listening to her, it struck me that she could have been a temple president. Across religions we share similar concerns, similar priorities.
    • A cancer survivor inspired me with the story of her search – personally and professionally – to find the deeper spiritual meaning in life and to develop the abilities to lead others toward such self-awareness. (This was a conversation I wish had continued).
    • One couple – she from another graduating class – who were ba’alei teshuva (newly orthodox Jews) regaled me with stories of how they became orthodox and how they met (“it was besheret – meant to be,” coming after both had almost given up looking). That this orthodox Jewish woman returned to her reunion at a decidedly non-Jewish school was impressive.
    • Two men talked about how the path to job satisfaction for so many included years of suffering in unhealthy work environments. Like battered women who take so long to leave their batterers, men seem to endure much workplace abuse before moving onto healthy environments. Why is that?
    • A few wondered aloud about whether they had really accomplished anything in the years since college. My sadness upon hearing they felt this deepened as I learned that each had healthy kids, a loving marriage, and a relatively good job.
  4. Working out on the treadmill at the Athletic Center gave me pause for thought. I realized that in my three years at Trinity I never once worked out in the gym. While I did belong to a local Nautilus gym for a year, exercise in general was not on my radar back then. Nothing like a doctor’s insistence and a wife’s persistence to realign priorities.
  5. I visited Trinity’s new Zachs Hillel House, an astoundingly beautiful building which offers a full program of Jewish and multicultural experiences. Ably led by Lisa Kassow, it provides a gathering place to self-identifying Jewish students.
  6. Trinity College is home to one a gorgeous, green campus. As we walked the green fields and enjoyed a Barbecue on the quad, it occurred to us that we never quite appreciated the beauty of this lush space.  
  7. A group of us walked in (and quickly out) of two fraternity house parties. While it was fun to say that we still could go to a frat party, it was more interesting to try to figure out why we even bothered 25 years ago to enter those loud, smelly buildings.
  8. Talking about my family and especially my wife Michelle (and my Congregation Or Ami) reminded me (again and again) about how blessed I am. Beautiful, healthy, and loving, they – more than anything else – provide the foundation upon which everything else rests.

So I return to my real home thankful for the outstanding education I received at Trinity College. Those years challenged me socially, deepened me intellectually, and molded me personally. It was good to return to be so reminded. I look forward to keeping in touch with classmates via email, Twitter (@RabbiKip) and Facebook.

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.

15 Things I Did on Vacation

We spent a week away in Scottsdale, AZ with my folks and our family. 15 things we did on vacation:

  1. Celebrated my birthday with my family and my parents.
  2. Had breakfast of homemade cookies with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream
  3. Drove to Sedona, Arizona and marveled at the gorgeous red earth and fabulous mountains
  4. Made a snowman and had snowball fights with my kids just north of Sedona
  5. Had delicious burgers at multiple sports bars
  6. Slept later than I have in years (11 am one morning)
  7. Played baseball with my boys
  8. Bought a new tire for our minvan
  9. Fought food poisoning
  10. Saw Baby Fockers (could’ve skipped it)
  11. Didn’t read email
  12. Hiked in a great state park
  13. Drove home in time to surprise one son by picking up camp friends and the other with tickets to the Lakers-Heat game
  14. Had a great time with my folks
  15. Enjoyed relaxation and time with my wife and kids

10 Lessons I Learned from My Mom, Linda Kipnes

Happy Mom’s Day! (Those are three of the most inspiring women – My Mom, My Wife, My Sister-in-law.)

Having finished cooking breakfast, giving my wife a heart-felt mushy Mother’s Day card, taking a nap (I woke up so early, I slid out of bed so as not to wake her), and cleaning the kitchen (imperfectly, I’d probably get just an 85%),  I turn from my wife-the mother to my mother-the mom (I sent my mother a Mother’s Day card earlier this week).

