Safe

How can we feel safe when no one is safe?

The past several weeks have been rough. Without going into detail on what’s happening in my little family, I’d rather focus on what this time period has evoked:

FEELINGS: FEAR. 

FACTS: SAFE.

Are we safe?


My daughters and I have openly discussed safety, identifying safe and unsafe scenarios and spaces, not compromising our safety, so that someone will like or accept us, and finally, how we practice self-soothing when we are afraid. Like any parent, my daughters’ safety and empowering them to know how to get/stay safe, are of the utmost importance.

While in the midst of walking through private issues over the past several weeks, epic mass shootings, scores of hate crimes and the disastrous fires in California, also plagued our country.

After the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA, like so many of us, I was shocked. No matter how many times I hear about or experience anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc, the shock value never, ever lessens.

My daughter and I discussed the Pittsburgh tragedy after a few days had passed. I couldn’t believe how matter of fact she was about it.

I fervently exclaimed,

I absolutely refuse to let this be the new normal!

She responded to me very calmly,

Mom, we’ve been having lockdown drills for as long as I can remember. At first, when I was little, they were really scary, but now, this IS our normal.

My mouth was agape. I felt like I couldn’t breathe…

I had the “aha” moment I have never wanted to have.

I went on to validate what she’d said to me. I told her that her response made me sad and then, she said,

It is sad, but it just is. Mom, we have to live with what is.

A part of me wanted to argue against what she was saying, but I didn’t. The truth is, I was in awe of my daughter’s composure and graceful example of how to live life on life’s terms.

Just this past week, I came home from work and as I prepped dinner, I shared with my daughters that ORT’s Kfar Silver Youth Village had to be evacuated because there weren’t enough (or close enough) shelters, for the kids to be safe.

Kfar Silver Youth Village is located just outside of Ashkelon, Israel. Hundreds of rockets were launched from Gaza and it was a terrifyingly unsafe situation for these kids and all who live there.

At dinner, my daughters were wide-eyed and glued to everything about Kfar Silver. They wanted to learn more about the “really cool” place the Kfar Silver Youth Village is.

My daughters asked so many questions:

How can these kids ever feel safe with rockets being launched nearby? How can they not have enough shelters? Do adults help them feel safe? Who helps the adults feel safe? How can the world be this scary?

And then, the same daughter who told me about needing to “live with what is” said,

WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

My (amazing) daughters just finished raising funds for ORT America, for its #GivingTuesday campaign. (Yep, they raised their funds well before #GivingTuesday!)

Jand c GT GOAL
Of course I’m proud of them!

Next, my eldest daughter has expressed interest in helping the kids at Kfar Silver Youth Village to get safe, feel safe and stay safe.

So, the moral of this story is,

we can live with what is, but we can must also take action.

We may feel afraid, but in this very moment, in the here and now,

we are safe.

Thou shalt not

A Teacher Named, Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Jan

Over the past several months, since my colleague, ORT Chicago director, Barbara (Barb) Statland announced her retirement as our region director, I’ve tried to sit down to write about her.

Each time I’ve tried to write almost anything about Barb, (and I have tried countless times), several things happen:

  1. The Beach Boys’ Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann runs through my head, but instead of “Ann,” I change it to “Jan.” Barb’s middle name is Jan, so it obviously works great. It repeats and repeats in my head and drives me totally nuts.
  2. Still, I riff a little bit with the whole, Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan song idea. I create a sketch in my head about “The Teach Boys” singing the song for our Barbara Jan. Instead of being on the beach, the band, along with ORT students and educators sing and dance in an ORT 21st Century Classroom.

    21st century classroom
    Picture The Teach Boys singing Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan in the classroom at an ORT School in Israel. Welcome to my head.
  3. Now, I start to get teary because Barb is kind of like family to me.  I’ve grown accustomed to her face, her attention to detail and her Fuji apples and peanut butter at 11:16 AM each day. I think, “What will it be like not to hear her cutting apples? How will I know it’s 11:16 AM?”
  4. I stop trying to write because I get emotional and even nostalgic. I am generally not a nostalgic person, but Barb and I have walked through a lot together. Side note: I also happen to be a very ugly crier.

Now, I am not crying. Oh good. We are making progress.

Here’s how I see my professional partner in crime and friend, Barbara Jan Statland:

  • Barb has been one of my best educators.
  • Her attention to detail is superlative.
  • If she wanted to, she could be a theater director and/or theater teacher.
  • She could also do voice-overs. Great voice.
  • Heck, she would make a fine actress.
  • She is one of the biggest reasons I was hired by ORT America. Thank you, Barb.
  • She has more patience than any colleague I have ever worked with, anywhere.
  • She is extremely creative and incomparably tenacious.
  • She loves ORT and its people very deeply. (P.S. ORT = People)
  • She is hilarious even when she’s not trying to be.
  • She is a powerful communicator.
  • She is reasonable.
  • Her commitment to and her belief in ORT programs never, ever wavers.
  • Barb’s leadership has sustained our region where most others would have failed.
  • I have never heard anyone better on the phone. Yes, she knows I eavesdrop.
  • Barb really loves the ORT Teacher’s Fund.

There’s a lot more to Barb than what I’ve stated here. It has been my privilege to partner with and to learn from her.

The love goes both ways. ORT loves Barb so much, there’s a whole ORT International Seminar for Leading Educators dedicated to Barb, in honor of her retirement. This seminar, (which I believe starts TOMORROW!), is a key part of the ORT Teachers Fund which is a fund dedicated to the professional development of educators. A few words from Barb about the ORT Teacher’s Fund:

So many ORT students are motivated, passionate, knowledgeable and creative BECAUSE of their teachers.  Their teachers instill these traits within their students.  ORT knows that this is key and provides a network of peers for their teachers to whom they can turn for support and to share ideas. This Teachers Fund will provide so much – including training in the areas of digital technology, physics education and Bio Research, learning technologies training, math and English.  Collaboration is key in all of these initiatives. — Barbara J. Statland

Barb has been around ORT for 30-ish years. She’s been an employee for 13 years and a region director for the past five or so. Most of us see Barb as a lifetime ORTist.

If you’d like to honor Barb’s Herculean leadership at ORT, and/or you seek to invest in professional development for educators, and/or you want to witness my ugly crying because thanks to you, we have raised our $40,000 goal, please stop reading this post and click on Barb’s photo below!

Barb gorgeous2
The tenacious, beautiful, and dedicated Barbara J. Statland

Thank you for reading this, and of course, for your investment in Barb, ORT, teachers, students, me and all who make a positive impact on our world.

May we all draw strength, knowledge and courage from Ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan.

In gratitude and love,

Pam

L’dor Va’dOR(T): ORT Through Generations

One of the most inspiring things about involvement in ORT is that it is so often passed down through families – my own included. I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with two members of another “ORT family” – Dyna Wise and her grandson, Larry Burley. Here’s a recap of our conversation: Continue reading “L’dor Va’dOR(T): ORT Through Generations”

Brad: A Walking Inspiration

Brad is the best example of WHY I love nonprofit work and philanthropy.

The following essay was written and submitted by my longtime friend, Brad Kolar. He is an inspiration to me and to so many others, I simply HAD to post it on my blog.

Enjoy.

Why I choose to be an “ORT man”

Written and submitted by Brad Kolar

My mom was an “ORT lady.” For those who didn’t grow up in an ORT household, that probably doesn’t mean a lot. However, for those of us who did, that was a big deal.

Continue reading “Brad: A Walking Inspiration”