October 1, 2013
With the support of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, REALITY participants Aaron Miller and Ross Heyman successfully co-pioneered the first participant-led gathering to celebrate Sukkot and Jewish life in Tulsa, Oklahoma. More than 50 REALITY participants traveled near and far for a weekend to revel in Shabbat, study Jewish texts and explore creative ways to celebrate Sukkot.
1. What inspires you to get out of bed every day?
Aaron: I search for warmth in the world every day.
Ross: I am inspired by the people around me. My life is full of mentors and I try to surround myself by people that motivate me to continually work to improve myself and the contributions I make in the world, whether through work, school or volunteering.
2. What three hashtags would you use to describe yourself?
Aaron: #connector #jovial #command
Ross: #responsible #greasebewteenthewheels #hungry
3. What projects are you working on now?
Aaron: My time at work is mostly spent implementing community programs in Tulsa that will attract and retain top talent through housing initiatives, job opportunities and the presence of a lively, progressive downtown. I also recently co-founded The Mine, a project-based social innovation fellowship for Tulsa young professionals and I manage community relations for Guthrie Green, an urban park and performance space in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District.
Ross: I’m currently working on a number of sales and marketing initiatives for my employer. One particularly interesting project involves collaborating with a local foundation and university to revitalize an historic neighborhood of Tulsa. Being a part of a greater transformation helps me to achieve a higher purpose in the real estate industry.
4. What projects would you like to be working on in 5 years?
Aaron: If all goes according to my always-changing plans, I will be a well-regarded real estate developer that revolutionized walkable, mixed-income urban neighborhoods across the United States. In 10 years, I’ll be the head of a US Olympic bid committee.
Ross: Professionally, I would like to learn more about various types of real estate investment and development. I am drawn to real estate because it serves the fundamental purpose of providing places to live, work, eat and play. I hope the next five years allow me to learn about new segments within the world of real estate.
Personally, I hope to continue my involvement with developing Jewish youth in the Tulsa community through BBYO. I would also like to reconnect with the local public school system and contribute time to serve the same community where I taught third grade.
5. What it is the biggest risk you’ve taken, personally or professionally, and how did it pay off?
Aaron: Creating my own major in college: “Metropolitan Strategic Development.” Who would’ve thought I could find a job in a fictional major but alas, I am in one of my dream jobs.
Ross: Moving to Tulsa may be the greatest risk that I have taken. I had never been to Oklahoma or spent much time in what I consider the South Midwest. Tulsa has led to a number of personal and professional opportunities that I would not have experienced otherwise.
6. Where do you go to find community?
Aaron: I find community in connections. The random encounter on the street, the unlikely friend in common, the shared life philosophy with a stranger. Opportunities to form connections with the people around me drive my passion to build strong communities.
Ross: I find community at REALITY gatherings, with my family and friends in Chicago and with old friends all around the country.
7. Where do you go to find solitude?
Aaron: I find peaceful solitude in fiction books.
Ross: I try to go on one five-day backpacking trip each year; it is my annual Shabbat. More recently, I have also found solitude while watching West Wing in the comfort of my apartment.
8. What is one change you would like to see in your lifetime?
Aaron: Civil dialogue in politics.
Ross: I would like to see a radical shift in the way American society views and values public schools and public school teachers.
9. Who is your hero?
Aaron: My grandfather, Dr. Jerald Miller, attended college at Johns Hopkins with the support of his entire family. He never took his success for granted and treated everyone around him with kindness and sincerity. Poppi, you are my hero.
Ross: I have too many to name. All of my heroes are personal friends, family or mentors. Many of them are a generation or two ahead of me. They show me what is possible when you live the right way.
10. Rock, paper or scissors—and why?
Aaron: Rock–sturdy, powerful and decisive but still vulnerable in certain spots.
Ross: Left-handed scissors. I’m left-handed and never had a pair.
Read more about Ross and Aaron's work in their guest post!
The Schusterman Philanthropic Network is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.