31 July 2011

Some Anticipations, Expectations & More for This Week's Second Annual Hillel Institute

Tomorrow, I am heading off to attend the second ever Hillel Institute and thought I would type out some things I am looking forward to and expecting, etc. Having attended last year's first ever Hillel Institute, which was a re-branded staff conference, I am excited to go back and have numerous thoughts about it.
1) It'll once again be ridiculously hot and humid in St. Louis, which won't be great. However, the air-conditioning was excellent last year and the Washington University campus is gorgeous.
2) I am stoked to re-connect with people from last year, from previous experiences in BBYO, and elsewhere. My favorites, though, are meeting and reconnecting with other rabbis, since we are a rare and unique breed. The best, though, is meeting up with my fellow YCTers, who represented nicely last year.
3) Twitter discussions. This includes not only conversations taking place on Twitter, but also conversations about Twitter. Last year, there were a dozen or so people tweeting at the conference, perhaps a dozen and a half. However, the real story was not only how little Hillel was tweeting about he conference, but how pathetic their tweets had been from the previous school year. However, they have really got their act together in the past year and picked things up in the fall, the highlight of which was their tweeting during the GA, which was certainly excellent. The rest of the year has also been good and my hopes are that Hillel does some tweeting about the conference from the conference. I also wonder how much I will get comments about my Jewlicious piece about Hillel's tweeting last year (linked above)....
4) This year's institute will be taking place during the Nine Days - I will be bearded up this year as opposed to last year and I hope I don't scare anybody off. Also, there won't be any meat served, aside from the first night where a siyyum will be taking place. So, that means a lot of dairy meals (poor lactards).
5) One really well done piece of last year's conference was the bar/beer night, where there were a selection of several beers along with cookies that they had a great supply of and it was a nice touch. I thought it was a splendid way to mingle and hang out in a very informal setting with our Hillel colleagues. I hope they do it again.
6) Another great plenary speech ....
7) Checking out the funky City Museum once again.
8) We'll be bringing our four-month old with us, which we will have babysitting handle for us, which shouldn't be a problem throughout the daytime, as she's pretty low maintenance. This is in stark contrast to last year when we came to babysitting on the second day last year of the new professionals institute to find our 16-month old crying on one of the couches in babysitting (needless to say, we did not bring her back there again) - babysitting for her there was a disaster! (We ended up scrambling and hired someone to take care of her during the day for the most part, but occasionally having to take turns miss out on sessions or events to take care of her.) I understand that there will be kinks with any event the first time it is run, but there were way too few babysitters for all the children that were at the conference last year. I truly hope that they fix that atrocious shortcoming. (Thank God we are able to leave our older daughter with family and not take her to the conference.)
9) Although I would like to see some discussion of the potential of QR codes and Microsoft Tags, etc., as I have previously written about, I doubt much of it will be discussed.
10) More social media: Last year, I was probably the only one or one of less than a handful of attendees using Foursquare - I hope there are more this year.... Also, last year, I came up with a Twitter hashtag for the conference, while Hillel FJCL has clearly been proactive in coming up with their own this year, which is a change and I imagine there will be more Twitter conversations going on this year, as there will [hopefully] be more tweeting going on this year....
Alrighty - I've gotta get going - my flight leaves in about ten hours....

