“For every beginning is difficult”

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. Continue reading ““For every beginning is difficult””

We aren’t “Schnorrers.” We create “Shidduchs!”

We create a perfect match

schnor·rer

also shnor·rer (shnôr′ər)n. Slang:One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others; a parasite.

A PARASITE.

In the past, I’ve heard fundraisers referred to as “schnorrers,” by a few well-meaning donors, donor prospects, colleagues and friends. Of course, many times, they’re just trying to have fun with me and fellow fundraisers. I don’t think they realize how, in actuality, most fundraisers are really the absolute opposite of “schnorrers.”

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had an unstoppable fire in my belly to help others and to do whatever I can to repair the world. I am also driven to do whatever is within my power to help make organizations I’m involved in better and stronger. Like so many fundraisers I know, I have always loved people, building relationships and doing whatever I can to find the perfect fit for a donor to match up with a mission and/or program and vice-versa.

I was raised with a lot of Yiddish growing up. To me, it is absolutely the happiest, most fun language, ever. When you exclaim something in Yiddish, you don’t necessarily have to know Yiddish to get the gist of what someone is saying.

I think a more appropriate Yiddish word for us fundraisers is, “Shidduch” creator!

shid·duch

(shidəKH, SHiˈdo͞oKH)n. an arranged marriage (Jewish), One who creates a “shidduch” or perfect match.

This is how I see and implement fundraising in my work and from so many of my esteemed colleagues. Our goal is to seek a perfect match for each donor and the donor always comes first. Our job is to fulfill whatever they have brewing in their kishkes. (Look up kishke on your own.)

So… the next time you meet with a fundraiser, or are casually hanging out with one, please don’t call us “schnorrers.” Not only do we really not like it, but it is not typical or even accurate. (For most of us.)

You may not want to call us anything that includes the word “shidduch,” either. At least not loudly. It’s one of the rare Yiddish words that sounds a wee bit more like an unpleasant English word than it sounds like, “matchmaker.”

Of course, you can call me a “Shidduch” creator anytime.

Thanks for letting me kvetch about this unpleasant stereotype and I hope we can kibbitz soon.

Perhaps I can make the right match for you. 💙💚❤💛🧡💜

The Fable of the “Safe,” Boring Label

Please forgive the obnoxious length of this post. It’s 4:00am and I stole most of it from an article I published in June, 2016, on LinkedIn. At this wee hour, it seems applicable to where my head is right now.

I’ve been engaged in recruiting for ORT America’s Annual MeetingEVERY SINGLE TIME I utter the words, “Annual Meeting,” I feel like this: CLICK ON CARTOON SOUND EFFECTS for accurate representation of my opinion regarding the title/label, “Annual Meeting.” 

If I had my druthers, I’d never call anything I’m deeply passionate about, or other people are supposed to be inspired by, “Annual Meeting.” I’d call it:ANN MEET BLOG

As you’ll see below, I am not a fan of labels. I’ve also started writing shorter articles, but I hope this lengthy post (that I’d shorten if it wasn’t 4:38 AM), relays to you what I really think of uttering the words, “Annual Meeting.”


I really dislike labels. When someone asks what I do, or who I am, I almost always dislike my answers. My responses are usually, “I’m a fundraiser,” or, “I’m divorced,” or “I’m J and C’s Mom.” When I ask who you are and what you do, I hope for more than two or three words. As it stands in our society, labels and an individual’s outer image are inextricably connected and hold a hefty weight. How we choose to label ourselves and put ourselves out there, leaves a mark, but is it accurate? I don’t think so.

I recently attended my first strictly Orthodox Bar Mitzvah for a friend’s son. A few weeks ago, my friend suggested that I wear a long skirt to the service, as I’d be more comfortable being dressed like the other women, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish culture and tradition. She was very kind, but as she advised me, I could feel myself rebelling against the idea of following such rules.

On the morning of the Bar Mitzvah, I dressed modestly, but chose wide leg slacks, rather than a skirt. To be honest, I looked like a twin sister of Bea Arthur as the character, “Maude.” I didn’t love my outfit, or even like it, but I sort of appeared, Jewish-ish, (whatever that is), even though I wore pants.

Maude
I kind of looked like this.

As I walked into the women’s section of the shul, a nice woman asked if I wanted a prayer book, and so, I took one. I asked if I should wear a head covering. The woman responded, “You’re wearing pants.” When I heard her utter those words, I knew I’d made the wrong wardrobe decision. She continued, “Are you married?” I told her I was not. She then asked, “Are you Jewish?” When I exclaimed, “Yes, I’m Jewish,” she told me I didn’t have to wear a head covering because I’m not married. She also told me not to feel badly about the pants debacle and that next time, I should wear a skirt. She was lovely.

I started thinking of labels and of the image I’d put out there that morning, but what I hadn’t shared with her. Had I been honest, I’d have told her, “I’m rebellious against wearing a long skirt, but it’s really no big deal, and I should have had more respect for you and your house of worship. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” I could have said, “I was raised Jewish, and feel most Jewish when I pray with my feet, but you may not think I’m Jewish because I don’t have 100% Jewish genes and we may disagree on specific political and religious issues.”

