Every August, my husband, Mitch, and I travel abroad. For two weeks, we unplug from our everyday lives and explore a new part of the world. This year we traveled to Tanzania to experience the country and pursue our dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Before facing down the mountain, however, we spent time facing another reality: the estimated 2.5 million orphaned children in Tanzania, most left parentless by HIV/AIDS.
We spent our first day volunteering at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre, established by an American doctor who several months prior had moved from Alaska to devote the rest of his life to helping alleviate the plight of as many orphans as possible.
The experience was heart-wrenching but inspiring—heart-wrenching to see children with so little in a world of such plenty; inspiring to witness one man’s determination to fill their lives with the very things we take for granted: bathrooms, a kitchen, basic education and healthcare, human love and kindness.
The starkness of life in Tanzania sits in sharp contrast to the abundance of our life here. Seeing it firsthand offered a strong reminder that we are not entitled to our privilege, but rather, responsible for ensuring we are worthy of it.
This experience is on my mind as we enter the Jewish New Year, a period of reflection and renewal that we at the Schusterman Family Foundation take very seriously. It is a time for reminding ourselves, much as I was in Tanzania, just how privileged and blessed we are. It is a time for recommitting ourselves to the responsibility that comes with this privilege.
We reflect on how fortunate we are to have our health, our wonderful families and friends, and the privilege of doing the work we love on behalf of the Schusterman Family Foundation, inspired, guided and fully supported by the visionary and passionate leadership of Lynn.
As we recommit ourselves to pursuing our work, three principles will guide our work in the year ahead. They are not new principles, but by sharing them publicly, we are holding ourselves accountable. We hope you will hold us accountable as well.
- Excellence: To reap the most from our work, we must put the most into it. We will strive for excellence, work with integrity to set high standards, continually evaluate, learn and refine our strategies and programs, and help build a Jewish community in which people will want to take part.
- Spirit: We will continue to bring to our work the spirit of possibility, passion and fun, of innovation, of calculated risk-taking. We will also bring esprit de corps, the spirit of teamwork. Inspiration means breathing life, and we seek to inspire and breathe new life into the individuals and communities we touch.
- Humility: We will approach our work openly, honestly, humbly. We will respect and learn from those with whom we partner and serve. We will practice the values we preach. Our work is not about ego—we are working for a higher purpose: to help the Jewish people flourish by spreading the joy of Jewish living, giving and learning.
Excellence. Spirit. Humility. ESH. Fire in Hebrew.
The ESH in our bellies propelled Mitch and me to the summit of Kilimanjaro. It inspired us to rededicate ourselves to helping give others much less fortunate a chance to achieve their dreams. It motivated a doctor in Alaska to become the primary caregiver for dozens of orphans in Tanzania. It reminds us that whether our resources are large or small, financial, human or otherwise, we can each contribute to changing the world around us simply by determining that we have the will and passion to do so.
At our Foundation, we believe that the true gift of the Hebrew month of Elul—a time when the possibility for renewal and transformation is intensely present—is the annual reminder to reignite our fire, to pursue our work with ESH. We need it more than ever if we if we are to thrive in this time of transition, of peaks and plateaus, of shifting paradigms.
Our team is committed to entering this New Year with fire in our bellies, compassion in our hearts and thoughtfulness in our heads. We will seek to maximize our potential to shape a dynamic Jewish community that is vibrant, relevant, inclusive of all seeking to lead actively Jewish lives, dedicated to service and to Israel. We will work hand-in-hand with the inspiring individuals, organizations and communities who are bringing our shared vision to life every day.
We want to learn from and be inspired by you as we reignite our individual and collective ESH. We invite you to share with us your dreams, privileges and responsibilities as you see them, and how you are working to honor and achieve them.
Together, let’s make 5771 the year we rekindle the spark of holiness and passion in our dedication to the Jewish people, to Israel and to the broader world.
We wish you a season of reflection, renewal and rejoicing and a New Year of blessings and peace.
Shana Tova U’Metuka!