26 July 2011

Reflections on Starting A New AZA Chapter

Having been at BBYO's ILTC recently gave me some consideration about my BBYO experience, primarily because participants would ask me "Were you ever in BBYO?" and, if so, how involved I was. So, I would say I had been and that I was chapter Aleph Mazkir, Aleph Godol and Aleph S'gan followed by Regional Aleph Mazkir and Regional Aleph S'gan, the latter of which are pretty good and in which I expended a good amount of energy. However, what brought a smile to my face was when I described having started my own AZA chapter. Moreover, there was an opportunity one afternoon for participants to go around and talk to staff who had been in BBYO and a particular experience of theirs. I chose to speak about my experience of starting my own chapter. (As an aside, one of the interestingly unforeseen aspects of it was that many of those teens who decided to attend my particular discussions (there were three rotations) were either interested in starting their own chapters, wanted to start another chapter elsewhere in their regions/councils, or wanted to know how to deal with the chapter off of which their chapter had split and there was not such great relations there.)
In speaking about the chapter I started, I realized there were several animating reasons that I did it: 1
) Every week at the same time and the same place at the JCC, the AZA and BBG chapters would have their meetings. While this provided a nice opportunity to meet other BBYOers and there would be the occasional program for everybody to join in, most chapters just had meetings at that time. What Heart of Ohio would do is pretty much have meetings on those evenings and perhaps an occasional program here or there. The problem with that modus operandi is that having meetings is not the point of joining BBYO - they are meant to support the activities (primarily the programming) of the chapter, which are to be more primary. In other words, teens don't want to go to lots of meetings - they want to be involved in activities, programs, etc. We shifted the focus in my new chapter to having programs on a fairly weekly basis on Sunday afternoons and whenever we would have the occasional meeting, we would go and do something afterwards. This approach yielded us having the most programming of any AZA chapter within the region that year, which was satisfying.
2) When I finished my term as Regional Aleph S'gan, I wanted to invest the knowledge and experience of BBYO I had into Heart of Ohio, so I figured the best position would be Aleph Moreh. When elections came around a few weeks after Regional Convention (which I had co-coordinated) and didn't win, I realized that my efforts would be better expended elsewhere. However, not getting elected by the chapter was really reflective not so much of me, but of a pervasive ideology of electing underclassmen in order to give them experience and, more significantly, to give them a better opportunity to make it on to regional board. One problem with this approach is that it sacrifices the chapter for the sake of the individual's gain. Rather than letting members gain experience before getting onto chapter board in order to use their experience or any training (especially LTI or other regional conventions (or ideally CLTC, but not many people from Columbus BBYO went, probably because there was never an established desire for it to be attended)) to bolster their term serving the chapter and, by extension, their chapter, the idea was to get them on board to get "experience". This "experience" was primarily, albeit not exclusively, having been on board and could be used to get onto board for a higher position later on and hopefully regional board. Oftentimes, once elected, these board members wouldn't necessarily know what was to be done due to their lack of training and/or experience. They might get some things accomplished but not as much as otherwise.* Gain experience perhaps through planning programs or on committees and chairs, then through that earn their way on to board with experience. If there are members who are particularly talented or good, they can make it up the ladder, by not giving preference to younger (read: inexperienced and not knowledgeable about BBYO) members
3) Heart of Ohio AZA #55, the chapter in which I had been for my first three and a half years in high school, had members who were primarily in Bexley and got together there and also had their own social networks there, etc. In starting my own chapter, I had known other guys in my town of Gahanna and surrounding areas who would be interested in joining our new chapter.
4) One innovation I made was by rethinking the board positions and duties. Whereas a standard chapter may have an Aleph Godol, an Aleph S'gan, Aleph moreh, Aleph Shaliach, Aleph Gizbor, Aleph Mazkir and Aleph Kohen Godol, I felt that the positions could be a little different and also the duties could be better split up. From this, I merged some positions, resulting in a board that had an Aleph Godol, Aleph S'gan and Aleph Moreh as per usual, and an Aleph Shaliah whose duties were the Jewish programming solely (no community engagement), Aleph Mazkir, whose duties included note-taking and money tracking. Aleph Sofer for the newsletter and website; Aleph Modia, whose job was to inform the members of what's going on in the chapter, inform local media (primarily the local Jewish newspaper) of upcoming events (and past events). These last two were a bit novel in my KIO region and I liked it because it made sense and because I had created it, I felt a special connection to it.
5) A last reason was to set up from the outset certain activities or other practices (such as an annual or semi-annual AIT overnight or chapter convention) that might have received pushback or rejection from an already existing chapter due to "not having done it before". Thus, we were able to get those set up.