Okay, okay. I know most people don’t want to hear these lengthy, honest answers, but when I label myself, “Jewish,” there are assumptions and perceptions, but how do we correct these inaccuracies? How many of us are inquisitive enough to ask more questions?

I admit, I’m inquisitive to a fault, and perhaps that’s one of the most accurate labels I wear. My interest in people is what propels me to love them so much. While I’m not usually so rebellious as to not wear a skirt in shul, I don’t think the nice woman at the entrance of the women’s section labeled me as “A rebellious, stubborn woman who should have had more respect.” This would have been an accurate label on that day. Instead, she knew I was “Jewish, unmarried, and made a mistake.”

I find labels most prevalent in business, and they’re chock full of rules, expectations and “shoulds.” I don’t really subscribe to that type of thinking, but I go along with the image and label that is expected of me, depending on the occasion.

My resumé is diverse and usually makes for an interesting conversation. I have followed an atypical career path. Today, when I present as “Fundraiser,” or tomorrow, when I present as “Trainer,” or in a few weeks when I’m an, “Emcee,” how do these labels and images encompass all that we really are, and especially at our core? Aren’t we interested in going deeper?

What if we stopped submitting resumés, and started submitting, “Truthés?” Here’s what one of mine might look like:

Pamela Klier-Weidner. People Lover and Inquisitive Seeker

Legally, my name is Pamela Klier, but I kept, the Weidner, because I didn’t want to confuse my kids by having a different last name after my divorce

Objective: To listen, demonstrate love and tolerance, communicate the truth, guide people, and allow the cream to rise

Truthful Stuff:

  • Lover of people and the direction/s they really want to go (which is the basis for everything, I think)
  • Inquisitive (that too, but also have a sense that if you aren’t comfy, I’ll shut up and respect your comfort level)
  • Super fun (if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?)
  • Perfectionist (not proud of this, but truth is truth)
  • Periodically stubborn (don’t love this about me either, and sometimes I’m right to be stubborn. Other times, not so much)
  • Creative risk-taker (this usually pays off, or at least it has historically)
  • Non drinker or drugger (no judgment: if you can do that without impending doom, fine)
  • Weak at accepting compliments
  • Compliment giver, and almost always means them
  • Very generous which is periodically caught up in people pleasing, but this is improving
  • Not entirely at peace with physical appearance, especially when it’s humid and coif is out of control. Working on accepting physical appearance, and working harder on it not mattering as much

Yep. I would consider hiring someone who gave me a “Truthé,” in a hot minute.

I realize and respect that labels, stereotypes and images present a level of safety for us and that the appearance of and/or acceptance of “Truthés” is not likely to exist, except in my own head, and now, in this post.

So… if you seek to help repair this world through education while we engage in creative and collaborative idea sharing, please join me at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Chicago on March 18th, 2018. In fact, come on March 17th at Pinstripes, for our “DAY BEFORE THE ORT Day of Collaborative, Visionary Genius.”  I’d be delighted to play a friendly game of bocce ball with you, as we get our creative ideas prepped and flowing before the next day. (I am pretty good at bocce ball. You’ve been warned.)

I love ORT. I love the 138 year history, its stories, the students, families and communities who have needed, benefited from, or still need ORT educational programs.

We need at least another 138 years. We need you.

STA
Shelly Dreifuss – (one of my favorite humans), will receive the ORT America President’s Award. 1871’s COO, Tom Alexander,  Keynote Speaker – (Genius who has more impact in three words that long-winded humans who write blog posts that are waaay too long, and finally, our Featured Speaker, Alina Gerlovin Spaulding, who is a rock star in philanthropic and impact giving

REGISTER RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW! 

Atoning for Too Much Tikkun Olam

This morning, I devoted a brief amount of time to catch up on “the news.” I put “the news” in quotes, because while natural disasters and locating avenues to help human beings recover and thrive, are newsworthy, much of “the news” I skimmed through, left me disgusted and incredibly sad.

For as long as I can remember, I worried about my family, my community and pretty much any injustice and atrocity I perceived in the world. As an adult, I learned that my worrying had to be transposed into action. Naturally, I still worry, but have implemented a rule that I’m not permitted to worry for very long, unless I am actively working on helping to repair or heal whatever it is that keeps me awake at night. Continue reading “Atoning for Too Much Tikkun Olam”

My Love Affair with Lady Charlotte

Charlotte Lindon was as dedicated to tikkun olam as anyone I have ever met.  She was without exception, always thinking of others and of healing communities.  When I would schedule a visit with her, I would get more and more excited as the appointment drew near, because I knew we’d be like two excited kids playing in the “I love philanthropy” playground. We were so happy together.

Charlotte Lindon, 96, died yesterday. I am stricken with grief, but I am also grateful for the very special relationship we had for as many years as we had it.

