Transcript: Conversation Creator – Tell Me More

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Chanie: (Glass clinks) L’chaim to a new conversation with Chanie and Peretz. The last two podcasts we shared about the hesitation that many people have towards having conversations, the preference to either consume something that is ready and tasty and pre-packaged and the desire to give something like that. And we also explored the need to stay in the space between two people who may have a good relationship, but the relationship can be deepened and matured by staying in conversation. And the important element of letting an idea land, a comment land, and avoiding what many of us do to just dismiss it or already have a response ready. Today we are continuing to explore the dynamics of a healthy conversation.

Peretz: I just want to add that the word conversation is used so often. And I just want to remind our participant, our listeners, that two people speaking is not necessarily a conversation, at least the conversation that we’re exploring or what we call a healthy conversation. It’s something deeper than that. It’s something where both people walk away from it, lighter, uplifted, and with a deeper connection to each other and an enriching self of themselves.

Chanie: And it doesn’t just have to be when you walk away. During the experience, there should be the birth and the emergence of those dynamics.

Peretz: Right. So don’t think just sitting across from another person and speaking isn’t necessarily what we were referring to.

Chanie: Right.

Peretz: It’s the willingness to, or the ability to, go in further. So today we want to explore the idea of what to respond after you’ve let that thing land. After you create that space where you set aside what you wanted to say, or you did not deflect, what’s the next step?

Chanie: The next step involves three what I consider magical words. I did not make them up. But I’ve used that more and more, and they are “tell me more.”

Peretz: That’s an invitation.

Chanie: A very simple, straightforward invitation that shares a dynamic of interest, of care, curiosity, and warmth.

Peretz: Right. And by pulling the person in with that invitation, you’re eliciting from them, or you’re enabling them to peel away from sort of their first projection.

Chanie: So for example, I was exploring an emerging relationship with a young, not so young, a female. And she was saying how she feels that there isn’t much spontaneity or playfulness in her relationship, and I could have let it land and then responded and asked her, “Well, how does he feel about it?” Or I could have said, “That’s okay, that will take time.” Or I could have said, “Oh, that’s not good. This is an alarming sign for your relationship.” Instead, I chose to say, “Tell me more,” which invited her to tell me, really to tell herself out loud, more about the need for playfulness, the void that she hasn’t experienced that dynamic as much as she’d like. And by staying in that space, it allowed her to articulate, to make sense of, to come forward. So it really helps the person themselves. And it’s really less about the listener actually.

Peretz: And what you’re doing there is you’re helping them find that the solution to their problem is actually something that they possess. It allows them to break out of that frame of mind of how they saw the problem in one particular way. And by digging deeper, by you inviting them to “tell me more”, they were able to see it broader, with more breadth and therefore find a solution for it from within themselves, which is ultimately the only solution that will actually work, not the one that you would have perhaps suggested to her.

Chanie: It’s interesting that you use the word solution. Solution is a good word. I hesitate to use that word because it implies that there will be a solution. Like it’s there just waiting for us to take it off the shelf. How I see it as not necessarily the word solution, or I would broaden the word solution, how the response and understanding is within her, how she can come to her own tools and ways of how to navigate this space. How much of her playfulness is real? How much is it a fantasy? How much is she really already having with him and what part is still not there and is there a possibility? It begins to give her ways of navigating and understanding what she already has, how she can adjust herself, how she can adjust the relationship, how much he has to share with him, et cetera. So that’s what I think you might mean by solution or that’s what I mean by solution.

Peretz: A solution can mean how to live with it, how to, how to deal with it, how to navigate it.

Chanie: Yeah. And you say something so important. The art and the skill of having conversation is to allow the person themselves to understand themselves better so that they could grow and learn from themselves and how to move and pivot and adjust. I’m using all these words, but they all represent different ways in people’s minds. It’s not so much about the person suggesting the answer – the other, the listener or the therapist or the coach.

Peretz: Yeah. And for that really all you need is a friend. All you need is someone to sit across from and to speak with them. Another thing that happens is also that the connection between the two people deepens, because you’ve, in that case, you took that person somewhere where they weren’t able to go on their own. They shared with you something deeper that they wouldn’t have shared otherwise.

