OyChicago blog

Life after JUF, Part 2: Back to Birthright

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Life after JUF, Part 2: Back to Birthright photo

I finally made a choice. I’m happy to share with all that after a lot of thought and consideration, I am officially a JUF layperson and a member of a brand new committee with a super long name, The Back from Birthright Israel Committee.

This brand new JUF committee is tasked with connecting Birthright Israel trip alumni living in the Chicagoland area to each other professionally, through Jewish life and culture, volunteerism, and philanthropy.

It might sound a bit vague, but since we are new, part of what we will be doing over this first year is figuring out our exact mission, our goals for moving forward and our place in the Jewish community. We’ve also only had one meeting so far and that was in a bar (my kind of committee) and it was more of a get-to-know-you than a let’s-get-down-to-business kind of affair.

We do know that will be throwing an awesome party just for Birthright alumni at some point in the next year along with hosting holiday events and volunteer projects. We are also tasked with helping with trip recruitments and making sure that the next crop of Birthright participants have the same amazing experiences that we all did on our own trips.
Speaking of our trips, joining this committee has really brought my Jewish communal experience full circle. If I had never gone on Birthright in 2006 and not had such an amazing and fantastic experience, I never would have come home, rethought my life, quit my PR job and spent five years in the Communications department at JUF. It feels fitting to be volunteering for a cause that initially spurred my whole interest in the Jewish communal world. Funny how things work out like that.

Our first official meeting is next week, so I’ll have more to share in my next blog post. You can be sure I’ll keep you updated on our work as we move forward, and encourage you to attend our events and parties.

In the meantime, if you are a recent (or even not so recent) Birthright alum looking to get involved in the Jewish community in a larger capacity now that you are home from Israel and don’t know where to start, have I got the person for you! You’ve probably heard of her: Elizabeth “JUF” Wyner. You can reach out to her at elizabethwyner@juf.org or go friend her on Facebook to follow her posts.

As JUF’s Young Adult Engagement Associate, and the brain trust behind this new committee, Elizabeth spends her days (and nights) engaging and following up with Birthright participants upon their return home. She’s an expert at this stuff and can help anyone find their right fit. Frankly, she’s the reason why I joined this committee. So give it a shot, reach out to her, come to one of our programs—what do you have to lose?


Ode to the Housekeeper

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Ode to the Housekeeper photo

The mess whirls around me, taunting me,
Subtlety grating on my every nerve
I have nowhere to look or step
Thinking is virtually impossible
Except for the incessant downtrodden and angry assaults on my greater incapacity to do anything.
I sink further and further into desperation; feeble attempts to clear the air achieve dismal results, and then
She arrives.
Quietly, without the awareness that she is a lifesaver, she comes.
I apologize for the mess, she shrugs (ah, that feels good)
and gets to work.

Her decisions astound me; 
without my formal housecleaning training, my attempts to clean are trial and error, small in their efficiency
I marvel at her decision to put a towel under the dish rack. Hot water for dishes! I kvell. Of course.
And at once, I become Powerful. Rich. In control.
Life slows down to a pleasurable pace as I watch her work. Life is good, my body reminds my mind, and my eyes relax in their sockets.
The air is clear, I breathe in clean, disgust does not follow me at every step, annoyance has left me behind at every corner.
And I know that every success I have after that, particularly that day, will be be in part to this humble, barely English speaking, young woman, who has cleared my mind, lifted my spirits, and reminded me of the exaltedness of my condition of existence.
The glory of a clean home. And for only $10 an hour, what a bargain, what a mitzvah.

Trying to understand this deeper, I muse: Perhaps that is what we are meant to be in this world.
Us, the small, seemingly insignificant souls compared to the vast greatness of the universe, the heavens and angels and Infinite Wisdom that towers over us, the thousands of years of perspiring humanity upon whose shoulders we ride

Yet we, the present day cleaning women, doing the microscopic things that are the ultimate gateway towards colossal change,
giving Gd the ability to breathe more deeply (so to speak), clearing the air, reorganizing the world so He shines through.

Tiny and almost invisible, yet ultimately monumental, must be the contribution of our scrubbing in this world.

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