Things That Shouldn’t Need to be Said

There are certain things that one assumes don’t need to be said. Or even, that to say them would be insulting to the listener. For instance, telling the photographer at the wedding that they aren’t allowed to get between me (the officiant) and the couple during the ceremony. You know, you kind of assume anyone with some common sense knows not to do that. To tell the photographer not to go there implies that you think they might. Nonetheless, I do tell photographers this, while apologizing profusely, and explaining that I say this only because I had a colleague who once had a photographer of the phot0-journalist style at a wedding laying on the ground between the couple and herself, taking photos upwards. But most photographers look aghast when I tell them this story, which is good, because it indicates that most photographers at weddings have common sense.

Another example: If you are hired to babysit for the rabbi’s family, you don’t try to proselytize the children and tell them how wonderful it is to have Jesus in your life. Just a guess, but that probably doesn’t go over well with your employer (true story–I was the child in question).

Now, I thought that I was pretty much inured to anything the American media could throw at me. I may even have said that the media couldn’t do anything so outrageous it would shock me (which may be like a Buffy character saying, “it sure has been quiet lately…”). I was wrong. I was wrong.

Another of those things that you would think go without saying? Don’t use ethnic cleansing, or participation in ethnic cleansing, as a background for a minor character in a sitcom, no matter how edgy you think you are. It’s not okay to make jokes about ethnic cleansing, even if they are supposed to fall flat. It’s certainly not okay to do it when the genocide in question happened recently enough that both perpetrators and victims still live. (There is a possible exception here for people of that ethnic population being darkly comical on the subject–viz. Springtime for Hitler in the Producers).

“Community”, a sitcom which I normally enjoy, somehow decided it was okay to create a character who loves playing war video-games, and is really good at them…because he used to massacre people in the Baltic. Not okay. Not funny. Especially not okay when this isn’t the focus of a “very special espisode”, but rather a subplot in the episode.

So, apparently the American media can do things I find shocking. I just wish they wouldn’t.

General Jewish Spirituality Rabbinic

Building a New Community

It’s time for me to make something happen. To move a dream onto the path of reality. Specifically: it’s time to begin building an inner-East Side Jewish community.

There’s a lot of details left to work out. Some of them I’m deliberately leaving up in the air until I have a group of collaborators to create the community with me. Other details I just haven’t worked out yet. But there are some things I do know:

  • It will be a community which, while Jewish, will be welcoming to non-Jews as well, whether in interfaith relationships or not.
  • It will be a community which is welcoming to people of all genders, sexual orientations and identities.
  • It will be a mult-generational community.
  • We will join together to find fulfillment in spiritual experience, whether through traditional Jewish modes or less traditional modes.
  • And there will be services, at least on occasion, because I like praying, damn it.
As for the rest, it’s waiting to be worked out. And I’d love for you to be a part of working it out. Because I don’t want this community to be a reflection of me: I want it to be a reflection of those of us who consider ourselves “inner-East-Siders” and “Jews.” So drop me a line, let me know that you’re interested. Because I have a good feeling about this.
General WorkPlace Spirituality

Some Workshops I'd Love to Teach

I’ve put together a list of some workshops I’m available to teach, whether at your company, your conference, or some other group. I’d love feedback, as well as suggestions as to people who might want to talk to me about this.
Building a Community out of a Company
In this day and age, people, whether customers or employees, are looking for something to connect to, something to believe in. Make your company a community and both employees and customers will walk through fire for you. The question is, how do you do it? David Kominsky, will talk about his experience with CubeSpace, and introduce some tools and concepts which can help transform a company into a community.
The Use of Ritual to Build a Corporate Community
Religions have used ritual for thousands of years to create tight-knit communities. The military uses ritual to bind together individuals coming from radically different backgrounds into a unified culture in which dedication to the group is a prime value. How can we in the corporate world use ritual effectively, but without being heavy-handed? Rabbi David Kominsky will use examples of rituals already in place in corporations, as well as pointing out how the use of ritual can be expanded to make organizations stronger.
Nurture the Individual, Strengthen the Company
Ever since the industrial revolution, companies have regarded employees as interchangeable commodities. Unsurprisingly, this does not result in employees who give their best to the company. Now, we are beginning to value the diversity of our workforces. How can we invite people to bring more of themselves into their work life, and at the same time, be more effective employees? Looking at what happens when you employers really dedicate themselves to employee welfare, David Kominsky will explore the benefits, using examples from CubeSpace, as well as explain some pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Making Your Brand a Spiritual Identifier
We know that people are likely to act for many reasons which are below the rational brain. Spiritual connection is one of the classic examples of this (religions are based on this truth). This is not necessarily a bad thing. As human beings, we require spiritual identification with larger groups. Today, companies are taking on many of the roles that religions used to fulfill: they can define who we are, who we associate with and how we live our lives. Let’s explore how to use this power deliberately to build better companies: companies that are both successful and do good for those who identify with the companies, whether as employees or customers.
General Jewish Spirituality shabbat spirituality WorkPlace Spirituality

CubeSpace Spiritual Community

Eva and I have one rule we try to abide by: we don’t do CubeSpace work on Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. We don’t always succeed, and there is one event a year we know we will be working: BarCamp Portland. We do this for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s a lot of fun.
  2. It’s great marketing for CubeSpace to have 350 people come through.
  3. We aren’t set up to have 350 people come through CubeSpace without us being present.