Chanie: Yes. That’s so insightful, because when a person then shares a further layer and additional layer with you, if you are the type of person who wants you to respond right away or thought you had an answer, or thought you had an understanding, then perhaps this more vulnerable or fragile layer will almost shut you up because you’re seeing a person’s sensitivities and complexities. So also, you’re right, it also brings an element of maturing and closeness to this relationship. One that invites humility into both.

Peretz: There’s another thing that ‘’tell me more’’ can do, and that is to reduce conflict. And just a simple example is with our children. When we’re sitting around the table and on Shabbat and they are wondering, they’re upset that we have no guests and that we’re alone. And they said it was getting lonely that, you know, when COVID, and you know, we don’t have friends to play with, friends to come over for Shabbat. And if we would tell them, “Well, you have each other,” or “Well, you know, it’s going to end,” they would respond back with another “well,” another, “well, well, well,” but when we say to them –

Chanie: Or even before, “Tell me more,” we could even say “Yes, that is so understandable. You know, it would be so nice to have friends over, wouldn’t it?” That’s also a pretty good response. 

Peretz: Sure. 

Chanie: But we’re offering an even better one.

Peretz: Yeah. And that is to invite them to “tell me more”. And when you say, “tell me more”, instead of responding to them, sort of… instead of making it a subtle conflict of, they have one view, and we have another view, we’re merging together. We’re telling them, okay, tell us more about what’s going on there. And immediately their upsetness decreases. And it settles down the anxiety.

Chanie: Or not even the anxiety. It invites them to share with their parents in a way where they’re not being judged or parented, right? Where they feel that their words can land.

Peretz: Which is so important for kids to have with their parents.

Chanie: Yes. 

Peretz: To reduce the hierarchy, to come together, particularly in these difficult times of social isolation. So “tell me more” does a lot.

Chanie: Three simple words opens up for a lot more words and connection.

Peretz: But the last point I want to explore – the difficulty or the challenge to say, “tell me more.” It sounds so simple, so I’ll just drop three words, but why don’t we? What resistance do we have to say those words?

Chanie: I think we’re afraid to hear more. Or we excuse it by lack of time.

Peretz: Or perhaps we think we’re failing our role in the conversation. If the person’s reaching out to us, don’t we have to provide them with a solution? “Tell me more,” we’re not doing what is expected of us.

Chanie: That’s true. So we just shared three dynamics that would prevent someone from using these words, “tell me more.” And they’re similar in general to what we spoke about the other time about just having conversations, the hesitancy, the need for a solution to give and to receive a solution. The fear of staying in a tension, in a space of tension. You know, when we’re angry inside, frustrated about something, we often don’t pause ourselves and tell ourselves, “tell me more.” Often we’re frustrated about one thing, but really it’s not about that. It is something deeper that we’re afraid to explore in ourselves.

Peretz: I think let’s leave that for a whole other conversation,

Chanie: Yes. 

Peretz: that topic. So we invite you in your next conversation with somebody, even something as simple as, “How was your day?”

Chanie: Mhmm.

Peretz: Say the three magic words of, “tell me more.” Thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

Transcript: What’s Preventing Conversations?

Listen to the episode here.

Chanie: Welcome to a new conversation with Chanie and Peretz. Before we start, let’s raise a toast, a I’chaim, to a good conversation.

Peretz: A good conversation is not simple and requires some good fortune and a little ease and relaxation and comfort. So l’chaim to a good conversation. 

Chanie: L’chaim. And as our name illustrates, we value having conversations on topics that we know aren’t discussed and explored infrequently…

Peretz: Or even when they’re explored, they’re not explored in a conversation format, which is unique and it’s not just about two people sitting across from each other or five people sitting with each other and speaking – that doesn’t necessarily make for a conversation. When we speak about conversation, we’re more…

Chanie: We’re talking about an experience where two people or more leave the experience feeling more connected, feeling heard, and also feeling adjusted in their previous thoughts or opinions because they were able to absorb someone else’s. 

Peretz: Almost uplifted or spirited. It’s almost… you could say it’s a spiritual experience in some ways.

Chanie: It can be. 

Peretz: Yeah. And we’ve been doing this experience, these conversations with each other in the podcasts for the past two, three years, but we’ve also been doing it with a lot of people through M54, different groups of people from different ages and different life experiences and with individuals. And we’ve learned so much and what a conversation successfully looks like and when it doesn’t look well.

