09 December 2007

On Farming

It's Shmittah over here in Israel, so I'm taking my farming online. I'm starting to write a technical blog. It's called Sowing Light (nice name, huh?) and you can find it wherever the Internet is...

19 October 2007

What I learned

Well, the adventure of being Executive Director of a small yeshiva is coming to a close. I thought I'd last more than 8 months, but I have been disproved. Don't ask me where I'm going, I haven't figured it all out yet. I'm staying on the board of the yeshiva and helping to find a replacement for me, cooking up some projects with the Creative Zionists (come visit us at the GA!), looking for a place to learn, trying to decide if I'm going to bite the bullet and sit for smicha, thirsty to get back into programming, and pretty well aware that I can't keep holding all these lines at once.

So what did I learn from the whole adventure?

Variety is good. Don't try to live, work, learn, pray, and play all the in same place. 'nuff said.

Fund raising is tough. It takes a salesman's demeanor, and it's still tough. In the end, what are you offering the donor? I came to what I think is the most honest approach one can take when sitting in front of a potential donor - "You've spent your time earning money, and you've got more than you need. You want to do good in the world, but alone you don't have the time. You've got the money to invest, and you want to find someone who's doing good in the world and invest in them. So what's your vision of good? What do you want to do?" Then, somehow, you have to convince them and keep them convinced that what you are doing is good, and that you're doing it well. It's really more of a partnership model than a donor model.

Non-profits should run like for-profits. There, I've said it; so have a thousand wise people before me. So why don't they? I think it's a question of passion, and it's a problem that hits small for-profits as well. People pour their hearts, souls, and dreams into non-profits and startups both, and in each case those who put their entire beings on the line are the ones who end up strangling the fledgling child to death. At some point they have to give over control. The successful company usually has a smart person behind it who got the heck out of the way.

One of my supervisors at the former Unicorn is the best person I ever worked for. I asked her what advice she had for managers. She said two words: no ego. I can't say I've lived up to that advice, but I've grown to appreciate it more and more.

I love to build. I really love to build. Did I mentioned that I love to build? And design. Building and design. Love it. Programs, houses, schemas, block towers, entrees, posters. I never had as much fun in this job as when I was building our website and designing our flyers. But that's not what it's about, not day-to-day.

Organizations can be engineered, and they can be farmed. Engineering involves rigourous planning and disciplined execution. Farming involves hiring good people, planting good will, encouraging potential, faithfully weeding and watering, chasing away predators. It takes love, day to day. It takes faithful constant care. It takes a group of people who are also oriented to farming. A careless engineer can really screw up a lot of good farming. I love to farm as well, but if you're going to be a farmer, you better make sure that you can set the tone of the organization to one of farming. A farmer in a world of engineers has a tough road.

I don't regret jumping into this at all. I've learned a lot, I believe that I've done some good work, and one way or the other I'm headed off on a new trajectory that would not have been otherwise possible.

Onward!

11 October 2007

The Faces we Wear

Looking at how I wote myself up on a dating site, and then looking at how I wrote myself up on Myspace... Interesting to see the different tones. I'm sure someone's done research on how people put on different faces for different crowds. The whole online world collects all the data in a nice neat pile.

I'm posting this because I think it's fun writing. No dating inquires please. ;)

Myspace:
About Me:

Born in those United States, upper-right portion. Rolled through worlds of childhood, innocence, lost, coercion, rebellion, halluciantion, confusion. Moved further right to the coast, Bostontown. Continued to fall for a few years, then found a door. Picked up, worked to repair, replace, redefine. Began to move in worlds of hope, dreams, kindness. Hopped across the ocean to Israel and tuned in to some deep-drumming Ancient-of-Days music. Worked and working in worlds of truth, life, connection, stories, trust, admission. Now and forever on the edge of a reality just in formation.

Who I'd like to meet:

Anybody alive - open to worlds yet unknown. Respectful encounters with another aspect of the infinite. Sewing lines of connection in this holy tapestry.


Frumster:

This is how I describe myself:

Living here in the hills of the Holyland. Coming from Bostontown, where I encountered God in the strangest of places, and began to move in directions still in mid-blossom. Learning. Moving to keep up with reality-always-new. Exploring in Avodah, working to remain God-conscious, soul-conscious, body-conscious. Developing deeper-listening. Telling stories to wake up. Wondering how the world of a spark of the divine can be captured in a short barrage of words, how I can capture the abstract and real, the technical and nebulous, the emotion and thought. Digging dancing, nature, singing, living, praying, riddles, jokers, stories, tellers, colors, consciousness, and silence. Aiming to create relationships of respect, truth, growth, and love.

