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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 28, 2015  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Women of a certain age and ‘tomorrow’ logic

Emilie Socash
Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties

There are certain moments in life when you look back and realize that you may never be that person. My girls are getting to an age where I’ve accepted that I will never be the parent who methodically logs every “first” in the baby book or height advancement on the door frame. I’m getting to an age where I am coming to grips with the idea that I might not learn a third language, have my own talk show, or set the perfect Seder table.

But as my girls and I grow older each day, advancing toward becoming “of a certain age,” I also reflect on the people we are becoming that we never imagined we’d be: travelers, musicians, fundraisers, philanthropists.

The High Holidays provide us the perfect temporal space within which to really assess who we are, and who we will be in the coming year.

Earlier this month, I spent the weekend with two billionaires, namely Harold Grinspoon and Lester Crown. The backdrop was a retreat in Aspen sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for selected Federation executives, and their company gave me pause.

When rubbing elbows with billionaires (as well as other amazing guests, such as Dennis Ross, a Middle East expert and former ambassador who joined us for a couple of hikes and Shabbat dinner, and Lester Bernstein, the founder and educational director of Sesame Workshop who is Orthodox and does a tremendous Count von Count impression) it seems only human to wonder if the work of just one person of modest means makes a difference.

Harold (and I feel I can call him that after receiving two of his signature backrubs) and his wife, Diane, recently took the Giving Pledge. This initiative was started by Warren Buffet and calls upon the wealthiest to commit to leaving the bulk of their wealth to charity. Part of Harold’s explanation for this extraordinary commitment was that “In the 21st century, I believe that for Judaism to continue to have an impact on families and society, Jewish living and learning must be actively cultivated ... The sense of mission and accomplishment that I get through my philanthropy energizes me every day.”

I find myself wondering if Harold’s sense of mission and accomplishment through the Giving Pledge is any greater than that of someone who gives far fewer dollars than he does. I would imagine that any individual who gives as generously as the means allow would also receive the spiritual benefits of accomplishment and energy.

Can you say “My philanthropy energizes me every day?” Reflectively, can I?

We sometimes think of time passing as a conveyor belt, carrying empty bottles of time along, with the noble human duty to fill these vessels with measurable, meaningful activities. If a bottle – representing an hour, or an afternoon, or a month – goes by only partially filled, we often kick ourselves about the time “wasted.”

But might we consider that each measure of time – each passing bottle – is filled with something, even if it is “nothing?” While it might sound a bit like the old Confucian meditation of picturing one hand clapping, it seems particularly appropriate at this time of year to think back on the conveyor belt of our lives and recognize the things that did get done, didn’t get done, or may have just happened.

As my bottles rolled by this year, I didn’t always fill them with the best parenting moments or professional accomplishments. I did often fill them with time spent on my big-picture goals: taking on more challenging assignments in my work life, being a better spouse, reading a tremendous amount.

Does our community have a similar conveyor belt of time, and if so, how are we using the marching clock efficiently, effectively, and ultimately to our best benefit?

The Giving Pledge may present a model within which we can fill our bottles. We can pledge to give the bulk of our time – our most valuable resource – to the meaningful things in our lives. We can pledge to give the bulk of our spiritual energy, and even our charitable dollars, to those things that we feel make the biggest impact on today and tomorrow.

Gretchen Rubin, an author and podcaster known for her work on happiness and productivity, released episode #26, “Pick a One-Word Theme for the Year” on the day I was wrapping up this column. The episode also contemplated themes of procrastination and what Gretchen calls “tomorrow logic,” in which we picture ourselves as better equipped to handle nearly any task in a magical space called “Tomorrow.” She proposed that by adopting a theme (ideally as one or two words) for the year ahead we can better focus our lives, achieve greater fulfillment, and avoid “tomorrow logic.”

My one-word theme might just be “NOW.” (I tend toward procrastination in all areas of life, which has led Gary Gould to offer the nickname “Eleventh-Hour Emilie.”) We only have the present, and now is the moment in which life is happening.

As a community, though, perhaps we consider “GIVE.” This one word encompasses the act of transferring some sort of resource (time, talent, money, interest, benefit of the doubt, belief) to something worthwhile that we care about (kids, spouse, community, organization). As you receive the numerous High Holiday appeals from your synagogue, Jewish agencies, and even our Federation, consider embracing this word at this time of year in giving generously of yourself to making our community a better place.

And when you “GIVE” me your email address (by emailing, I’ll add you to my reader’s list … which will “GIVE” you a bit of bonus content related to today’s column, previews of upcoming column topics, and info on my occasional “Open House On the Town” meet-ups.

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