You can learn something from everything
I attend Sabbath services almost every Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Israel. It is my chance to have at least 90 minutes of down time to reflect on the week that’s passed and look forward to the week ahead. The service a few Saturdays ago was conducted by the 10th graders that were being confirmed at the temple. They each played an active part in the service, sharing their reasons for continuing their religious education and their hopes for the future, saying the prayers and reading from the Torah.
Amy Baer’s speech started much like the others; she talked about her experiences in confirmation class, the friends she made. But it was her very clear statement of purpose that her connection to Judaism and her commitment to “tikkun olam, repairing the world” was what motivated her the most.
“For me, living like I am Jewish means that I am on a mission to repair the world. In order for me to feel like I am Jewish and embrace Judaism I have to be helping other people and be making the world a better place.”
Wow. How does a 10th grader have such a clear grasp on the concept of giving back? My family is big on volunteering. As kids we were always involved in some project or another – volunteering at the senior center, gift-wrap booths at the holidays, working the overnight shift at a telethon. But I’m fairly certain as I was doing those activities I wasn’t thinking about the impact it would have on the world.
So listening to Amy got me thinking about our role in society, how what we say and do really matters. This is not a religious thing, this is a people thing … we should all make a commitment to make the world a better place. As an adult, I continue to volunteer for a variety of organizations and financially support others. I know that I’m making a difference, but even as I think about my role with these organizations, really hadn’t given much thought to the kind of power that one small act can do. If you volunteer, you do it because it is the right thing to do, but do you really understand how right it is?
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It is customary at a service like this for the clergy to say a few words to the confirmands. And what Rabbi Rony Keller said further resonated with me in terms of the impact each of us has on society and our responsibility for giving back.
He told the story of a rabbi whose important lesson to his students is that each of us can teach us something. "What can we learn from a train?" one student asked. "That because of one second, one can miss everything." "And from the telegraph?" "That every word is counted and charged." And the telephone?" "That what we say here, is heard there."
So what we can learn from Amy? That we should all do what we can to be better. After all, if a 10th grader can make that commitment, shouldn’t we?
Abbie S. Fink is vice president/general manager of Phoenix-based HMA Public Relations. A long-time communications professional, her varied marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, social media relations, special event management, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as law firms, health care, financial services, professional services, government affairs, and tribal affairs, as well as nonprofit organizations.
She is a recognized authority on media relations and social media relations/digital communications and has made presentations to a wide variety of organizations including the Southwest Legal Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, the Arizona Fire Captains Association, Financial Aid Directors Association, Public Relations Global Network, among others.