Top Ten Lessons I Learned from My Mom

  1. If you can organize and delegate, you often get a big hand in setting the vision and molding the organization.
  2. Motivating others is the key to leadership. 
  3. A strong woman makes a wonderful, reliable partner, wife and mother. Thus I married another strong woman.
  4. Women should be rabbis and presidents and business owners and leaders of all kinds.  Why? Because they are capable. How do I know? Because my mom could be any of those and more.  
  5. My ability to communicate through my writing is one of my strongest gifts. My mom taught me that, and so that makes her the mother of my blogging too!
  6. Good ideas are better when articulated well.  Over the years Mom was one of my best editors. 
  7. A simple way of talking is often more easily understood than a fancy vocabulary.  Mom taught me that when as a teenager, I was fretting that I didn’t know or use enough big words. 
  8. Parenting is an imperfect craft. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, so sometimes you gotta go with your gut. 
  9. When things get overwhelming, no one offers a loving, non-judgmental ear like a mom.  Even today, I can call her up, just to unload, and by mutual consent, she promises not to carry the worry beyond the call.
  10. Unconditional love feels amazing. I got it from my mom.  I found it from my wife. I try to share it with my family, immediate and extended.

Over the years, my mom taught me important lessons about love, forgiveness, dignity and integrity, hope and sadness, organizing, leadership, group dynamics, family and more.  My mom, Linda Kipnes, is the best mom of all!  She’s also very active: once learning to ride a motorcycle, and above right, riding in the front of Disneyland’s Space Mountain rollercoaster.

Mom, I know you will read this eventually since you subscribe to my blog! So Happy Mother’s Day!

13 Things I Love about Israel

Happy Birthday Israel! I wish I were there celebrating with you. I will eat some humus to celebrate today.

Inspired by Ima on the Bima’s list of 13 things she loves about Israel and in honor of Israel’s 62nd birthday today, I offer my own list of 13 things I love about Israel:

  1. Jerusalem is golden, Nachalot neighborhoods are richly diverse, and the city makes my soul sing.
  2. My two nieces made aliyah and are doing their part to strengthen the Jewish state.
  3. My children love Israel almost as much as I do, and cannot wait to get back again and again.
  4. I have made Aliyat HaNefesh (spiritual ascent – been to Israel) 9 times and still cannot get enough of her.
  5. Her language, Hebrew, flows somewhat fluently from my mouth.
  6. The Galilee is green, gorgeous, spacious and spectacular.
  7. You can walk on stone pathways that our Biblical ancestors actually walked on and up stairs that our ancestors actually climbed. History comes alive.
  8. Ain Avdat a Negev wadi, makes for a fun-filled, rock-climbing, water-discovering hike.
  9. Machane Yehuda on Friday afternoon is a a colorful, boisterous, deliciously smelly, pluralistic intersection of Israelis of all flavors and fruits and vegetables of all kinds. I love standing in the middle of it right then.
  10. Newness abounds: Tel Aviv, once lowest on my list of places to visit, now tops my list as a cultural pilgrimage site.
  11. Kehillat Mevasseret Zion, a Progressive synagogue in Mevasseret Zion, a Jerusalem suburb, is a virbrant beautiful community with an energetic, inspiring Rabbi Maya Leibovitch.
  12. The artists colony in Tzefat, filled with spiritual seekers and creative wonders, offers voice and visual to religious murmurings after a day spent touring the mystical sites.
  13. And the fact that this list can go on and on and on…

What are your 13 favorite things that you love about Israel? Do share!

RAC’s Tep Ten List of Top Ten Lists

Our Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington DC represents our progressive Jewish values in our nation’s capital. They educate, raise awareness, explain Jewish values regarding current issues, and help local congregations engage their Congresspeople on issues of concern.

They also write an engaging RACblog. RAC Press Secretary Kate Bigam wrote their List of the Top 10 Top 10 Lists. I loved it. What were your favorite lists?

