Writings

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Dear Friends,

I just started a new school year, pursuing of my Masters in Jewish Education, and I'm already feeling overwhelmed with all the things I want to get done this year: personally, academically, and professionally. And of course, all my human habits that get in the way of being the productive robot person who can do it all.

Then, a teacher of mine shared this quote from chapter six of Rabbi Alan Lew's This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared:

"To forgive ourselves, we must be willing to give up our ideas about how we might be better. We need to give up one of our most cherished beliefs--that there is something wrong with us, that we are bad, inadequate, somehow defective and lacking in goodness. Disciplining ourselves, beating ourselves, leads us further away from this goodness, not closer to it."

It reminded me about this teaching from Rabbi Sarah: the Hebrew word for year, shanah, is connected to the verb l'shanot, which means to change, but also to repeat or renew (Hebrew is a great language that way). Rather than focusing on all the things I want to change, here are some things I'm hoping to continue this year:

  1. Being open to new experiences - a new school year, being in lockdown, taking on new leadership roles
  2. Taking breaks when I need them
  3. Embracing mistakes not just as learning opportunities but as a way to connect more deeply with others
  4. Channeling the creative energy I've found during lockdown toward new projects

I hope that you find some time in the coming days to reflect and embrace habits you want to maintain in the new year. If you identify things that you might adjust this year, I hope that alongside setting goals you also remember to show yourself kindness.

Shana Tova u'metuka - best wishes for a good and sweet new year,

Valerie Brown

Community Educator

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Everyone says it, but time really has moved differently for me since the pandemic started. This summer has been especially strange - I was supposed to be in California, working as the Jewish Educator at a summer camp. Instead, I've been in Jerusalem, with a patchwork of babysitting and odd jobs, studying Hebrew, working on some creative projects. Without a regular schedule it kind of feels like I'm working or thinking about work all the time, and the week is constantly slipping away from me. Especially on Fridays, as I'm getting ready for Shabbat, I look back at my week and think - there's so much that didn't get done!

The month of Elul starts this week, and it brings with it a heightened sense of the approach of the High Holidays. Elul is kind of like a Friday afternoon, but times ten. And rather than reflecting on our to-do list, it's about something much bigger. I think Elul pushes us to ask ourselves - Do I feel connected to something larger than myself? Does my day-to-day reflect my values? Am I the person I want to be?

And wow, as I read back those questions, I feel anxiety growing right above my stomach. Where do I even start, especially this year? I've been so focused on getting through the day, getting through the week, counting my blessings that my friends and family are healthy.

So, while I can't offer any easy answers to these questions (wish that I could!), I'm glad to be able to offer a space for us to consider them together. On September 6th, I hope you'll join me for Illuminating the Jewish New Year: a special Elul/Pre-High Holiday virtual retreat. I've prepared some intriguing texts and creative prompts that I hope will help us approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a sense of perspective and purpose.

Hoping this month brings you time to pause and take stock.

Chodesh tov - Happy New Moon and month of Elul!

Valerie Brown

Community Educator, The Tasman Center

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Big news! We are so excited to welcome Valerie Brown as our new Community Educator for the The Tasman Center! Valerie will be working remotely and teaching our Align Series via Zoom and managing our social media and content while she pursues her Masters in Jewish Education at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in partnership with Hebrew College.

Stay tuned for more details about Valerie's classes and more ways to connect with The Tasman Center!

Learn more about Valerie on our Meet Our Staff page or check out her website: valerierbrown.com

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On the 9th day of Av, we mourn tragedies and loss that have befallen the Jewish people at this time of year, including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Additionally, we are reminded of the many tragedies of the pandemic, racial injustice and systemic inequality that have befallen our communities.

In what ways do you hold space in your heart for losses that have affected generations before you?

How has loss built resilience for us as a people?

Think about a loss in your own life. How has it helped you build resilience as an individual?

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Happy new moon and new month of Av.

This can a hot and difficult month as we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. But the energy of the month shifts from mourning into joy with the coming of the full moon and holiday of Tu B'av (Jewish valentines Day) which celebrates love.

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Happy new moon and new month of Tammuz. Tekufat Tammuz is summer solstice, the longest day of the year. How will you celebrate summer, light, sustenance or the season this month?

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Happy New Moon and New Month of Sivan. During this month we move more fully into spring and we welcome the warmth and love associated with this season.

As we prepare to receive the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot this month, consider the teachings and wisdom you need to receive.

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As we move into week 7 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of malchut - divinity and leadership.

We are all created in the image of God, recognize the divine spark in your sould and in the souls of others.

How might you tend, nurture and illuminate the divine spark with in you?

Where in your life do you feel you want to cultivate more personal leadership?

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As we move into week 6 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of yesod - bonding and foundation.

What are the foundations in your life that support you? What are the legacies that have been handed down to you or the foundation that you've created for yourself in this life?

Where in your life do you feel you need more support or foundation?

What are the bonds you want to renew

and what are the bonds you want to break?

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As we move into week 5 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of hod - humility and splendor.

Recall a moment of splendor in your life? What did it feel like, taste like, look like? Return to this memory anytime you need to.

How might you cultivate additional moments of splendor in your life or someone else's?

Recall a time when you felt humbled. What what did you learn from that. Are there situations in your life now that require humility?