From Elana's Desk

Days of Awe Message

Together we made positive culture change this past year. Here’s how I know.

October 3, 2022 — During these “10 Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim) in the Jewish calendar, this holy period between the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, we wish each other g’mar hatima tova: “May you be ‘sealed for good’ in the Book of Life” in the year ahead. This is a period to reflect on where we came up short last year, make amends for prior misdeeds, and set positive intentions for the year ahead.

As we engage in this deeply personal practice of reflecting on this past year, it is equally important that we can lift up and see the bigger collective picture: not just what is so broken and unfinished in our community and the world, but also all the good that was done. To that end, I want to invite you to take a look at this bigger picture with me. Together, we made positive culture change this year.

And here’s how I know:

You asked for help.

We have a Jewish culture that deeply values wisdom and the asking of questions. Why then is it so hard to ask that vital question: “Can you help me?” While we value being of service and not judging those around us in need of our help, as American professor, lecturer, and author Brené Brown points out, we deeply fear asking for help, because ultimately we fear judgment. However, “when you cannot accept and ask for help without self-judgment,” says Brown, “then when you offer other people help, you are always doing so with judgment. Always. Because you have attached judgment to asking for help.” Asking for help is hard, and it’s also brave – not just because you are coming up against your personal fears of self-judgment, but also because you must battle your fears of what others will think. What will they say if I admit I don’t have all the answers and need some help? In a community like ours, with its infinite concentric circles, where personal, professional, and communal overlap - we see our board members at our kids’ school drop off, we ask for funding from the foundation staff we went to summer camp with - it can be even harder to trust ourselves and others when we ask for help.

But this past year, you asked for help. You asked for resources, expertise, guidance, partnership, and support. You shared with us candidly the barriers to further SRE work within your organization. You requested funding to get the training your team needs to create and nurture a respectful workplace. You shared the challenges your leadership is having with making headway on addressing historical instances of abuse and sought out expert guidance. You accessed the growing online resources available to you to dig deeper for the answers to your challenges and assess your progress over time. In all of these ways and more, you demonstrated how asking for help truly is a superpower.

You tried new things.

For all the talk of how difficult times can usher in creative thinking and innovation, in the nonprofit spaces that we work in, with ever-present challenges of time, bandwidth, budget, and in the context of ongoing uncertainty and change, trying new things is scary and not without risk. But this year, you tried new things. As Winnie the Pooh put it, “I must go forward where I have never been instead of backwards where I have.” This year, you launched new initiatives to make your communal SRE work more effective and collaborative. We are particularly proud of how a session at our 2021 SRE Network Convening planted the seed for SRE's recent two-year investment in the groundbreaking collaborative training of clergy ethics committees of three of the major Jewish denominational movements: Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform movement), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (Reconstructionist movement) and the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative movement). This interdenominational effort is the first of its kind and builds on the brave work of their institutional leadership along with community members, practitioners, and those who have been harmed sharing their experiences and challenges. Click here to learn more about the genesis of this partnership in the words of Rabbi Sheryl Katzman.

You recommitted for the year ahead.

As we approach the end of this period of reflection in the Jewish calendar, we also are approaching the end of the secular year, a period full of year-end stakeholder reports and priority-setting for the year ahead. What will you continue in the new year, to build on and grow, and what will you let go of? For our network, we were so moved to see that over 85% of our prior members already renewed their commitment to being a SRE Network member in the year ahead. Furthermore, you have shared your ideas of how you plan to continue to push this work forward within your organizations and communities. Being a SRE Network member is not about being perfect or having arrived at a destination – it is instead about committing to being on a collective journey with us toward supporting safety, respect, and equity in your workplaces and communal spaces, and committing to learning and assessing your progress along that journey.

As we enter this new year together, we appreciate your commitment to being a part of this network. We value how you have pushed yourselves to try new things. And we hope that you continue to let us know how we can help you on your journey.

G’mar Hatima Tova,

Elana Wien, Executive Director
SRE Network

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