Nonetheless, it does mean working on Shabbat. Which made me think about the intersection of spiritual community and CubeSpace community.

In many ways, it feels like the CubeSpace community has become my spiritual community: it is the group that it feels “right” to spend Passover with. It is the community I share news with. It is the community I enjoy partying with (see above re: BarCamp). So spending Shabbat this way does not feel entirely inappropiate.

While there is definitely the resting and recharging element of Shabbat, there is also the celebration and joy element. This week, clearly, is going to be more about the celebration and joy. This week, will be about connecting to the community. Partying with some of the folks I see daily, and some I see only once a year, and no doubt meeting some new folks. It is the opportunity to learn something new…and maybe teach something.

Tonight and tomorrow will be a whirlwind of food, fun, friends, and general geekery. I will emerge at the end exhausted, but having had a good time. In Judaism, we most often pray in community. We most often practice spirituality in community. Today, the Portland Tech Community gathers together, and joins in a spiritual event, even if I’m the only one labeling it as such. It will involve our spirits, affect our spirits, which makes it spiritual (the fact that we’ll be drinking spirits is just a bonus).

Shabbat Shalom, all…or at the very least have a raccous Shabbat of celebration.

General spirituality

Pulling Together

As time is passing, it’s becoming clearer and cleared that the economy is facing what will be a darker period than your average recession. Whether it will look like the Great Depression (or potentially be even worse) is something only the passage of more time will tell. That this will be a hard time for many in America (and the world) is no longer in doubt, however.

When adversity strikes, there are two responses: hunkering down, every person for themselves or working together as communities to soften the burdens. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it seemed like there was a lot of the first response as society broke down, and people increasingly relying on themselves for personal security. After 9-11, we saw the second response, as people pulled together, pooling resources, being more community-minded. Both responses are possible, both make sense in utilitarian terms. They represent differing views of the nature of humanity.

I want to challenge us in this time of difficulty to find ways to pull together. I don’t know what this would look like, exactly, and hope that you all might make some suggestions. I do have some ideas, however.

For those who can afford to do so, it would be great if we allowed those who owe us money as much leeway as we can. Give people the space to try to dig their way out of the holes they find themselves in, rather than making their debt to you something that deepens the hole. Obviously, we can’t all afford to do this. And those of us who can afford to do this may be limited in terms of when we can do it. Nonetheless, to the degree each of us can allow delay in the repayment of monies owed us, we help others.

I’d love to see us share whatever resources we have in excess of what we need/can use. As summer comes around, can those of us who garden try to give away more of our produce that might otherwise go to waste? Last year I had over a gallon of raspberries wither on the vine. I could certainly have invited friends to come over and make themselves welcome to them. How about informal community gardens, where those who have some extra land, but perhaps no time to cultivate it, let others, who may have been laid off, cultivate the land, producing food. I’d love to see us take the “Victory Garden” idea from World War II and refresh it for a new age.

And excess resources come in all forms. It can be time, skills, materials and who knows what else. Let’s figure out a way to share what we have, whatever that is, with others who need it. Let’s worry a little less about immediate payment for services, and  hope that by helping each other everything balances out in the end.

These are a few of my ideas, but I’m sure you all have more, and I’d love to begin the community building by having you share them in the comments below. Ideas are resources also.

As I said, there seem to be two basic human responses to adversity: closing the gates or opening the doors. The choices we make determine the type of society we live in. Let us use this challenging time as an opportunity to build a better world.


Electronic Community and Face-to-Face Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about virtual (or electronic) community recently. A few years back, there was a lot of talk about how internet communities weren’t “real” community. People of the older schools of thought were saying that they didn’t fulfill the same functions, and I’ve generally agreed with them. Until recently.

Increasingly, I’m changing my mind. While I still think an in-person component is useful, I do not see it as essential to true community. I’m seeing electronic means of communications forming a stronger and stronger basis of community.

The Portland Tech community is largely built around Twitter. Twitter allows people to communicate in short messsages of up to 140 characters. It is more like a bulletin board than an email. The Portland tech community tends to use it for everything from ongoing conversations about projects (“I need a Java programmer for a quick project” or “Anyone know how to make a Mac work in Swahili?”)  to quick statements that are more about connecting than conveying any information (“Can’t believe it’s still not Friday”; “Madness! Ahhhhhh!”). Our connections through Twitter mean that we know each other far better than we would if we just relied on meeting face to face. It means that by the time I meet someone face to face, I may well have had several “conversations” with them, and at the very least, I’ve heard what they have to say, and they’ve heard what I have to say.  We have an existing connection before we meet in person.

The traditionalists would say, “ah, but that’s not ‘real community.’ It doesn’t fulfill the social needs or create the tightness of bonds.” I now can disagree.

This week was my birthday. I think about three people wished me a happy birthday in person that day (it may have been slightly higher). What I remember about being wished a happy birthday are the 30 or so who wished me a happy birthday through Twitter and Facebook. Those greetings made me feel warm and fuzzy and loved. One of the true measures of community is its ability to create an emotional impact on you, and to celebrate life’s milestones in a meaningful way with you. This community did that.

I have moved off the fence. I am now firmly in the camp of those who feel like virtual communities can be as real as face-to-face communities. And I am reveling in how large and wonderful those communities can be.