This is what I am looking for in a mate:

Straight-up, God-aware, self-aware, world-aware, conscious, living, thinking, joking, dreaming, feeling, open, listening, changing, growing. Able to move in worlds professional, casual, creative, technical, formal, free, asleep, awake, unknown. Looking to invite each other, the Creator, a home, children, a community. Looking to together sow hope and laughter and tears and love and prayers to build a world reborn. [ But hey, maybe start with a cup of tea. ;) ]

26 August 2007

Inspired by Hafiz


I looked in the course catalog

of life,

and I signed up

for Love.


Now the whole universe

is my teacher.


Let's play hooky,

you and I,

from all these other

crazy classes.

17 August 2007

A Man Homeless

I sat down with an old journal yesterday, thumbing through and looking for some insights and openings to teshuvah. This page was tucked away under the cover, dated 23 June 2003. It's still all sorts of relevant. Presented here slightly updated.

I am searching for a wife, and I am searching for a place to live.

There can not be too much noise. I am all for birds chirping, and the sound of the wind in the trees, people laughing, occasionally a car. To approach peace, I can not be exposed to the full chaotic ensemble of the city every time I sit to think or open my window.

Still - it can not be too far from the heart of it all, where people press together, each on his own own mission, and together form a crowded hive, where occasionally a musician tips his hat, or a crazy prophet tears the shabby covers off of the complacent life. No - not too far from where reality is born anew every screaming moment to be replaced again and again by wave upon wave of raw existence.

Exposed to the sky - there are some things that you can never do unless you are exposed to the the sky - and the sweetness of sleeping out doors under a fall sky can never be replaced.

Arches or curves, wood, stone, some personality - nowadays you find them mass produced and without color, without life, stacked one on top of the other like eggs in the market, one like the other, all 90 degrees, all white, with little windows. Give me a quirk, a step up, a hidden room, a sunny place, a bay window, something to love.

(Oh, but will you love me when I am just a man?)

Warm - the winters here can be so cold - perhaps because we are more exposed. I sat last year for days wrapped in blankets while it snowed - if it had been warm inside I would have dared to venture out.

Some places are ready to fall over, leaking, ceiling half caved-in, spots on the walls, drafts from odd places. Find me a place with strength - a shelter - that doesn't sway with every breeze and let in every storm.

Do not forget space - a man is formed by space - a good question can draw out unknown poetry - a friend who listens, an earthen jug for wine, a home for a man homeless.

12 August 2007

Statistics : Holiness Up 2 Points

It seems that I'm just here to report on what Josh at BlogsofZion says...
Life expectancy of countries around the world - Israel comes out near the top, all things included... This rubbed up against both my love of numbers and my love of Israel, what can I say.

(I've been delaying writing, because subconsciously I knew it was the 100th post, and well, it's the 100th post, and the 100th post has too be something, special, ya' know? Anyway... I got over it.)

01 August 2007

The Greening of Israel

Josh at Blogs of Zion reports that Israel does in fact have a green building code (for a year now), and that the Bank Leumi building in Tel Aviv is the first building to meet code. Good to see! Lots of work to do, but good to see.

28 July 2007

Heartless State Religion

A cousin of a friend was killed in Lebanon last year. Went up to Har Hertzl where those who die for us are buried. The last time I was up there was last year, for Michael Levin's funeral. Michael died 6 Av. This boy, 23 years old, died on 13 Av. There were rows of graves in between them - everyone who died that week.

For all those boys dying and being remembered, the Army has professional Rabbis. Formula psalms, first this, then this, then the other - thank you for coming folks, we've got shows all week.

I asked my friend who he was. I know he was your cousin, but who was he? He was a good kid, we saw him 3 weeks before he died, he was engaged to be married the month after. That's all it took. Now I know him, now he's human, now I'm sure he deserves more than the formula.

24 July 2007

And for my Friends from the Beach...

...nothing.

It's been two years since we forcibly moved 8000 people from Gush Katif. Most of them are still living in temporary situations. Financial problems abound. Psychological hardship. Not much movement on the government's side. Not much attention in the media. Mainstream media seems to be silent. Only Artuz 7 is still paying attention.

