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2016-05-20 digital edition

TODAY in the Jewish World:

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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 © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


May 20, 2016  RSS feed

Text: T T T

The finest form of flattery

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

I’ve always been a tad fascinated by fads.

On June 14, I will openly walk into an opportunity to imitate a trend going on in the world around us, but this time, rather than following fashion (remember banana clips? Aquanet? Stirrup pants?) I will engage in a more intellectual trend, as we re-envision our Federation’s annual meeting as a “FED Talk.”

My regular readers will recall a number of times in which I’ve referenced the popular TED Talks series. For the uninitiated, TED stands for “technology, entertainment, and design.” The organization was started back in 1984.

There are a few things that I particularly like about TED Talks.

First of all, TED Talks don’t look to capture the very best speakers, but rather the very best ideas. TED speakers represent a global voice, and come from all disciplines and all walks of life. The outstanding characteristic of each is their passion for their topic, which ranges from activism to youth (no “Z” categories yet).

Additionally, the mission is deceptively simple: to spread ideas. This vision has spawned conferences, online videos, a daily idea blog, books, articles, and even a specialized TED-Ed series that my kids occasionally dip their toes into.

I also love that TED Talks give a read on the interests of the slice of humanity that is interested in spreading ideas. The top 20 shared talks include “Do schools kill creativity?” by Ken Robinson; “Your body language shapes who you are” by Amy Cuddy; “The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology” by Pranav Mistry; “Underwater astonishments,” by David Gallo; and “How I held my breath for 17 minutes,” by David Blaine.

Of the top 20, however, a solid dozen are dedicated to topics of the personal betterment variety, touching on leadership, vulnerability, the brain, motivation, introversion, lying, happiness (in general), happiness (at work), creative genius, speaking more effectively, stress, and even your sex life.

With all of these attributes in mind, it’s hard to not admire this resource in which people are finding the answers they seek, from a group of often unlikely, hard-to-reach experts.

Without TED, I never would have heard of (most of) the 103 experts that are listed as speaking on “Jewish” topics. Trita Parsi talks about how he sees a possible peace between Iran and Israel. Zak Ebrahim, son of a terrorist, speaks on his choice to follow peace. Taryn Simon traces the bloodlines of genealogy and the interplay of so many forces in our own tree. Oren Yakobovich talks about hidden cameras he uses to film human rights abuses in the world’s most dangerous places. And Amy Webb talks about how she hacked online dating.

Like the TED speakers, I’m not a perfect presenter. But I believe that there are some ideas at play in our community that are worth spreading. And I have plenty of passion to spare in talking about the big shift that I see coming to bear under our noses in our community.

Intrigued? If you join me on June 14th at 7 p.m. you’ll hear about how we’re going small-scale to go big. We’ll dive into what our demographics are telling us…including what we don’t want to hear. Looking back, we’ll trace the origins of the shift underway to tell us how we got here, and where my crystal ball tells us we’re going.

Leonard Bernstein said that there are two things required for great achievement: a plan, and not quite enough time.

Luckily, for our Jewish community, we have both elements at play.

And truth be told, I garnered this quote from the most recent TED Talk by Dan Palotta, who I mentioned in a past column for his Talk “The way we think about charity is dead wrong,” in which he champions investing in top-performing professionals as a means of catapulting a charity’s effectiveness. His February, 2016 talk is titled, “The dream we haven’t dared to dream,” and it’s a magical romp through the leadership – and chutzpah – needed to set bold deadlines that lead to daring achievement.

Palotta challenges the viewer in ways that I, too, wish to challenge our community:

1. Can we set the bar higher than stability?

2. Is the frenzy of our activism destroying our inner capacity for peace?

3. Are we treating our present and our future as mutually exclusive, finding us surrendering our profound present potential for some imagined future?

4. Can we move to a place where we are just as excited about the development of our humanity as we are about the development of our technology?

5. Can we be both “Human” and “Kind,” and experiment outrageously with kindness?

So, Mr. Bernstein, I do have a plan: to create a wildly connected, tremendously magnetic, and wonderfully welcoming Jewish community that has something for everyone under an ever-expanding tent.

And unfortunately, I don’t think we have quite enough time. We have precious few moments when our youth are still youth. The years are short that we can save the stories of those who survived the Holocaust. And we don’t really have the luxury of sitting back to think deeply on which direction we should take when it comes to serving the vast array of family structures that branch from our tree, including in- and inter-married, hetero and same-sex couples, remarried and blended, “by choice,” young, old, widowed, divorced, single parents, adoptive parents, young singles, newly singles, and everyone in between.

Yet Mr. Bernstein tells me we have all the elements for success. Let’s look into this big shift, together, on June 14, and see what ideas this FED Talk will spread.

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at

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