Instead of asking, “Is there a blessing for the Czar?”(Fiddler on the Roof) WexnerLEADS asked a few of our alumni whether there were leadership lessons to be found in this other kind of Yom Tov that some Americans observe. Feel free to add your thoughts below.
“I wear many hats. I’m not talking about wife, mother, educator, rabbanit, etc. I literally wear a large variety of hats in color, style, fabric, etc. While I sometimes receive compliments about my hats, especially the fascinators, the hats that generate the most interest are my sports hats. I grew up in a number of different cities (the wandering Jew adage certainly applied to my family). Throughout my childhood I had the option to root for the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Twin Cities’ Twins, the Florida Gators or the New York Yankees.
When my husband and I moved to Boston, I came to better understand the true meaning of sports fan — short for fanatic. My husband only owned a Yankees hat and purchased a Red Sox hat within days of our move to avoid any sort of conflict walking the streets of Boston. Whenever we would travel between Boston and New York, we would make a hat change somewhere in Connecticut during the road trip. While the Red Sox fans’ enthusiasm was admirable, the commitment to the Broncos surpasses anything that I have ever seen.
Every Colorado Jewish organization blocks out Broncos games on their calendars. No Jewish institution would dare compete with what may be called the ‘religion’ of the Broncos. I’ve been at fundraisers or events where the emcee promises that we will all be home in time to heat up some food before the game, and the audience glances at their watches to ensure that the emcee would keep her promise.
While the community could not be more supportive of the Broncos, the Jewish community in Denver and Boulder is said to be 80% unaffiliated Jewishly. The question one may ask is: “What is it about a sports team that rounds up the troops?” What is it about watching a team in person or on a screen that so engages people that it creates community and a sense of widespread camaraderie?
On one foot, it is just that. People want to be part of something larger, want to feel included. I’ve succumbed to the social pressure to purchase a Broncos hat. Because I wear this hat, I receive knowing winks and nods. Even though I do not know most of the players’ names, I put on the hat because I want to belong.
Jewish institutions want people to feel that sense of inclusion. What aspects of a Broncos’ game help accomplish this goal? Before the game, enormous amounts of food are grilled and consumed during enviable tailgating sessions. Strangers bond over food, laughter, and pre- game energy. What in our tradition and communities might lend itself to a Jewish pre-game?
The Broncos engage its fan base. My son got his “first game” pin and random people gave him high fives throughout the day. Fans are encouraged to cheer, sing, and dance. While a sports game could easily be a show, a Broncos game is an experience – complete with colored baked goods, and even the blue and orange uniform modeled by most Colorado residents. Each person who enters the stadium feels lucky to have a seat and believes that his/her presence contributes to the success of the team. The fans are a major element of the home team advantage. How might we turn Jews into fans?
While I have questioned the zeal of the fans, I can’t help but feel the fire of the Broncos in me. As the Yom Kippur of game days rapidly approaches, I hope that we can take away some practices for creating community and engagement.”
Sharon Weiss-Greenberg is a Davidson Scholar (Class 20) and earned a PhD in Education and Jewish Studies at New York University. Her research focused on gender studies in the Jewish summer camp setting. She currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is involved in community education at a number of organizations. Sharon is the Director of Recruitment at Yeshivat Maharat and the Director of Online Engagement at the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education (CASJE). Sharon previously served as Co-Director of the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Harvard Hillel and as a chaplain for Harvard University. She has taught at Yeshiva University High School for Girls in New York and Yavneh Academy in New Jersey. Sharon received her Masters in Education from the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University and received a B.A. in Sociology and Jewish History from Yeshiva University. Sharon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some people say football is a religion. Currently several of those people are living in the Seattle area. I know this because I hear them calling sports talk radio on my commute into work every day. For the past several months our city has been consumed with the Seattle Seahawks and their quest to become Super Bowl Champions.
I can draw several parallels between the Seahawks’ success and the success of the Jewish people: leadership is paramount in both cases. The Seahawks have adopted an “all in” philosophy, inspired by their coach and leader Pete Caroll. The team is completely committed to each other and their coach! Pete has been able to connect with his team and empower them to work toward one common goal. He elicits hard work, dedication, and putting the team first. Pete has led by example and earned the trust of his players. He has been firm and consistent, yet he has allowed his team to be who they are. Similarly Abraham (our Patriarch) modeled for his family, guests, and others, believing in one G-D, relinquishing idol worship – which might have been harder than making it to a Super Bowl. This took both vision and courage but it also took an ability to connect with people in a genuine way so that they trusted the direction Abraham was headed.
Clear vision and belief are a necessity to motivate and inspire any group, however, I believe, more than anything, that trust is the key. I can draw on my personal experience at the Stroum Jewish Community Center, where I am currently the Board President. The SJCC is experiencing a very exciting time in our history and undergoing lots of major changes. Our board room has been very lively of late and we have had to make some creative and meaningful decisions. I believe I have earned the trust of our board by working hard, and have inspired in us the common goal of bringing our mission to life in every decision that we make.
My wife Emily (fellow Heritage Member of Seattle 12) and I are headed to the big game in New Jersey later this week and are more than excited. GO HAWKS!!
Aaron Alhadeff (WH Seattle 12) is currently the president of Elttaes Enterprise (a family owned real estate and business holding company). He lives in Seattle with his wife Emily and 2 sons Max (7) and Charlie (5). Aaron serves as President of the Board of Directors of the Stroum Jewish Community Center and is a board member of several non-profits in the Seattle area. Aaron can be reached at email@example.com.