We’re about to land in Tashkent and I stuff bags of peanuts, napkins, and cupholders labeled “Air Uzbekistan” into my purse. I’m on a mission for the Jewish Federation in Chattanooga where I’m the Executive Director. No other Federation mission has ever gone to Uzbekistan on its way to Jerusalem and I want as many momentos as my bag will hold.
I relished this adventure of a lifetime. I usually worked 24/7 running the nonprofit and spending my days in the office. My restlessness as a bureaucrat was offset by having a salary, health insurance, and vacation. I’d published two books, but my writing now was solely for the Federation’s newsletter. No more Starving Writer for me!
I sat in my Chicago office wrapping up my latest project, the National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, with an evaluation report. It was not so much “writing” as a how-to guide for the next poor slob who spent three years as coordinator. The phone rang and I interrupted my hair-pulling session for a friend who’d helped promote the Workshop. Mike was an editor with Liturgy Training Publications, the publishing arm of Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese. “Please write a chapter for a book we’re doing on religious rites of passage for teens.” Continue reading How I Became an Award-winning Writer: PART 3 – by Deborah Levine→
It’s been two years since the shooting and subsequent riots in Ferguson. One year after that event, I wrote about having the dubious honor of witnessing three generations of protests related to race, inequality and injustice. In the 1960s, protest marches were televised nationally, inspiring many of us. Yes, some protests became violent riots, but some gave rise to long-term institutions promoting racial equality. Those of us deeply invested in the movement shared a vision and were committed to making a difference through advocacy, education, politics, and, as I did, urban planning. However, after the shootings of unarmed African American men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, the killing of police officers in Dallas, the numerous street protests, and the ongoing threats, I am less hopeful than I was coming out of the sixties.
A few years ago I had the task of preparing a dozen mid-level managers from a large German corporation that was establishing itself in South Carolina. As part of the training, I conducted a role-play in which one of the employees, on a Saturday morning, heard a knock on the door.
The woman opened the imaginary door and, standing in front of her, I said, “Hello M’am, my name is George Simons. I just live down the street, and I was wondering what church you go to…” She slammed the door in my face. In debriefing the incident, the woman felt she was being belittled by being called “M’am,” and that this “intruder” had invaded her private sphere. Slamming the door was the best way to make it clear that neither of these was acceptable.
Religion today provides more sensational headlines and political debate topics; more inspiration to make a difference and more despair about the future than it has in decades. Few issues are more emotional than religion and few issues are more relevant today to peace and prosperity. Are faithful followers ready to confront the challenge of religious pluralism? Can we find ways to come together for the sake of our communities? Yes, I’ve learned that it’s possible, but only if we “Harmonize NOT Homogenize.” Here’s how I discovered that truism, and why I’m choosing to share my story now.
In the midst of the chaos I call life these days, I find that I frequently desire to lose myself in the pages of a good book. I have recently discovered a nugget of gold. This book has a way of reaching out and connecting to its readers through a series of compelling short stories. The author, Deborah Levine, is a phenomenal communicator of real life lessons through deep personal accounts of challenges that leave you wanting more. I was entertained as well as academically stimulated and felt as if I was experiencing a larger part of the world.
Have you ever stopped to explore what drives your life? What about your family history has prepared you for the work you feel most passionate about? In Inspire Your Inner Global Leader, Deborah Levine shares what it is about her Jewish American heritage that has made her the natural advocate, director and trainer of diversity that she is today. Her many stories are catalysts to illustrate and educate, but ultimately to inspire the reader to fulfill his or her potential as a diversity pro. By sharing her own story, Levine hopes the reader will come away with a new appreciation for storytelling as a tool for self-discovery and the enlightenment of others alike.
In May of 1941, my grandparents sent round-trip tickets to their eldest daughter, Estelle, to bring her young man, Aaron Levine, to visit them in Bermuda. Estelle, my mother, had met Aaron when she was a freshman and he was a sophomore at Harvard University. The trip was a chance for Myer and Ida to check out their prospective son-in-law. A photograph of Aaron and Estelle on a Bermuda beach shows two young college students, a sweet-faced girl and a skinny young man. She’s kneeling in the sand, smiling unguardedly into the camera. Aaron stands behind her looking proud, defiant and possessive: Bermuda Jews in the making.
Deborah J. Levine is an award-winning, best-selling author, cross-cultural trainer, and inspirational speaker. Her lifetime passion for diversity and cross- cultural work began in childhood as one of few Jewish families in the British Bermuda and grew with her insertion into New York City area schools. A teenage activist, she joined her first civil rights picket line in 1965, was an early volunteer with SNCC, and joined the first Women’s Liberation March in NYC circa 1970. With degrees in cultural anthropology and urban planning, Deborah spent decades developing cultural programs. A former executive for Jewish advocacy organizations, Deborah is headquartered in Tennessee, is a cross-cultural trainer and consults on projects that broaden the Southern – Global Connection.
Deborah is an award-winning, best-selling author, trainer, and inspirational speaker. Her lifetime passion for cross- cultural work began with a childhood as one of few Jewish families in the British colony of Bermuda and grew with her insertion into the New York City area in grade school. As a teenage activist, she joined her first civil rights picket line in 1965, was an early volunteer with SNCC, and joined the first Women’s Liberation March in NYC circa 1970. Continue reading About Deborah Levine→