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.
It is Levine’s passion that individuals with the opportunity to thrive in the wake of diversity do so. People are finding their cities increasing in international political and economic dependency. Religious devotion provides a source of meaning for many of these people, but differences in belief and value often lead to conflict. Levine has made it a lifetime goal to foster appreciation among different-believing communities. As the world becomes increasingly connected, it will need individuals with the experience and determination it takes to keep it all going.
Levine grew up as a Jewish American in Bermuda, she writes in the first section of the book, “Jewish Waterbaby in Waves of War.” In ten short chapters, the author tells about her family’s involvement in World War II, including her father’s deployment as a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer in Europe. Through her research, the author discovered that Bermuda was not unaffected by the anti-Semitism which pervaded other parts of the world. In “The Last Seder: Passover Island Style” are some beautiful descriptions of the Jewish community which practiced Passover together. It is clear that even in “waves of war” it was possible to retain cultural heritage while serving one’s country.
The potent example Levine gives of a patriotic Jewish American is her aunt Polly who became enthusiastic in the war effort in the 1940s. In “Wartime Diary: Teenage Style,” the author expounds on her relative’s diary, which is full of hope and patriotic energy. In a time when it is encouraged of our youth to be skeptical of our government’s international personality, Aunt Polly’s diary will offer encouragement to young folks that there is a time for rallying behind your country’s cause. Levine requests that diversity experts become aware that “the raw potential of youth can be molded into a successful, much-needed workforce.”
The second section, titled “Top-Ten Holocaust Conversations,” focuses on what was for the author a difficult topic to come to face with. The author was taught at a young age to not draw attention to this part of recent Jewish history when in the presence of its survivors, unless they brought it up first. For that reason, Levine did not learn until years later that her father was actually a liberator of a concentration-style camp, a realization that reinvigorated her cultural identity. The Holocaust would reappear in the author’s professional life in unexpected forms, such as a Christian church’s rendition of the Holocaust, as explained in “Holocaust: the Musical.” Levine also explains what she underwent as a Jewish Federation media liaison when Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn made questionable remarks concerning “Schindler’s List.”
In the third and final section, “My Lucky Seven Attempts at Making a Difference,” the author makes it clear it wasn’t only her heritage that has led to her success in the diversity field. Chance and the role of mentors have played significant parts as well. Levine met some of these special individuals while coordinating the 1990 National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations in Chicago, an event which took three years of planning. She is grateful for a Rabbi Herman Schaalman for encouraging her while under the pressure of the Workshop, and credits Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of the Chicago Church Archdiocese for the success a later book of hers received. If one is to survive the demands of working in the diversity profession, Levine insists, it is necessary to have support and to pay it forward when the opportunity arises.
Among her recent successes, Levine created the e-zine the “American Diversity Report” which brings writers from around the world into a “global village” of communication. Each month, hundreds of unique readers gain the unique experience of hearing international stories on women in leadership, minorities, health, and beliefs. The editor’s wish is that the “American Diversity Report” be utilized as a place where people can be encouraged by what is happening in other parts of the world and to take it into their education as a developing diversity expert. Inspire works in much the same way. Through her stories and reflections, the author hopes established individuals and young professionals alike will appreciate their role as “history makers” and learn to enlighten others with their past.
Inspire holds particular significance for a younger generation who is stepping out into the workforce of cities that function more and more like global villages. Aunt Polly stood as an example of the eagerness of youth, so long as their potential is directed well. The author’s interest in cyber communities is relevant for a youth who is used to socializing on the web, but perhaps Levine ought to not only look to the future. Efforts such as the Invisible Children initiative to stop the war in Uganda have run successful campaigns through film awareness, and interconnectivity through social mediums such as Facebook, Invisible Children has already sparked positive feedback from the US Congress. The future looks bright for young people who have a passion for international justice stemming from an interest in people from all cultures.
There comes a time in a professional’s life when she or he desires to tell their story to thank those who have helped pave the way, and to encourage those who have yet to run their race. Aware of her limitations as an individual, Levine does not fill Inspire with lofty ambitions to spread world peace. Making a difference takes time, luck, and a reservoir of will to see communities thrive. Although not everyone considers an appreciation for diversity to be necessary for a healthy globe, the reader will appreciate the author’s sacrifices, mistakes and stubbornness in helping a world full of complex social personalities get along with itself. As history makers, we each have the capacity, even in waves of war, to enjoy the diverse paths others take.
- Learning Diversity from the Past – by Jennifer Smith - August 11, 2014
- Tales from the Archives of a Diversity Pro – by Joseph Moore - August 11, 2014
- Being Diverse is More than Just Being Different – by Melanie Mayne - August 11, 2014