Neither publicly, nor for that matter privately, have I ever shared this; after fifteen years of leading the Chabad House at Brandeis I was burnt out and ready to seek an alternative. Chanie, my wife, also shared some of these feelings. This was in the Spring of 2017, concluding our sixteenth year, though it developed over the previous few years.
A convergence of various factors led to that point; tired of the constant departure of students from our lives as they graduate, financial instability, a noticeable change in the students over the years, and a frustration of raising a family in the isolation of Waltham.
At that time I met with my spiritual mentor (a mashpia in Chassidic terminology), and after a long conversation I left with the realization that a decision with long term consequences needed to be made. Either balk, taking the talents and gifts that Chanie and I have been endowed with by G-d and direct them in another direction, or alternatively remain in what we always dreamed of doing, directing a Chabad House and impacting young people’s lives.
We chose the latter. However we knew it needed be done differently because the current model was unsustainable.
The first thing we did was reflect on our original motivations in establishing the Chabad House. What were the assumptions we had coming in? Which proved true and which false? Finally, what had our sixteen years of experience taught us?
After exploring these questions in detail, including writing a fifteen page manifesto, we arrived at unexpected conclusions which delightfully motivated us to restart (in a sense) our Shlichut (Chabad House). This time we were using our insight, not assumptions, to guide our foresight.
It required us also to draw on an authenticity embedded deep within Chabad philosophy and tradition that somehow we lost sight of.
A year later we recorded this reflective conversation. Whether one agrees or not with what we shared, there is value to be drawn by all.