Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Are you employed, sir?"


In The Big Lebowski, which is of course the most important piece of cinematic excellence to ever exist, one character impatiently demands of another, "Are you employed, sir??" On that note, in case it seems like I've been spending my time lately just frolicking around Europe (did I mention that I went to Bratislava, Slovakia for one night to meet friends?), let me assure you that I do work, work is great, and good things are coming!

BBYO events

We've had some really exciting events over the last month and a half that I've planned and that our great team of madrichim has implemented with me. Before Chanukah, we held a trial for Matityahu, exploring themes of identity, assimilation, extremism. A few weeks later, we held an exciting peulah during which we simulated being trapped on an island. We split into three groups of 8-10 and each person was given a slip of paper explaining their identity. Most people had a particular skill set, as well as an Achilles heel. For example, someone had worked in the army for many years acquiring a variety of survival skills, but he has a short temper and is hard to work with. The premise was that the 5 people seen as least valuable towards building life on the island would be sent off on a dangerous rescue mission. People argued on their own behalf and ultimately voted, Survivor style, and as Jeff Probst says, "The tribe has spoken." Another great peulah was an interactive/experiential walkthrough of Jewish history through the major geographical movements of the Jewish people. The group first entered the land of Israel, and divided up into the various tribes and made flags. After the Northern Kingdom was destroyed, everyone reorganized into the tribes of the Southern Kingdom, and built their own little Temples. After those were destroyed (well, eaten, because they were made out of marshmallows), people redistributed one final time into the three new edot that developed in the diaspora: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi communities. With their new groups, they learned about the lifestyles, names, and traditions of people typical of those backgrounds, and made life sized portraits to convey sort of a prototypical person of that background. The teens were split into their three groups by each getting a playing card at the beginning, and they split into tribes (13) by number/face on their card, into Southern Kingdom tribes (4) by suit, and into edot by color -and face cards all joined together (3). The teens had tons of fun during the day, and they really grasped the content to the extent that we hoped.

I have been running a weekly leadership training that I call Hadracha, during which I teach a group of ~10 teens practical skills and strategies for creating programs. So far, I have broken up the concept of a peulah into its many different components that must be considered if the program is to be successful. We discussed the difference between goals (e.g. teach about a Jewish holiday) and strategies/methods (e.g. arts & crafts, bringing in a speaker, etc), and which methods work best with which types of goals. We practiced public speaking and useful English phrases. We discussed best methods for quieting groups, and creative ways of dividing the group into smaller group for activities. We talked about program evaluation, and clarified how to make goals SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, considerate of time) that can be evaluated properly after the activity. We touched on some other ideas and did some team building as well.

Community Involvement

I have worked to try and offer myself as a resource throughout the community and earn a reputation for being a creative and reliable partner. I have had some exciting opportunities to involve myself in new ways.

I saw on Facebook that there was an upcoming Limud Hungary, a day devoted to learning with a number of sessions offered throughout the day. I asked if there would be any sessions in English, and I was told that it would be great if I could do that. I happily agreed and created a source sheet for a shiur (lesson) called "Jewish Geometry" during which I used a few different shapes as a conceptual framework for thinking about big picture Judaism. Essentially, I settled on the notion of the cycle as central to Jewish thought, and offered a few examples of that idea. My audience was active and engaged, and I was incredibly happy to have had the chance to facilitate adult learning.

Because of my involvement with Tikvah, the special needs unit at Camp Ramah, I have tried to find opportunities to bring the value of inclusion to the community here. One exciting idea is to pilot a special needs program at the Szarvas International Camp where I will work this summer. I have been in touch with the Szarvas Director, JDC professionals, and Szarvas alumni about crafting a vision and plan. We will see what I may be able to implement given the time and resources available, and how I navigate challenges including my newness to Szarvas and coming to the community as an outsider, but any baby steps go a very long way and hopefully become building blocks for future work and success. Stay tuned!

I have joined my friend Juci for her weekly after school program at the JCC, teaching Jewish topics to 6-10 year olds. The kids look at me with hilarious gazes, very curious who I am and why I can't really talk to them or understand them. The first time I came, Juci ended up running very late, and she called and told me to start the lesson without her. We prepared a lesson about tzedakah and had planned on showing pictures of homeless and wealthy people and assessing their backgrounds, wants, needs, etc. I gathered the group into a circle and took a deep breath. As it turned out, one of the older boys (RE: 10 years old) was in level 5 English (whatever that means..), and was able to translate very simple sentences. So there I was, with my translator, ready to teach the room of blank stares in front of me. My translator frequently answered the questions himself in English in order to impress me, and I had to keep reminding him to pose the questions to the room. I relied on many hand motions and objects I found in the room. Ultimately, it was successful (against all odds). Also, Juci said that the kids referred to me using a formal title connoting respect (kind of like "sir"). I guess I managed to earn their respect!

A final project that I am helping out with is an effort to explore the establishment of a monthly partnership minyan. I am joining the team because I think I have some background knowledge and skills to help, and because I think it's a worthwhile project to offer a new model of Tefillah and community to Budapest that might resonate for people who had felt disengaged. 


It is now 5:00 PM, so that means that in 12 hours I will arrive at the airport with the group of 6 Hungarians who will be attending BBYO International Convention in Dallas, TX! I am so excited to return Stateside, to see the other JDC BBYO Fellows, and to witness the biggest gathering of Jewish teens in the world!

Following Dallas, all the JDC Fellows travel to Israel for a Midyear Seminar. I can't wait to be back in Israel and eat everything in site.

Once I return to Budapest, I will hit the ground running. Purim will be the first weekend, so I'll need to help plan and run our BBYO Purim party.

The next week, a JDC Entwine-American University trip will be coming to Budapest and Romania, and I will be joining them as much as possible, helping them explore Budapest and visit the community I've grown to call my own over the last few months. At the backend of that trip, my grandparents come to Hungary for Shabbat, so I will either come back after a night in Romania, or just stay in Budapest to host them. It will be so lovely to have them and show them around.

At the end of March, there will be a weekend retreat for Hungarian Jewish teens about anti-Semitism that I will attend and maybe help plan (depending on what preparations are necessary when I return), and then at the of April there is a Spring Camp that unites the three Hungarian Jewish youth groups, and I am a co-Education Director (along with a rep from the other 2 clubs).


No comments:

Post a Comment