Chanie: Right. And another podcast will explore what is a healthy conversation. Before that, in today’s podcast, we would like to explore some reasons why people are very hesitant to have a conversation. What prevents people from having conversations?

Peretz: Sometimes it’s hesitant and sometimes it’s unable.

Chanie: Yes. So let’s start with one reason and they do not go in order of…  there is no particular order. So one reason is that many people prefer being told what to do. Tell me the best way to lose weight. Tell me the best way to raise your child.

Peretz: The five steps to successful… fill in the blank.

Chanie: Relationships. And how to be happy. The desire and the need for being given a plate of ready-made food is understandable. It’s easier, it’s simpler. And when you do it you assume that you will then reach happiness or an amazing relationship or you will be the best parent ever. 

Peretz: It’s almost a form of consumerism. 

Chanie: Yes. 

Peretz: The American way. Give me what I can consume. And in that frame of mind, it narrows your engagement with another person, with a group of people to simply look for, “What should I do? What should I not do?” And it shuts everything else out.

Chanie: The everything else, as I understand it is, well, “How come you are not eating well?” “How come your relationship feels that there’s a void and you are seeking somewhere else?” “Where are you at?” “Why do you feel that you’re struggling with parenting, what’s going on?” And it invites the person who prefers a ready-made plate to instead go into the kitchen and start preparing food with whatever ingredients they have and the other person to see that and observe that and absorb that and continue that conversation without, you know, ordering takeout.

Peretz: And it requires you, as you’re speaking to actually dig into yourself, explore and bring yourself forward, which when you’re the consumer you don’t have to bring yourself forward. You just basically… you’re disconnected. And you just take what is given to you. It’s disconnected.

Chanie: And even… So let’s say someone, using this example, prefers to be a consumer, right? I also want to highlight that other people actually prefer to be the provider. Meaning people prefer to lecture to you and promise you success.

Peretz: To sell you.

Chanie: To sell you a product. People prefer that because they actually find their consumers. And so someone becomes an expert on five steps to happiness and five steps to successful intimacy and this and this and so forth, which I’m not saying none of that works. What I’m pointing out is to have a sustainable life, to have a sustainable way of living more happily, living as better parents, or as a better partner, it’s not just about reading a book or hearing a lecture or being given a list. That could be a start, but that is not a conversation. And that will not be absorbed in a sustainable way.

Peretz: No. And I’d also speak to the provider who limits it to say, “Here, I’ll give you the five steps.”  What they’re doing themselves is that they’re not bringing themselves forward. They’ve just basically summarized certain points and pushed it out there. And they haven’t shown themselves, to bring themselves forward. And therefore the person, the consumer, isn’t doing the same. They’re both distancing. 

Chanie: Yes. 

Peretz: There’s a distance on both parts.

Chanie: Yes. Yes. So…

Peretz: We see this is very common.

Chanie: We see this very often. 

Peretz: I think to a certain degree, we start life out that way. I mean, in school, in education, we’re instructed by instructors, we’re instructed by teachers. They tell us what to do. We are instructed by parents, they tell us what to do. And at that point in our lives there is not more to be expected. That’s how we can consume information. That’s how we learn. That’s how we teach our children. But as we get older, we become wiser, more nuanced, we have greater life experience. We can’t remain children any longer.

Chanie: But there is a preference to still to remain more simple in our approach and not stay in that space of difficulty where we say, “Wait, I know I received the cliche that life is not perfect. So my life is not perfect. Okay. I’m moving on.” Instead of saying, “Wait, my relationship with my teenager is really rocky. So I can say, “Yeah, teenagers are just a mess.” 

Peretz: “They’re monsters.”

Chanie: “They’re monsters.”

Peretz: “They’re aliens that will come back to earth when they’re 20.”

