Thank you for being a part of our 9th year of Jewels of Elul. I hope that you found the Jewels from the past 29 days to be mind and heart opening.
This year’s edition on The Art of Welcoming took on extra significance as it coincided with the opening of the new READ MORE
Years ago, I was invited to visit the home of then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. It was the first time a U.S. Senator had allowed me to see how he lived in private and I was quite nervous. Not surprisingly, his home exuded a warm southern charm, just like his wife Tricia, and it READ MORE
In Hebrew or in English, ‘Barukh haba’ – blessed be the comer or ‘well come’ – may your coming be good, are terms traditionally said by the host to the guest or visitor. The words are not just an offering but imply a request. Why a request? Isn’t the host offering enough with his hospitality? READ MORE
The Book of Genesis (18:1-2) relates that shortly after Abraham’s Circumcision, G-d appeared while he sat recuperating in the groves of Mamrei. While he was communing with G-d, Abraham noticed, off in the distance, three nomads approaching across the desert. Without so much as an, “Excuse me,” to G-d, he immediately stood up and ran READ MORE
Last summer, I met a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Jewish teens at a Shabbaton for LGBTQ youth. Each teen described the experience as “the first place I’ve felt like I could be both queer and Jewish, like it was a normal thing.” I will never forget their expressions of joy READ MORE
“And all the congregation of Israel are forgiven, along with the strangers living in their midst…” (Inspired by Numbers 15:26, used in liturgy for Kol Nidrei Service on Yom Kippur)
On Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, we encounter “the strangers living in our midst,” those who only show up to synagogue for the READ MORE
Fifteen years ago I experienced a serious bout of depression that was devastating and painful. The mental anguish and the hopelessness that entered my world at the moment when I was at a wonderful place in my career were overwhelming. It was as William Styron has termed it, a period of “Darkness Visible” with a READ MORE
When imagining welcoming a new life into this world, we often envision a birthing mother, sweat dripping from her brow after hours of hard labor, staring lovingly at the face which she has dreamed for many months. Pictures are posted instantly for all to see, announcing the birth within nanoseconds. Even before the umbilical cord READ MORE
As a sixth-generation American whose relatives fought in every war from the Civil War to the Iraq War, I wanted to do something to give back to our troops who have sacrificed so much for our country.
Five years ago I organized a program called Project M.O.T., which delivers care packages to deployed American Jewish READ MORE
At Ritz-Carlton, every one of the ladies and gentlemen who work for us carry a wallet-sized credo card with them at all times. It states our three steps of service:
1. Extend a warm welcome.
2. Anticipate and fulfill stated and unstated needs.
3. Provide a fond farewell.
As you can see from number one, READ MORE
The art of welcoming rests on a central Jewish idea: every human being is created in the image of God. When we see each other as an embodiment of Godliness, welcoming someone becomes an act of profound spirituality. Welcoming is the first step in building a relationship with another. So when I see someone walk READ MORE
Each summer my wife, Merle, and I host storytelling workshops at our North Carolina home. About two-dozen people are with us for these events. Attendees are people who have followed me as a performing storyteller and are coming in hopes of discovering personal stories of their own.
As we planned the first of these events READ MORE
For me, the word “welcoming” is deeply associated with the word “opening” – opening a door, a heart, a mind. Opening your eyes in order to truly see those around you, opening your mind to new ideas, opening your heart, even to what seems threatening, frightening, ominous, with the knowledge that we fear most what READ MORE
Welcome. What a lovely word. Welcome to my home. Nothing pleases me more than to stand at my front door and welcome guests arriving with smiles on their faces, in anticipation of having a good time.
Welcome: “a person whose arrival gives pleasure,” says the dictionary. Come and be well. I try never to have READ MORE
In the early 1980’s as a law student in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, I noticed several times a week people gathering in the neighborhood to march and rally. I was curious and wanted to learn about their cause. The people who had gathered were refugees from Central America – Salvadorans and Guatemalans READ MORE
The art of welcoming is an integral part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s daily efforts to help build a stronger Israel. Our organization has made its mark on the Jewish world by welcoming over 35,000 Olim (immigrants) since we first opened our doors in 2002. A warm welcome is a critical element in the successful absorption of READ MORE
The New Year is a time to take stock of what you have accomplished in the past year as well as dream of what could be if you only have the courage to stay true to your convictions. I have dedicated my life to making pluralism a reality in Israel. I want Israel to be READ MORE
No one would ever choose to join our club. We don’t want any new members. We welcome them sadly; they come to us reluctantly. And yet, in the darkness of a horrible storm, we are there, arms open, ready to provide comfort, assistance, and most importantly, hope.
