Tidewater Together with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

by | Mar 22, 2019 | Featured

When I think about Mickey Kramer, of blessed memory, I think about his love of his family, his synagogue, learning, and our community. In 2004, his passion for education and devotion to the Jewish community led his friends and family to establish the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence at Congregation Beth El to honor and remember him.

Our community is so fortunate that the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund now presents the Tidewater Together, Scholar-in-Residence Weekend, in partnership with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Synagogue Leadership Council, and the Board of Rabbis and Cantors of Hampton Roads. What a wonderful opportunity to bring our entire community together!

This year, as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival and in partnership with the Jewish Book Council, we are thrilled to welcome Rabbi Joseph Telushkin for Tidewater Together.

The first time I heard Rabbi Telushkin, in the late 1990s, was at the United Jewish Communities’ National Young Leadership Washington Conference. (UJC is now Jewish Federations of North America, of which UJFT is a member.) I had just begun to be involved in our community as a volunteer on Super Sunday Cabinet. Rabbi Telushkin was one of the first speakers at the conference and definitely one of the most impactful. Shortly thereafter, I read The Book of Jewish Values: A Day to Day Guide to Ethical Living, which I have now reread in preparation for his visit.

Rabbi Telushkin will be in town to speak about his newly revised edition of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal—a guide on how choosing the right words can enrich relationships and offer insight to improve every facet of our lives. Talks featuring the rabbi are free and open to the entire community, inclusive of all ages, genders, religious affiliations, and degrees of observance.

Known as “America’s Rabbi” and one of the 50 best speakers in the United States, he is also a New York Times bestselling author. One of Rabbi Telushkin’s many titles, Eight Questions People Ask about Judaism, that he co-authored with childhood friend, Dennis Prager, I have given as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah gift many times!

In his newly revised edition of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, Rabbi Telushkin focuses on the words that are used in public and in private, revealing their tremendous power to shape relationships. With his customary wit and wide-ranging intelligence, he will discuss this book as it relates to present day. When originally written, he notes, social media was not even a concept, the internet was in its infancy, and so the spread of information—accurate or not—was not a particle of what it is today.

With all of this in mind, I paused to think seriously about one of the quotes I read about his book by another New York Times bestselling author and podcaster, Adam Grant: “In a time when slurs and slights are displacing civility and courtesy (Words That Hurt, Words That Heal), reminds us that the words we choose have an impact on others—and send a message about us,” followed by the suggestion the rabbi makes in the introduction of a Twenty-Four-Hour-Test.

“Monitor how often you say needlessly critical, hurtful, and even cynical things about and to the people around you. Even if you are unhappy with the results, don’t be discouraged. The way you speak is something you can change. And if you’re willing to make the effort, you can start changing quickly. Today.”

I hope you’ll join me in these days leading up to his visit, in “taking” this 24-hour test, and then come to hear from the rabbi throughout the weekend at four venues. While I’m sure he won’t address this test specifically in every discussion, I believe it will give those who join me great opportunity to learn.

Let’s honor Mickey Kramer’s memory, learn together, and continue our work together, of making our local Jewish community and this world a better place.

Betty Ann Levin
Executive Vice President
United Jewish Federation of Tidewater