Chanie: Right. “Their brains are not really fully functioning,” you know, et cetera, et cetera. Yes. Those all reflect certain true dynamics, but that is not a reason to dismiss the way that a parent could adjust their parenting and their ability to connect to a teenager. And so not only do we prefer to be told what to do, we also start leaning to texts and cliches. You know, I was in a parenting workshop and the lecture, the… I don’t even call it a workshop. I don’t even call it a conversation because if someone’s talking for 45 minutes straight, that’s not a conversation. But this person was saying, you know, “Adam and Eve and Abraham and Sarah, their families were imperfect. And so, yeah, what do you want? We all have imperfect families.” And, and we’re talking to adults here, no one is reaching for perfection at this point. Or even if people are, that’s not a way out.

Peretz: I just want to add – perfection is the big illusion. It is a diversion. It’s basically telling you, “There’s not much you can do because you’re doomed to imperfection. And therefore just come to terms with it or live in the fantasy…” or not live in the fantasy, “live in the denial of your reality.” 

Chanie: Right. 

Peretz: We remain distanced from it.

Chanie: And there’s another dynamic. Well you see one as leading to the other, but we also… many of us prefer to find someone who’s going to tell us what to do. And almost confirm what we already know, but she, or he is the expert. So actually we’re doing it right. We know what to do. And we prefer not to be shown an alternative way, a way that demands effort and change. And I’m talking about minor changes on our parts. We don’t want to be the one accountable for a rocky relationship. We want to shift it to the other or say, “We did our best.” And so having a conversation requires us to open ourselves to the possibility of being the change. And again, we prefer, we prefer to outsource it or to ignore it.

Peretz: And I want to comment on the word “change.” Because people think, when you hear the word “change,” you think like transformation. Actually change is going from zero to step one, just one minor shift, one minor sign of growth. You know, I use a plant, that’s a living plant that grows from a seedling into a big tree. You don’t even see that change occur, but there’s constant change, but they’re so minute, so minor. And when we speak about change, we speak about being in that state of movement.

Chanie: Yes. So, you know, some of what we just spoke about are… people are afraid to enter that new space, but also people don’t know how to because they haven’t been modeled this way. So their teachers haven’t modeled it. Their parents haven’t modeled it.

Peretz: Their communities haven’t modeled it. 

Chanie: Exactly. And so they may know in their gut that there’s something off here and they want certain experiences, but they don’t know that it’s possible. And they also don’t know who to turn to. And so what we’re trying to do with M54 is to bring up ways of having conversations and also topics that couples, for example, would be hesitant to have, like… Go ahead.

Peretz: Not necessarily hesitant, but are so caught up…They may be hesitant, I’ll concede that, but it’s also in many instances, it could be that they’re just so caught up in the routine of life and you know, just moving forward, that they don’t have the time or the brain space and bandwidth to pause and reflect.

Chanie: Yes, that’s another dynamic. We don’t allow ourselves to pause and reflect. We feel the need to be busy and to hustle and to fall into bed exhausted each day.

Peretz: Or if we want growth, we read a book or we listen to a TED Talk. 

Chanie: Yeah. 

Peretz: We want somebody to instruct us.

Chanie: And to be inspired.

Peretz: And to be inspired. Ugh!

Chanie: (Laughs) That word inspiration is not our favorite word. 

Peretz: No, because it’s a diversion again, it’s a diversion again.

Chanie: You left feeling, “Oh, that was amazing. I can do that.” Or “I’m good enough.” And then it evaporates. 

Peretz: It evaporates. 

Chanie: Yes. Yeah. So these are dynamics that we’ve experienced between ourselves and with the other people who are having conversation. And so we are highlighting it now in today’s podcast, and I’m pretty sure that, you know, any listener could find one dynamic they are aware of that’s making them hesitate to have a conversation, or more, or one that they’re currently working on. And we continue to encourage that, to stay there in this space and wonder, “How many conversations have I had that allowed me to listen differently, to share differently, to absorb differently? That left me elevated?”

Peretz: Yeah. 

Chanie: And wanting more.

Peretz: And wanting more. And I think what we’re going to go into our next conversation, next podcast, we’ll explore the character of conversation, what a healthy conversation looks like between two or more individuals so that people could then try to apply it in their lives. 

Chanie: Mhmm. Have a good day! 

Peretz: Thank you for listening! 

Transcript: Navigating the Intersection of Life and Judaism

Listen to the episode here.