1. Grist’s Top Green Stories of the ’00s
Like others, Grist decided to go a step beyond a simple “Best of 2009” list by covering the aughts in their entirety. Starting with the greening of Paris Hilton (among other celebs), the list takes a more serious tone when it lists the environmental movement’s newfound climate focus and American politicians’ newfound willingness to talk about climate as a serious legislative issue as among the top environmental stories of the decade. With the snappy catchphrase “Local gets vocal, organic goes manic,” it also includes a shout-out to the sustainable food movement, which the Reform Movement embraced this year at our Biennial Convention.

2. TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Religion Stories of the Year
Included in TIME’s “Top 10 of Everything of 2009” compilation is this gem of a list that includes year-toppers titled things like “Secularism of Bust.” Among them is “Keeping the Faith-Based,” highlighting President Obama’s decision to “create the new Presidential Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to weigh in on matters ranging from funding of social-service and poverty-alleviation programs to the more controversial issue of abortion reduction.” The RAC’s Director, Rabbi David Saperstein, was named by president Obama to serve on this council.

3. The International Women’s Health Coalition’s Top Ten Wins for Women’s Health and Rights in 2009
This list of the world’s advancements in women’s rights tackles issues in the Unites States, the UK, Bolivia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Yemen, among others. But as blogger Lorena Espinoza Peña writes on Feministing.com, “As important as it is to celebrate victories surrounding women’s rights and health, it’s also important to acknowledge when there’s still much more work to be done.”

4. Odyssey Networks’ Top Interfaith Stories of 2009
Odyssey Networks asked its members, “Which activities and events of 2009 best illustrate the important and hopeful work being done by faith communities working together?” The list represents their recommendations along with the suggestions of the folks at Odyssey and is presented alphabetically rather than ranked – members are asked to vote on the story they feel is most important. In one story, “Speaking and Acting on Health Care Reform,” our own Director Rabbi David Saperstein is featured (photo above).

5. Religious Clause’s Top 10 Church-State, Religious Liberty Developments In 2009
Church-state blogger Howard M. Friedman, Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Toledo, submits his choices for the biggest religious liberty stories of the year. “The choices are based on the long-range implications of the developments on legal doctrines and on future of relations between government and religion,” he writes. Highlights include the Rifqa Bary case, of a Christian teenager at odds with her Muslim parents, court cases against Scientology in France and Germany, and conservative Christian groups’ opposition to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

6. Religion Newswriters Association’s Top 10 Religion Stories
More than 100 religion journalists voted President Obama’s June speech in Cairo, Egypt — in which he pledged a new beginning in Muslim-U.S. relations — the top religion story of the year. During his talk, Obama invoked the Qur’an, Talmud and the Bible while declaring that America was not at war with Islam. The second-rated religion story was health care reform; in addition to the top ten, the Religion Newswriters Association also compiled a list of 13 more noteworthy religion stories that made headlines this year.

7. Politics Daily’s Top 10 Economic Stories of 2009
The title reads “Jobs, Housing, Bailouts and — Yes — Tiger Woods,” so you know this is probably going to be a list a bit off the beaten path. Still, the first economic story listed is “‘Great Recession’ ends but unemployment hits 25-year high,” so golf stars aside, the list is still addressing the most pressing economic issues of our time – in a year when the economy has been a topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Other issues that make the cut in this arena include health care reform, the housing crisis, the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference, “tea parties” and more – including Tiger.

8. MSNBC’s “Decade’s Top 10 Political Lines”
NBC writers compile “what we consider to be the most memorable political lines/statements/quotes of the decade, which shaped or cemented perceptions, were repeated endlessly, and impacted American politics.” The usual political suspects make the list – Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Vice Presidents Cheney and Biden, Presidential hopefuls John Kerry and John McCain, now-Secretary of State Clinton – but there are a few surprises, too, including some profanity. Most notably, keep your eye out from a famous two-liner yelled just this year on the House floor and even a political joke from an old Saturday Night Live alumna.

