Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jewish Life Coaching is for NOW

Back in the day, if a person wanted direction in life, he went to the rabbi. Especially in more traditional communities. Some still do. Sometimes a person goes for direction on ritual life. Sometimes for counseling. sometimes for life direction. My rabbinic training was all for that kind of world and that type of relationship: the rabbi was the scholar, decisor, authority. And the person seeking the rabbi's help was going to look up to him. Indeed, there is a practice among some traditional Jews that ways that once your rabbi has responded to a question you asked, you are not permitted to ask another rabbi the same question.

That is not the world in which we live today. Today's Jew doesn't want the rabbi who needs to be the unquestioned authority. And s/he can find counseling or life advice in hundreds of other (better?) places. And the scholarship that the rabbi owned is more accessible than ever thanks to the publishing and dissemination of information in print and digitally.

Today's rabbi needs to be the "guide on the side". And there is a perfect contemporary paradigm for it: Coaching.

We turn to coaches, individually and organizationally, for a new set of eyes with which to assess where we are, and set a course for where we want to go. I've used one. Changed the way I looked at my professional life. And the way I saw myself.

Now it's time for a new endeavor, one that I'm jumping into: Jewish Life Coaching. It's not about how to deal with Jewish organizations or communities; there are great coaches and consultants in those waters. Rather, it's about how a person can set his/her own course, and a family's course, towards creating the Jewish life that will be meaningful to him or her personally. For me, it's a great opportunity to be the "guide on the side" rabbi that speaks to contemporary Jews, encouraging them to make their own Jewish decisions. For clients, it's having access to thinking about how to craft a Jewish life, but without the entanglement of synagogue dues or organizational walls. Not that one would have to be a rabbi to be a Jewish life coach, but it's an extra value that I bring to the work.

Yesterday, I posted - in ads around the country and on social media - an offer: One free Jewish Life Coaching session for anyone. Face to face, Skype, or phone. Take me up on it. If you learn something, take it with my blessings. If you enjoy it enough to want more, we set a course and continue.

Want to take me up on the offer? Email me: TheNotoriousRAV@gmail.com. I'll be looking forward to it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Chapter Closes, New Chapters Being Written

Today marks the end of my career as a regional director at the The Jewish Education Project / BJE of Greater New York. Over 12 years ago, I was recruited from a national position that I held to become the first full-time director of the agency's region on Long Island, as part of the agency's initiative to become more responsive to the needs of suburban areas. After nine years, I was transferred to direct the agency's Westchester region, which I led for the past three years. Twelve years after coming to the agency, it is far more active in the suburban areas then ever, and the regional director positions no longer exist. I will continue to work in the Westchester area in a part-time capacity, while pursuing other opportunities.

Taking the time to reflect over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur has given me a sense of perspective. I look at these years through accomplishments:

  • Co-facilitated a metro-New York Education Leadership Consortium, that provided professional learning for close to 100 congregational principals
  • Organized and supervised professional learning experiences and conferences attended by thousands of teachers
  • Obtained grant funding and gave dozens of New York area teachers the opportunity to attend Conferences on Alternatives in Jewish Education
  • Created and led Around the Shabbat Table, a program that reached tens of thousands of Jewish households across the world with Shabbat family discussion guides
  • Managed the Jewish Futures' Conference for the agency, working alongside our partners from Covenant Foundation, Lipmann-Kanfer Institute, & Jewish Federations of North America
  • Staffed four principals networks, with events that included ongoing learning for over 150 principals, professional learning retreats, and dinners of honor for congregational volunteer leaders with will over 1,000 participants over the years. 
  • Recruited, organized orientations series, and escorted over 65 kids on March of the Living
  • Reached over 600 people by creating and managing the agency's first Twitter feed and LinkedIn group
  • Led the agency's Special Interest Group in Technology, at a time of tremendous growth in the use of technology by staff and colleagues in the field
  • Conducted study programs attended by hundreds of UJA-Federation leaders
  • Taught hundreds of students through the Melton Adult Mini-School and the JLearn adult learning program on Long Island
New challenges await, both within the agency and outside it. 

While proud of my successes, I give credit to many others:
  • Over the 12 years, I had six different supervisors, each with his/her own priorities and each with his/her own styles. I have learned from all of them. Thank you to each of you.
  • I've had well over 100 colleagues at The Jewish Education Project / BJENY. They included educators as well as the administrators that support the agency and its work. Adding them together, they have included some of the most passionate people I know about: day schools, congregation-based learning, informal education, special education, child welfare, early childhood education, family education, adult Jewish learning, professional development, educational technology and creative models and methods for Jewish learning. It's been a pleasure to work with you, and I look forward to continuing to be your colleague in my new role. 
  • Dozens of committed volunteer leaders in the organization have been my partners in this work, first on Long Island and then in Westchester. Thank you for your commitment and for your patience in sticking with us over years of rather constant change
  • Thousands of amazing Jewish educators - teachers, principals, youth workers, agency personnel, national organization staff  - have allowed me to touch their lives and practice. They studied with me & opened doors for me to work with them. It has been an honor and I look forward to new and different opportunities to work with you in the future.
May you all go from strength to strength!