Peretz: Welcome back to a new conversation with Chanie and Peretz. And welcome back here in the most literal sense because it’s been almost five months since we’ve last recorded a conversation to share with you, though in this time the two of us have had many conversations, and we’ve had many conversations with others as well. And during this time we’ve accumulated some more insights and thoughts into what we want to explore with ourselves and with others and articulate a language surrounding it. So we’ve been doing this for years, but we’ve distilled it into an understanding or into an idea that is so relevant to ours personally, and relevant to anybody who cares about or engages with Judaism and life. And we want to explore in this conversation and in the coming conversations, because this is not just one thought, one idea, but it actually expands over many areas. And that is navigating the intersection of life and Judaism. Life and Judaism intersect, that’s one point. And then to do that navigation, it requires a personal exploration of both. That’s a lot. 

Chanie: It is a lot. It’s also so simple and obvious, but it’s also not so simple and obvious. There are many people who their entire lives are defined by Judaism, and so Judaism becomes who they are. It defines them. And what is lost is who they are as people. What is their character? What drives them? Who are they made of? Because we know that every person is distinctively different from the other. Judaism, though, seems to be pretty uniform. So that discovery and acceptance, and then the possibility of living Jewishly through your own lens is something that is a lost art and skill.

Peretz: And it also changes – our lives change over time. So we have our lives that we have in our teens, in our adolescents and in our young twenties, in our thirties and our forties. And that is very different. Particularly when you start a family, particularly when you pursue a career, your life becomes more complex, more sophisticated, more nuanced. And when engaging that and Judaism together it requires a different skill set. So as a child and adolescents our engagement with Judaism is learning the text. 

Chanie: And absorbing the rituals and practice from family, school, friends.

Peretz: Then as we get older and as our lives become deeper,  it’s hard to navigate the two. Let’s put it this way.

Chanie: Life takes a priority. And Judaism follows along either in the same manner as it did in our youth and our teens and our young adulthood. And it hasn’t evolved and reflected our next decade or so, or decades. Or Judaism has been left behind because life is complicated and challenging. And we have  to learn how to navigate life itself. So Judaism kind of falls to the background or it clashes completely or is dismissed – understandably so. Or the opposite happens where the familiarity and comfort and almost need to be Jewish, which for many, is the only way to navigate the world. People hold onto that dearly and neglect the dynamics of a healthy life and relationships with other people and raising a family and cover it up in a way of, well, “this is what God wants, this is what the Torah wants.” And there’s a fear and a disconnect to engage with: what are healthy dynamics? What are unhealthy dynamics in my home? And Judaism is almost masking over that.

Peretz: Or Judaism is completely dismissed and ignored, like you said earlier. Yes.

Chanie: So when I mentioned earlier navigating Judaism through your own lens, I of course didn’t mean God forbid to dismiss God. I meant it’s to bring the person forward. That’s what it is. And isn’t that Hashem wants? I mean, he did not create angels. He did not create –

Peretz: Bots 

Chanie: (Laughs) Yes, for 2021. We are each distinctively created with distinctive characteristics and strengths and ways of navigating this world.

Peretz: And circumstances – things that are out of our control that we come into. So the way to do that though requires a new skill set or different type of experience. And that is  conversations.

Chanie: And why? Why are conversations such a critical and dear way that you and I are navigating this topic? Because it invites a person to come forward, because a conversation demands that you actually interact with ideas and words and opinions and experience. You have to talk, we’re not sitting in a mass auditorium listening to a lecture. We’re almost creating the opposite dynamics. You’re not sitting in a Torah class, either. 

Peretz: And conversations are something very different – you mentioned a Torah class – than listening to a Torah class. When you listen to a Torah class you are hearing an idea by a teacher and the teacher is formulating it in a particular way that makes it accessible. And then you say, okay, how can I adapt it? How can I make it to myself? Which is good. But a conversation takes it a step further, brings in a new dynamic. And the new dynamic is you, the person, is you, your experiences, the ones that in a certain sense can sometimes be masked and ignored and diverted by that beautiful Torah class, which sort of allows you to create some type of illusion of what you would like things be like by ignoring what is actually going on.

Chanie: So it’s not asking people to interpret, let’s say texts, in their own way, which is valuable in its right time. But it’s asking people to acknowledge and talk about where they are present in their lives. And how do ideas of Judaism – where does it land in their current reality without filters, without pretending things are good, without dramatizing. One can get to that successfully in a conversation. 