9. The Forward’s “The Aughts and Us: 2000-2009: A Look Back at What a Decade Brought”
Ten Jewish leaders write one paragraph each on 10 of the ways life changed for Jews in the first decade of the 21st century, from the Diaspora’s presence online (makes it easier to kibbitz, fundraise, etc.) to the lasting threat of terrorism brought about by September 11th (and it’s impact on Jews, in particular). The final write-up is from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, about the emergence of Birthright Israel. He says, “It has demonstrated that at a time when commitment to Israel is supposedly withering, even the most disengaged young Jews have a yearning for connection to the Jewish state.”

10. TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Editorial Cartoons of 2009
Who says politics isn’t animated? Rounding out our list of Top 10 Top 10 Lists is TIME’s compilation of the best visual jokes of the year, but don’t be fooled by imagery that invokes Saturday morning cartoons – each of these drawings packs a political punch that highlights the biggest gaffes and missteps of 2009.

2010 – New Year, Time to Count Blessings

As 2010 is underway, we have a 5 hour drive remaining from Palo Alto to home, so we tale this time to enumerate the blessings and joys of 2009:We Still have 4 grandparents who have very close relationships with our kids.
We still in love and enjoy being married to each other.
We still have 3 wonderful hildren who are growing and maturing in positive ways and who still love being Jewish.
We all have our health.
We both work in vibrant Jewish communities that we are proud to be part of and to be representing.
We have long friendships spanning two to four decades with people whom we don’t always see regularly but when we do they energize and sustain us.
We have made new close friendships in the past decade.
Our home is comfortable, dry and filled with our kids and their friends who like to sleep over.
We had an opportunity to travel extensively through the country – 20 states in 31 days in one minivan. We were hosted by good friends. We saw beautiful and intersting parts of our nation which inspired us.
Our baby became a Bar Mitzvah, making us very proud and bringing so many family and friends together
Our eldest applied to colleges and while we await answers, she made us proud by her perseverence and improved essay writing.
Our middle one became president of the temple youth group, evidenced significant leadership and growth.We look forward to the start of a secular new year and a new decade.
May this one bring more truth, promise and honesty than the last.What are the blessings you count from 2009?

Who Is Counting? … Me!

This is my ninth trip to Israel since birth. A pause to recount:

  1. A family trip connected to my sister Lori becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
  2. The NFTY Leadership Machon Year in Israel, between high school and college, living at Machon Greenberg, Kiryat Moriah in Jerusalem, 1981-82.
  3. Rabbinical Studies Year in Israel study at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, living off Rechov HaPalmach, near the President’s house, 1986-87.
  4. A post-ordination trip, with Michelle and our (then) 9 month old daughter, to see travel and visit family and friends, 1992. Visited my sister Lori and her (then) two kids.
  5. The Rabbinical CCAR convention in Jerusalem, a mini-trip I shared with my father-in-law Murray November. Fun, energizing, but shortened by the death of our beloved grandmother Ruby Gilner, 2002.
  6. Or Ami’s first official Mission to Israel 2004, a two person trek with congregant Mark Wolfson. Two men, Or Ami’s “Advance Team,” showing up in the Holy Land during the Intifada, proof for a frightened American Jewish community that it was safe to travel to Israel. It was my wife’s 40th birthday present to me.
  7. Or Ami’s first Family Trip to Israel, rescheduled from the summer of Lebanon 2 War to December 2006. In addition to introducing our children to Israel for what I hope will be the first of their many visits, we led a delegation of 40 people total. A wonderful multigenerational experience. Read about it here.
  8. Or Ami’s first Adults only trip, with 23 Or Ami members, our guide Alexandra and our driver Avi in January 2008. First class all the way, great hotels, great connections, and snow in Jerusalem. Read about it here.
  9. This trip: brief touring with Mark Wolfson and his three son in laws, followed by a glorious week attending the CCAR convention, 2009. Read about it here.

How many times have YOU been to Israel? How were these trips meaningful?