Steven and Mark’s Excellent Adventure
Steven is a current Miami Wexner Heritage member. He serves on the local boards of Beth Torah Congregation, AJC, UMiami Hillel and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. He also serves nationally on the Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees. Steven is the Principal of Inspire WiFi, a nationwide provider of WiFi networks for apartment communities and hospitals. Steven can be reached at email@example.com.
“Our flight was canceled!” This text message from Mark Kravitz, my longtime friend and fellow Wexner Heritage member, is what I woke up to on Friday, August 5th which was supposed to be the day that we went home from the Wexner Heritage New Member Institute in Snowmass, Colorado. This is not how this week of bonding, ruach and study was supposed to end but our new mission is now clear – get home somehow.
As I frantically packed my clothes and jumped on the bus to the airport in the hopes on getting on the next flight to Denver, which most of the other Wexner participants were on Mark stays at the hotel and tries to find another way to Denver even though all rental car offices are closed. I get to the airport only to find out that there are no seats on any flights leaving Aspen that day. Mark calls from the hotel saying that he found a driver who will take us on the 207-mile, 4-hour trip to Denver in the slim hopes that we will catch our connecting flight to Miami.
Mark and I were joined on the next part of our adventure by faculty member Erica Brown, and Varda Makovsky (wife of David Makovsky who had spoken at the Institute about the current situation in the Middle East). As we urged our driver to go even faster,in order to accommodate all Shabbat observers in the van, the four of us enjoyed an engaging conversation about our Wexner experience, politics, Judaism, culture, family and everything in between. In a strange way, I was actually grateful that we got to have this experience.
Four hours later, we raced into Denver Airport only to find out that although our plane is still boarding, the airline, gave away Mark and my seats. The best they could do was put us on a non-direct flight 3 hours later that would get us into Miami 7 hours later than expected.
What happened over the next 11 hours is the part of the story that I have learned to appreciate the most. Mark and I wandered around Denver airport and then bonded on two flights home. This was literally the most time we have spent together since I slept over his house in the 6th grade. But instead of just picking on his younger brother like we used to, we actually had interesting conversations about life, family, Judaism, education and everything else we could think of. Coming off of our Wexner experience, we also discussed in great detail how we can use our experience to improve the organizations in which we were involved.
This was our Aha moment. I know that we are still Wexner rookies but I am of the firm belief that Mark and I got a glimpse into what the actual purpose of the Wexner Heritage Program is all about and, oddly enough, we got that glimpse on our 15-hour journey home. Although the knowledge and education we get during our Wexner experience gives us a better understanding of our history and traditions, as leaders, it is our responsibility to use that newfound knowledge to better our communities and organizations. Although this isn’t some new discovery about what this program is all about, but it was nice to see the effects of our Wexner experience in action.
Whether it was G-d, karma or just bad luck, this adventure with my longtime friend is one that I have learned to appreciate and cherish and has taught me something about friendship as well as our responsibility as leaders. I look forward to the next two years and all the adventures that our Miami crew will have together.