I don't think the disengagement was a smart move, but if we're going to do it, can't we at least do it right? These people risked their lives daily for Israel and for the Jewish People. A good portion of them had been evacuated from Sinai after the agreement with Egypt, and explicitly asked by the Israeli government to settle in the Gaza strip. They made the desert bloom, just like the vision. Now they're wanderers, and rocket launchers are stationed on their old farms. Where's the justice?

22 July 2007

19 July 2007

Horses

Coming up from the spring, where I had searched for clarity, and found a heart of nameless ache, I saw three horses running across half-built house lots, up onto the street. The brown one, from a distance, was perfect - a regal majesty trapped in this world and echoing into the infinite. The white one was imperfect, spotted, and beautiful. A foal ran between them. I was arrested. I stood where I was. They galloped up the hill and into the street at speed, seemingly breaking away. The sound of their hooves on the asphalt was music and my heart mirrored it as they raced out of view, out of earshot.

I continued climbing the hill. The children of the town and half the dogs were chasing the horses around, but the horses were gone. I passed the tree with the green and purple baby figs, came around the corner, the sky a sunset tapestry, and heard the hooves of the horses returning. I saw the form of one against the colors of the sky and was pulled after him, my soul moving outward from my chest.

They ran into a small field and the children of the town ran after them. I couldn't go home, and followed them into the field, only to see one being caught and ridden. They were never really free, these horses. Mastered again, they trotted back to their stable.

As I walked home, it seemed to me that pain and beauty are close neighbors in the soul of man, and I was troubled by the thought.

What did they get Right in Mexico?

Esther posted an interesting statistic in the context of an argument for Jewish Education.

Here's the relevant piece - from Haaretz

In contrast, history teaches that the most salient factor in preserving Jewish identity is an old, unfashionable method: intensive (not necessarily Orthodox) Jewish education, specifically elementary and high-school education. Figures from last year show that in the United States, where only 25 percent of Jewish children are enrolled in Jewish day schools, the proportion of mixed marriages among young couples stands at 54 percent. In Mexico, by contrast, 85 percent of Jewish children study in a Jewish educational framework, and the intermarriage rate among young people is 10 percent.


I'm all for Jewish education (the miserable state of it notwithstanding), but I'm doubting that's what underlies this difference in intermarriage rates.

The major difference between the US community and the Mexican community is Ashkenazi/Sephardi makeup. I would wager (without seeing numbers) that the rates of intermarriage among Sephardim worldwide are much lower than among Ashenazim. The same underlying motivation that sends the kids to Jewish school is what keeps them from intermarrying. I'm all for education, but I'm betting that the Sephardim hold a deeper secret.

I had a Sephardi friend in Yeshiva who claimed that Ashkenazim relate to God as servants, where Sephardim relate to God as children. It's sweeping, but I think there's a kernel of truth in there. A servant either serves or rebels - those are his options. A son has a much wider range of relationship, a wider window of acceptance, a way to be Jewish from wherever he is. Ashkenazim oscillate between building the palace and tearing it down.

I don't know if I've put my finger on the difference, but I believe it's there. Am I right here? What do you think the Sephardi magic sauce is?

13 July 2007

Light in the Desert

Rollin' down to the desert with the PICZ crew, connecting with a reborn elemental Zionism beautiful. Young people looking to settle the outlying areas in the south and north, and moving thousands of people. Students building desert towns with eyes environmental and sentimental to the building that their grandparents did. They set the bar high, these guys. Real investment...

08 July 2007

On Doing Something Worthwhile

I never would have thought that I would have so little time for my own life. I feel like I've been overtaken. How can I tear myself away when there's so much to be done? Since I started learning Torah, I've never been learning less than I am right now - and I'm working for a Yeshiva!

In high-tech, I closed the door to the office, and I was gone. Free to be, and all that. Now - I dream fundraising. It doesn't keep me up (web design keeps me up), but it creeps into my dreams.

I feel like when we have a good solid chunk of capital and a full cadre of students, I'll be able to dream my own dreams again...so send money.

02 July 2007

Allergic

I broke out in hives while in America. Never happened before. The MIA-MCA thinks I'm allergic to New York.

Creative Zionism

Been hanging out at PICZ - The PresenTense Institute for Creative Zionism these days. Actually, I've been hanging out in New York, meeting with supporters and alumni, but my heart has been at PICZ. I'm back on home turf now, and should be back in the swing of Creative Zionism soon.

