“Just Look up, People” – The Fire All Around Us
Reprinted with thanks to The Times of Israel.
The other day, among the relentless news stories, my eye caught the headline of an otherwise inconspicuous article: “German city puts traffic lights on the ground — for you phone gazers.”
The sum of the story is that in Augsburg, Germany, city officials installed traffic lights on the ground near busy train stations so that commuters looking down at their phones wouldn’t inadvertently walk into harm’s way. This article was barely noticeable among the other headlines of domestic strife and global atrocities, but I did notice it — particularly this simple sentence that seems both timeless and timely: “Though the solution seems simple — just look up, people — distracted walking has become a dangerous problem in recent years.”
The timelessness of this idea, that when we are too distracted we miss the signals all around us, feels particularly relevant as we celebrate the holiday of Passover, commemorating the Jewish people’s exodus from bondage and its national liberation from mental and physical slavery. In many ways the epic narrative of Passover is about the power of paying attention. For example, what if Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t notice the baby Moses in the basket among the bulrushes? What if Moses didn’t notice the Hebrew slave being beaten by an Egyptian master? What if Moses didn’t notice the burning thornbush that called out instructions for him to pursue the moral imperative of helping free his people? In this arch-narrative of justice, to never have noticed would mean to never have begun.
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Seth Cohen, WHP Alum (Atlanta 05), is a Senior Director at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. He leads the Foundation’s efforts to identify, connect and support global networks of young Jewish adults to enable them to create Jewish experiences and communities for themselves and their peers. Seth previously worked for 13 years as a nationally recognized Atlanta-based corporate attorney, most recently as a partner at the international law firm of Holland & Knight LLP, leading its Atlanta corporate and M&A team. Seth has served in leadership roles within a diverse array of organizations including American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Israel Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Region and the 24/7 Gateway Center, Atlanta’s premier program for addressing chronic homelessness. Seth recently completed a two-year term as President of the Board of Jewish Family & Career Services in Atlanta and is currently a member of the Young Leadership Cabinet of Jewish Federations of North America. He can be reached at email@example.com or @sethacohen33.