AND NOW — if you will now take upon yourselves the observance of My commandments, it will be pleasant (easy) to you from now and henceforth, for every beginning is difficult (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 19:5:1).
Earlier this week, I stepped (dove headfirst) into an executive director role and for months prior, I’d been obsessing about the great Rabbi Ishmael and the short quote (and surrounding text) from the Midrashim. In a nutshell, “For every beginning is difficult,” raced through my head constantly.
On my first day in the role, while it felt different from my previous role, I wouldn’t say it was any more difficult than what I had already been doing. It then occurred to me that this new beginning is more difficult for many souls around me – the longtime constituency, the former director, my children and probably more.
My realization and empathy, inspired the following NEW Year’s message to the ORT Chicago community —
An introduction to ORT Chicago’s new executive director, Pamela Klier-Weidner
Today is my first day as ORT Chicago executive director. (Shofar so good.) Okay, that’s the only Rosh Hashanah humor in this story. Please, read on.
When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up to be a ballerina, a famous singer, or an ice skating meteorologist (yes, you read that right). Throughout my childhood, I never once dreamed I’d land here, as the new executive director for ORT Chicago.
Thanks to my Mom, I was raised with ORT. For many years in Chicagoland, ORT just seemed like a women’s social club (to me). I loved the ORT mahjong ladies and the tchotchkes in the ORT lox boxes. While mahjong tiles clicked on our family room table and lox boxes were packed and delivered, I had no idea that my Mom and these ORT women were heroic trailblazers who dedicated themselves to locating the funds needed to give transformative educational opportunities to millions of people throughout the world.
It wasn’t until I chose to work for ORT Chicago, almost two years ago (as campaign director), that I began to understand the magnitude of ORT’s impact and the need for its sustainability in our global community.
I was raised to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. Like so many kids, I didn’t appreciate all of my opportunities, but as I grew, I became keenly aware that too many children around the globe had little or no opportunity, let alone hope. So, I quit my career in dancing and singing, (the ice skating meteorology gig didn’t pan out), and devoted myself to tikkun olam (repair of the world).
Now, I choose to work for ORT due to several key reasons:
- To carry on my beloved Mom’s legacy.
- To raise funds for ORT programs so kids with little or no opportunity can have access to a great education. That very education can give them access to a much better life, full of opportunity.
- ORT’s Global Education Network has the kind of collective, profound, impact I seek.
- ORT is 138 years old. Not enough people know about it. I often refer to ORT as the “138 year old start-up.”
- From what I’ve observed, ORT is not only life changing but also life propelling.
- ORT helps me live out my Jewish values.
So, here I am in this brand new role I never dreamed of having, for some really good reasons. As we head into the Jewish New Year, I urge all of us to start 5779 with an investment in tikkun olam. If you choose to strengthen ORT’s resources, I wholeheartedly thank you. If you just want to dip your toe into ORT by learning more about us, fantastic. We value and NEED doers and donors. If you have any questions, ideas, seek to volunteer or just want to connect for whatever reason, I can’t wait to hear from you.
L’shana tova to you and your family.