By Jenn Ross
One of the ways I have been weathering the pandemic has been through online education. It has been a great opportunity to advance the skills I employ for various aspects of my work including Community Relations Council, fundraising, planning, safety and security, leadership development, and more. Currently, two of the programs I’m involved in are helping me stay focused, providing Jewish education, engaging my mind, reducing stress, and allowing me to work on self-improvement.
The Awareness in Action Program is offered by JCC Association of North America and the Institute of Jewish Spirituality. This program has a focus on mindfulness and spiritual practice in which we develop specific middot (spiritual/ethical qualities). This training is a wonderful follow up to my introduction to Mussar from Kesher Israel.
I am participating in this course as part of a cohort of 12 JCC executives, and concurrently Harrisburg Federation staff from all departments are learning with Associate Executive Director Lori Rubin on this same ten-week program. Thank you to Mark Young, JCC Association’s Director of JResponse, for coordinating and leading this along with Rabbi Tracy Kaplowitz, PhD, and thank you to Lori and all of our team members who are engaging in this process.
In the introduction to practicing Chesed (loving connections), Rabbi Marc Margolius, the Senior Program Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, quotes poet Jane Hirschfield: "We feel like separate water droplets. But we are also ocean." He uses Hirschfield’s example to highlight that “Chesed is our awareness that we are inextricably connected. We are never separate; we are ocean.” Participating in online learning with others helps reinforce for me the fact that community can be built and sustained in many ways and these interactions help me have strong loving connections.
The other cohort I am participating in is the Gesher JTS program “Beyond Dispute: Debates that Shape Jewish Life.” Gesher is the joint education initiative of Chisuk Emuna Congregation and Beth El Temple. These sessions include exploration of Jewish texts with Rabbis Ron Muroff and Ariana Capptauber and other participants, videos of JTS faculty discussing the topics, and other relevant materials. This course also reflects on current matters such as the use of Zoom during a pandemic for Shabbat and holiday services. It is a great forum for respectful debate and difference of opinion. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on opinions different than my own and the growth that occurs during that process.
Have you found meaningful ways to enrich your life? I’d love to hear from you about this and/or any feedback or ideas that you have and am happy to help you find a course, program, or format to continue your Jewish learning and living. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-236-9555 x3104.