There are common diseases and there are rare READ MORE
As a child at Jewish summer camp, I liked playing drama games. One of my favorites was “mirroring.” Facing my partner, we tried to mimic each other’s movements so closely that a bystander couldn’t guess who was leading and who was following. Fast-forward about twenty years, I became a volunteer Mikveh Guide, showing and teaching READ MORE
For more than a century, American Jewry’s passionate effort to ensure that America was a welcoming country for immigrants was infused by powerful historical lessons. We were, of course, the quintessential immigrant people, fleeing from land to land, looking for those rare countries that would welcome and perhaps even protect us. Our effort was, as READ MORE
It’s when you’re all around a dinner table. / Sitting. / And talking and laughing. / When nobody has their phone on. / When dinner starts at 6:00 and continues until 2:00 because no one has anywhere else to be. / No bars to stop at or social appointments to fulfill. / When the entire READ MORE
In his book, Relational Judaism, Dr. Ron Wolfson describes the engagement strategy of Chabad as “radical hospitality.” He portrays Chabad rabbis as those who “build personal relationships, beginning with a nonjudgmental welcome.” While reading this insightful book, I asked myself, “How can radical hospitality be infused into synagogue buildings?” I have worked as a sacred READ MORE
The final scene of the movie Love Actually is worth a quick look. The closing is particularly meaningful in parity with the opening of the more-interesting-than-average love story. We hear, as preamble, a voiceover explaining, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.” In READ MORE
We welcome the companionship but wish the circumstances were different. Will we know the meit (the deceased) or recognize the body that was loaned to him for his journey on this earth? We were told his name and the name of his parents – not much more. We know even less about his neshama, his READ MORE
My family’s story in Los Angeles begins humbly. One side of my family crossed an ocean to flee persecution in Poland and Russia. The other half crossed a border to escape war in Mexico. Both sides were looking for a better life and they were able to find it in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of READ MORE
You know that feeling: when you walk into an impossibly chic boutique or a country club as someone’s guest and people let you know, you don’t really belong. The insiders are polite; they will greet you and even help you navigate your way. But they don’t truly welcome you. You’re a guest, a visitor, not READ MORE
The Talmud: dense and legalistic, tales of rabbis, matrons, kings and folk, surprising, challenging, cryptic, dry, fascinating, multilayered, heavenly, earthly – This is the Talmud for me.
I especially love it when the Talmud, the very mouthpiece of the Jewish people, engages in critique of the Jewish people themselves. Thus, it informs us that Amalek READ MORE
Welcome to Heaven! / Did I really make it here? I didn’t think I was all that great. / Oh, you were fine. / Really? What about all those times in my car when I yelled at other drivers with language that would cause plants to die? / Everyone’s a maniac in their car. If READ MORE
Let’s be honest. The world doesn’t always welcome us. Sometimes, it’s up to us to find our own way to welcome.
I grew up in the heart of the Chicago ghetto during the Depression. Not the greatest welcome. Each block was a spawning ground for just about every gangster, black and white, in America.
But READ MORE
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” ~ Emily Dickinson
An inviting tap on the empty chair next to me was enough. Jackie turned to her husband at their otherwise empty table, nodded yes, and got up to join us. At my request, the eight people at our auction READ MORE
“Let all who are hungry come and eat.” We associate those words with the Passover seder. They express an imperative that applies all year long: Jewish tradition encourages us to open our arms, our homes, and our hearts. The first environment in creation is a garden. As God has provided for us, so too must READ MORE
The theme of this year’s Jewels, The Art of Welcoming, was inspired by a project on which I recently embarked. Last January, I purchased a church that was originally built 105 years ago as the first home of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Our dream – fast becoming a reality – is to READ MORE