Peretz: But it’s not simple. To confront your reality is difficult. And the difficulty is because you need to remove what’s called filters or distractions that make it convenient to ignore current realities and conversations. Because conversation requires you to be with another person who reflects back to you, or somebody who can help the curate the conversation.

Chanie: Asks relevant questions

Peretz: Soothingly…

Chanie: Agitates – that’s our coupling of those two words – invites a movement that could be uncomfortable, but in a very supportive and gentle way, because the purpose of it is to, head towards a healthier and better place of an understanding of your own life and of Judaism. 

Peretz: And COVID has, in some ways done a lot of stripping. 

Chanie: It removes the distractions. 

Peretz: Not all of them.

Chanie: No, but you know, our calendars emptied out. So instead of waking up, counting down to certain days or dreading certain things, we now have to wake up with ourselves and the people around us.

Peretz: And our monotonous work that we’re doing from our homes.

Chanie: Mmhm.  that’s one of the big, 

Peretz: Opportunities ?

Chanie: Yes, for this time.

Peretz: Now I realize that a lot that we spoke about now was in the abstract and it needs to be brought down. And over the next few episodes, we’re going to bring this down through concrete examples, through concrete demonstrations of how this idea plays itself out – the idea of the intersection of Judaism and life and how it’s navigated through conversation. But in the meantime…

Chanie: We invite you to have a conversation with us. And that’s a wonderful addition we developed through M54. So head to M54.co  to understand more about what it is we are creating and how you could enjoy some time exploring your life and Judaism with us.

Peretz: Thank you.

Students and Giving; Our Responsibility

A summary of our podcast Students and Giving; Our Responsibility.

Peretz:
This past week we re-introduced our students to a concept we developed a few years back, inviting them to become Shareholders of Chabad at Brandeis at $10 a month. Becoming a Shareholder is a lot more than a financial gift, it’s a statement of value and partnership.

Judaism teaches that there are three parts to connecting. To understand (Torah), to feel (Tefillah), and to give (Tzedakah). It’s through the act of giving away something that belongs to and can be used for oneself, which achieves a connection that understanding and feeling alone cannot accomplish.

Chanie:
This is not about giving back though, which is the immediate knee jerk reaction students have, “You’ve given me so much, I’ll give you back.” Tit for tat. Rather it’s about valuing something by giving something up for it.

Disclaimer: This is not intended for those who have a very limited budget for their basic necessities. Thankfully though most students at Brandeis are able to spend money on pleasures, like movies, eating out, hosting meals or joining Greek life.

Students think along the lines of what provides them with immediate happiness and pleasure. It’s in this light that many also view Chabad; remembering the good times and memories they’ve had, and there are plenty. They will also continue to rave about Chabad as alumni.

What’s lost here is the engagement with Chabad in a thoughtful and mature manner. Thinking about what is Chabad’s impact on me, what real value, beyond fun and good times, did Chabad have on me? The $10 a month stimulates this type of thinking.

Peretz:
If it was about raising money for Chabad there are far more effective ways to spend our time  raising even more significant funds. Instead, inviting students to join as Shareholders is about our responsibility as educators to our students, teaching them to develop their “thinking”, “valuing” and “giving” muscles.

Chanie:
A lot of students absorb in college, and even earlier, the message of how they are going to accomplish amazing things in the world. But for that you need an amazing character, which happens through one’s personal development, efforts, and at times, giving (up) of oneself. A mistaken assumption is that character development is magically achieved over four years, but in fact it’s not. Not at all.

So that even when students receive an income (which is a sentiment we hear often as to why they’re not currently giving as students) there’s no guarantee that they will become givers, after all, their expenses only increase.

Peretz:
Being a giver needs to occur in all areas of life, not isolated to finances. It’s what creates a mensch, what being human and, even more, being Jewish is about. It’s what brings to us and  the people in our intimate orbit, much harmony, happiness, and purpose.

For some it’s easier, for others it’s harder, but for all it’s a choice. To be a giver or not to be a giver.

As educators we won’t shirk from our responsibility to teach it.

Listen here to the full 12 minute conversation.

EP 5: Reclaiming our Chabad Authenticity

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.