Her obituary touches on her magnificence, but I am going to share some other things you might want to know about Charlotte Lindon. (Not the secrets. The secrets we shared will remain within me forever.)

  1.  Charlotte believed that her unwavering devotion to philanthropy came to her genetically. Her Grandfather, whom she never met, was all about tikkun olam
  2.  Charlotte periodically expressed that if she had one person she could bring back from the dead, it would be her Grandfather.
  3. Charlotte knew the reasons why I am so crazy about my own Mother. She loved hearing about Lois Klier. She also thought my Father, Mort Klier, was extremely good looking and “dapper.”
  4. Charlotte was fascinated by ancestry and became very interested in my adoption story and how I found and related to my birth family.
  5. Charlotte appreciated little things like when I’d drop off some blueberries or coffee cake at the front desk. I would only say who they were from so she wouldn’t worry about the source. (Once I left something for her anonymously, and that was a MISTAKE.)
  6. Charlotte would always tell me I shouldn’t put myself out to get her blueberries or coffee cake. After a while, I finally said to her, “Charlotte… do you really want me to stop because it’s so exhausting for me to get you blueberries, which are ON SALE at a store across the street?” She’d smile but never actually asked me to stop, so I didn’t.
  7. Charlotte LOVED living at the Vi.
  8. Charlotte was proud to be a relative of the first blind doctor, Dr. Jacob Bolotin. There’s a fantastic book about his story. Charlotte gave me a copy and insisted I read it.
  9. I once considered working in advancement for Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, because of Charlotte and the strength of her case for support.
  10. Charlotte would always push me to order every single course at lunch at The Vi, whether I wanted to or not. I’d try to slide by without ordering appetizer, soup, salad, entree, cold beverage, coffee and dessert, but she’d always catch on. What I really wanted on most of it was more salt.
  11. Charlotte let me help her. It took a while, but as time passed, she accepted my help. I was honored.
  12. Charlotte was an ENORMOUS philanthropist/donor and throughout our relationship, her donations increased by astronomical percentages. That was never why I was there, but it is how it played out. This is what real cultivation and stewardship looks like.
  13. Charlotte’s hair was gorgeous. I once got in trouble from a colleague because I complimented her on it. She was proud that she didn’t color her hair. She DID NOT have gray hair! I guess being that awesome has its benefits.
  14. Charlotte was always thinking of ways to improve the community at The Vi.
  15. Charlotte personified humility. It used to frustrate me that she didn’t know how awesome she was. I told her how crazy it made me, but she didn’t need to know how awesome she was and THAT is humility.
  16. Charlotte never wanted to be honored in a super public way. Believe me, I tried. She once said to me, “I’m being honored the way I want to be honored right now, in this moment.” I never asked again, because I finally understood.
  17. Charlotte hated cigarette smoking.
  18. Charlotte was deeply concerned with the volume of toys, media and other “stuff” children procured from their parents. She thought it set kids up to fail in life because parents weren’t teaching essential values. I agreed and agree with her.
  19. Charlotte was very tech savvy. Whenever she’d email me, the email would have different flowered and other nature backgrounds. Sometimes, the butterflies even moved.
  20. Charlotte loved shopping online.
  21. Charlotte read more than anyone I knew.
  22. Charlotte thought I was funny, complex and even smart. That meant the world to me.
  23. Charlotte and I talked about men and dating. Just because people age, doesn’t mean they don’t date.
  24. Charlotte wished I’d met her husband, Elick.
  25. Charlotte trusted that I would keep her private information private. At some point, she trusted enough that she stopped stating whether or not information was private.
  26. Charlotte resented the design of certain pill bottles.
  27. Charlotte had a phenomenal voice. She could have done voice-overs.
  28. Charlotte was highly offended by one person who looked at her cell phone while at lunch. This was something I had never done with her, and I was so happy I hadn’t done it.
  29. Charlotte thought that I might really make a name for myself at some point and I told her that the cooking spray had already proven that to me.
  30. Charlotte told me her life story.
  31. Charlotte really loved me and for all of the best reasons. I recently stated that I wasn’t really sure if I’d ever been “in love,” but I do know that Charlotte Lindon loved me deeply and her love was really more significant than any man’s love I have ever known. I loved her back the same way.
  32. I was so lucky to know her so well.
  33. Charlotte is also the name of my daughter. Charlotte, my daughter, was born two years before I met Charlotte Lindon. I am grateful I named my amazing daughter, that amazing name.
  34. Charlotte didn’t let too many people in but if you were in, you were mishpacha.
  35. Charlotte Lindon was a hero in this world, period. My short list is so short compared to all of the things Charlotte added to this world.
  36. If you are somehow moved to donate to a nonprofit of your choice, in Charlotte Lindon’s name, please go ahead and do it. This was and is her wish.

Charlotte,

Thank you for touching my life and so many lives. You and all that you are have left a legacy like none other. If you are listening, please know you did more than anyone to repair this world. Mission Tikkun Olam, accomplished.

I love you and thank you.

Pam