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Cheers! Chicago: A toast to our mentors and teachers

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08/20/2010

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
~ Winston Churchill

All my life, I have been privileged to meet and interact with some amazing people. From a young age, I understood what it meant to have someone looking out for you, trying to do what’s best for you. Now that I find myself in the position of mentor, I thought I’d take a look back and raise a glass to the important role models and mentors in my life:

Of course, our parents are, in a way, our first and most present mentors by default. They are responsible for bringing us up from childhood into adulthood, guiding us along the way. They show us right from wrong, good from bad, and how to lead a good life, and they ask for nothing in return except for us to learn from their example and to grow with each lesson they teach. This is why we owe so much to our parents in our early stages of life; without their guidance, experience and knowledge about life lessons and how to lead a good life, we would all be lost or scrambling for answers trying to figure things out on our own.

In my opinion, mentors and teachers have a unique and wonderful opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. They mold young minds and guide wayward souls towards whatever goals and dreams their students might have. My parents were wonderful mentors and continue to be to this day, but there have been several others along the way to whom I owe so much gratitude.

My rabbi, Michael Siegel, is a wonderful example of how being a mentor is so important in a young child’s life. His love for Judaism and eagerness to share it was an amazing experience and showed me how important it is to take the time to teach our young ones. My second and third grade Hebrew teacher at BZAEDS, Geveret Greenberg, who still teaches there to this day, was the one who first introduced me to my love for the Hebrew language. She nurtured my natural talent for languages at an early age and taught me to pursue the things I love and to make it fun, exciting and enjoyable. Without her to guide me at such a young age, I don’t know if I would feel the same way about Hebrew.

The same nurture of talent and potential found me when I attended my first mixology academy and met the incomparable Bridget Albert. Without her patience, guidance and love for what she was doing, I would not have felt nearly as inspired and capable as a bartender/mixologist as I do now. I owe a lot to her for developing my passion and creativity for crafting top quality cocktails and the enjoyment I get from it.

As a Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutor, I am able to not only teach young children about the lessons and significance about the Tanach, but also to show them how capable they are of learning these lessons and taking them into action. I have personally seen the transformation of many of my students throughout my mentoring, from shy and unsure children into confident, capable young men and women. There is no greater feeling on earth than seeing your efforts and hard work in mentoring a child come to fruition. Sitting up there on the bimah, watching them become the men and women they have aspired and prepared to be for nearly a year of their lives, is a feeling that is indescribable (and very emotional, to say the least). Dick Gregory, a famous comedian and civil rights activist, once said it best when he said, “One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.” I believe it’s the feeling of selflessness, coupled with observing the growth and ultimate accomplishment and success of that student, which truly embodies his—and my—idea of true happiness.

This year, along with continuing as a Bar and Bat Mitzvah tutor, I have the pleasure of being Anshe Emet’s USY advisor. I am really looking forward to the amazing opportunities it will give me to again be a positive and guiding force in a young person’s life, to show them their bright futures and to tap into their unlimited source of potential. I look forward to both the challenges and the rewards of mentoring in this setting, and only hope that my presence and example will serve them well as they move into adulthood.

So let’s raise our glasses of wine, beer, or grape juice and toast our mentors and teachers. Without them, the world would be a much darker place. With them, anything is possible. As Ghandi put it, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and I couldn’t agree more.

L’Chaim!

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