Telling Stories

On Wednesday we sat around and told stories.
Not just any old stories. Led by my colleague Julie Rosenberg, our Director of Events and Special Projects, we ran our first “storytelling seminar” series, to improve our game.
Two of our colleagues were spending the day in other storytelling training sessions: at “I-Lead 2015,” a skills-training for Jewish Federation professionals, and at a National Women’s Philanthropy networking and brainstorming retreat to share best practices.
And those that gathered here heard – and saw – stories of hope and inspiration. It was the first time we’ve done it. But it won’t be the last.

My colleagues Paul Kaplan, Sarabeth Wizen, Eileen Heltzer, and Jeffrey Korbman each had five minutes to stand up in front of their peers and tell a story about who we are and what we do. And after each presentation, we sat and analyzed, and offered suggestions and ideas.

Sarabeth, our Nachshon (the first to jump into the waters of the Red Sea and lead the way), spoke first. She told us about walking through a terrorist attack tunnel on her last mission to Israel – how it felt, how the wall was cold and damp to the touch. How she had to steady herself by holding the arm of Amir, our Executive Shaliach. Sarabeth used powerful imagery to share her story, explaining the smell of damp cement and the need to reach out. Because “reaching out” is the essence of our work in Israel.
Paul took up the theme of Israel missions, and walked us through the highlights of last month’s REX mission – building the next generation of leadership and philanthropy for our community. He told us the jokes, anecdotes, and powerful pictures that make a great mission. Going on a mission is the best way to see Israel, and to see how you can make a difference.
Eileen shared the story of her inspiring visit to “Susan’s House,” a federation-supported program in Jerusalem set up by our partner agency, JDC, to help youth-at-risk learn skills such as glasswork and woodwork, and bring them into normative society. Using photos and objects, she shared the goals and impact of the program, and the life-changing work we do every day because of your support.
Finally, Jeff told a moving story (with props) about meeting with the family of Matan Gotlib in Rishon LeZion. Matan was in the second cohort of the Diller Teen Fellows, an amazing 15-month teen leadership program sponsored by the Helen Diller Foundation and our Federation. He was killed during Operation Protective Edge a year ago in a booby-trapped building. Meeting with the Gotlib family reminds us of our living bridge to Israel, our connections and love, and the importance of building community together.
The stories are the essence of who we are and what we uphold – community.


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