Had an interesting thought on what Creative Zionism is, based on the first passage in Rav Kook's Orot. He writes that Israel (writ large) can not be understood as a means to any end, physical or spiritual. It can not be summed up, labeled, identified, or given any expression that meets its actual essence - except through the living, prophetic, creative spirit which rests on the whole Jewish people. I understand that to say that we can only give Israel expression by each of us individually and all of us together coming into our own dynamic creative expressions.

20 May 2007

On issues, opinions, and the creative spirit

I had written up the below almost a month back. It's a reflection on turbulence experienced in blogland. I felt like I wasn't really standing in the piece, like I was still hiding something from myself, so I put it on the back burner.

I had the opportunity to speak with Esther Kustanowitz at PICZ about blogging, it's ways and means, and its discontents. The lady's got wisdom, and the conversation has drawn me back here.

I'm leaving the post as written, even though I think it reveals a bit of my own issues.

I'm sensing that running underneath the whole current is a desire for truth and beauty, and I'm hoping that somehow along the way I'll have the grace to nurse it to flower.

------

A quick wander through the Jewish blog world, and I see all these blessed people concerned with issues - political, social, religious-polemic, environmental, moral, etc. Opinions and positions are taken and defended.
I suffer a bit of worry that perhaps I am failing to encounter the truth, perhaps I really should be concerned with issues. The truth is, issues usually make me tired, and I find opinions to be wearying.

What is the spiritual dynamic at work here?

An old friend came to visit Israel this week. He and I stood next to each other in prayer for hundreds of hours over the course of years. I was lucky to be at his wedding, years back, blessed to spend time with he and his wife in their first years of marriage. Now they are out in the wilds, working in a place without peers, struggling to see enough light that they can shine a bit out to the world.
This friend is deeply connected to the land. He knows every flower, every fragrance and motion, feels the spirit of the land running through him.
We both see the way the Jewish environmentalists campaign and we are both intuitively repulsed. They have their issue, and everything becomes subservient to it. The opinion draws credence from its place in the whole, at the same time that the global perspective is forsaken for the deification of the issue. Details are washed out or corrupted, all in service of the ever-important opinion.

Let me be a servant of the unknown. Let me stand and be honest about what I feel, what I believe, what I have seen, but let me please not twist reality into my image. Please give me strength to not hold an opinion, to hold many opinions. Please give me the grace and good eyes to see the drive to goodness of every man who stands so strongly on his issue.

26 April 2007

I've been sucked in...

...to facebook.
They got it right, this site. Done well. It's way more fun and addictive than linkedin, much easier to use than myspace. I'm trying to figure out what the magic sauce is that makes it so terribly inviting...

29 March 2007

Redemption Song

Smilin' Reb Baruch unearthed this magical unplanned chassidic story jam from last year's freedom season. Some sort of grace came down that night.

25 March 2007

A Strong Move to the Heart

And from here where do I begin?

I was feeling tired.
Quite tired in fact.
Come 6 o'clock on some days, and I'd be gone-but-gone - I had a certain motion of imagination where I would curl up on a shelf right about shoulder height and go to sleep. That's where my soul slept, and my body suffered through until it could find a place to shut on down - dead and away bone tired.

So I got the number for a helping-healer type who began with grace to guide me through how it was that I could once again listen to my body. Amid twists and turns, openings and awakenings, dispatched an early hint at the goings on. And after time it became clear a voice inside without a doubt whispering "what am I doing with my life"? And then the search was on (or shall we say continued - there were early rumblings that I had swept under the psychic carpet.) I had to find a new road, because the old one was walking all over me.

It hits me in davening. I could really make an exciting jump. Here I've been camped out in Bat Ayin for a few months, but in some way my hopes have been camped out here a good while longer, and I know now the place in a way intimate. I've been tuned in to its business side for a few years and know that there's an opening up near the top...

I popped the idea to the Rosh Yeshiva and he heard the same poetry I heard. We danced and negotiated, and wrote it up, and signed, I left I.B.M. (fare well old friends!) and came on to Bat Ayin - Executive Director of a place with wild potential.

I've been now a couple months in the saddle, new worlds, growing in management, marketing, discipline, dreams, vision, hope, writing, believing...

All in all - a strong move to the heart.

For years I was blocked at the neck, but now my heart sings in earnest...

10 January 2007

Teaser

How is it that when things really get interesting, I don't blog as much?

Anyway - reality all a movin'. Some things still a bit too young for the press.

Saw a quote yesterday from Abraham Maslow that grabbed me

If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life.


So there we go. Such a thing has been guiding me for the past months. Listening to my emotions and inner movements. Re-examining assumptions. Becoming.

Stay tuned for the big news.