Get to Why
Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of welcoming incoming families to Gesher’s 2018-2019 Junior Kindergarten (Gan Katan) and Kindergarten (Gan) during their orientation. After the children had been led off by their teachers to play and learn, I asked the adults remaining in the Beit Midrash to stop, take a breath, and zoom out to think about what they hope and dream for their children to get from their years in Elementary and Middle School at Gesher.
Because most of us spend so much time buzzing from one moment to the next, particularly those with children in this age range, it is tough to find time to pick your head up, get out of the weeds, and sit on the balcony for a few minutes just looking at everything. But moments like that are necessary in order to move through our lives with purpose and meaning. If we can’t reconnect to our core values and concerns periodically, then making our way through life becomes a rote, empty task.
Simon Sinek, in his book Start with Why, describes his concept of a “Golden Circle,” in which he argues that people don’t connect or respond to what you do or how you do it, but rather they are inspired by your deepest “why.” One exercise I’ve participated in during a leadership training had us write down a sentence or two describing why we choose to take jobs as Heads of School, then paired us with a partner, whose job it was to ask “why” up to 7 times, or until our response was as succinct and as connected to core meaning as it would ever get. This was a pretty challenging exercise for some of us.
In our orientation, I shared my own personal “why” (mission) with our incoming parents: I want to prepare our children to live meaningful lives. For me, that means giving them the tools to engage in relationship and community, to find work they care about, and to improve the world. Judaism is a system (one among many) that offers tremendous wisdom about how to educate a human being and create a society in which meaningful lives are possible, so I work in a setting in which I can transmit that wisdom and explore it with children and adults.
So now I will ask you: What are your hopes and dreams for the coming generation of Jewish adults? What should we at Gesher be doing to train and empower them?