Marci Levine Dollinger is an alumna of the Wexner Heritage San Francisco 08 group. She is an involved member of the Bay Area Jewish community, as a teacher and volunteer at Brandeis Hillel Day School and through her involvement at Congregation Rodef Sholom, the Osher Marin JCC, and Jewish Family and Children’s Services. Marci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes, leadership moments are private and intensely personal. At my first Wexner retreat in Aspen, we were asked to write an ethical will. An ethical will (Hebrew "Zevaoth") is a document designed to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. I had known about ethical wills and had always wanted to create one but never found the time or the energy to put my values into writing. This Wexner workshop gave me the opportunity to create my will as well as light a fire to get my parents to write theirs, as a gift to their children, their grandchildren, and most important, future generations that will not know any of us.
In the basement of the St. Regis Hotel, I reflected on how Judaism is such an integral part of my core being and how it has shaped me to be the person I am today. In my ethical will, I wrote about the values of education, integrity, tikkun olam, and the importance of family. I refer to this document often and use it as a grounding tool for my family and me.
My leadership moment came with my own parents, who had always been resistant to the sort of self-reflection necessary to write one. As grandparents now, they are keenly focused on their grandkids, their legacy, and the ways they can help ensure that their values and priorities continue through the generations. The initial pushback, that their kids already knew their values, dissolved when they thought about their grandchildren and the generations that will follow.
I appealed to my parents to think of this as an irreplaceable gift. With my encouragement, they took a course at San Francisco’s Congregation Emanuel with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner and have put an ethical will into writing. I know that this is one of the most powerful and inspiring gifts they will ever give us.
I hope my ethical will and those of my parents will continue to serve as a guidebook to the generations that follow. This simple act gave me a sense of mission and helped me to act on the questions posed by our great teacher Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?”