The question that I would receive, though, after talking about having set up my own chapter would be "What happened to it? Is it still around?" Sadly, the answer is no. I think it lasted 2-3 years afterward, but ultimately folded. Although, on the one hand, I feel like I had graduated and was no longer in high school and, by extension, AZA, I needed to move on and no longer involve myself with it, I also felt, on the other hand now that I probably could have checked in with the chapter and offered my assistance more than I did. That's life. I didn't have any further involvement with BBYO until
I staffed two KIO RCs (2001 and 2002) and LTI in 2002 as well as international programs in 2002-2004.

* This really occurred originally on account of less than optimal circumstances: prior to my joining Heart of Ohio (in 1995-1996), he chapter had had a very strong senior class and a freshman class. I'm not sure how much the seniors passed along heir knowledge to the freshmen. When I joined the next year, the freshmen who had become sophomores were doing what they could, although they didn't totally have their act together. Less than a month after joining, I became the Aleph Mazkir (really because no one else wanted to take notes at meetings and I was fine with stepping in and doing so (despite never having done so and without any training (as a result, they weren't properly formal or adhere to any particular standards (but hopefully they had the important information)) (later, when I saw how the Regional Aleph Mazkir took notes, I was impressed by how it was done))). While at KIO's Regional Convention that December (1999, which I co-coordinated), I realized we weren't having any programs which was why I had joined in the first place and wanted sports stuff, which was kind of tough with our current chapter make-up, but I realized that we could have a Super Bowl party the following month. So, we did :) By the time the next election came up, I ran for and won Aleph Godol (I did run against someone this time, but I think because I did a good enough job and put in work at Aleph Mazkir), they trusted me to take over (I think they were also largely apathetic, probably largely because they didn't want to have to work on the chapter, having had the seniors run it. Anyways, the following year, it was primarily sophomores and freshmen and a junior here or there, with heavier underclassmen involvement.

25 July 2011

Rabbinic Popularity in the Tosefta I: סדר זרעים

Having gone through the entirety of the Mishnah and counting up how frequently various sages were mentioned, I decided I would turn my attention to the Tosefta and do similarly (both because of curiousity and because I had developed a nice system for it (creating grids and working פרק by פרק in tallying them up (yup, old-fashioned(!)))).
So, I started off with סדר זרעים and found that, once again, Rabbi Yehudah is the most frequently mentioned sage and that his colleagues are also up there (if you would like to compare/contrast this with the Mishnah, see here). This סדר also prominently featured the two houses along with the חכמים. However, Rabban Shimon, son of Gamliel featured much more prominently than he did in the Mishnah (and his primary בר פלוגתא, Rebbe). The special honorary mention goes to Rabbi Shimon, son of Elazar, who seemingly came out of nowhere and was pretty frequently mentioned - the twelfth most mentioned in this סדר (the 11th was Rabbi Akiva). Here is the top ten:

1 - רבי יהודה
2 - רבי יוסי
3 - רבן שמעון בן גמליאל
4 - רבי שמעון
5 - חכמים
6 - רבי מאיר
7 - רבי אליעזר
8 - בית הלל
9 - בית שמאי
10 - רבי

As to the most frequent mentions in each מסכתא, voila:
ברכות - רבי יהודה
פאה - רבי יהודה ורבי שמעון
דמאי - רבי יוסי
תרומות - רבי יהודה
שביעית - רבי יהודה
כלאים - רבי מאיר
מעשרות - חכמים
מעשר שני - בית חלל
חלה - חכמים
ערלה - רבי יהודה ורבי שמעון בן אלעזר
בכורים - רבי שמעוןLink

06 July 2011

Some Physical Changes at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp

Fence by LTC Dorm 6 (which is now not in use)
Fence by LTC Dorm 6 (which is now not in use)
As mentioned previously, I am staffing BBYO's International Leadership Training Conference currently and already discussed some of BBYO's summer programming changes at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp (BBPC); additionally, there have been some physical changes, as well, to the grounds. One noticeably apparent change has been the addition of a fence between the camp and the adjacent road, extending from the camp's main entrance all the way up to just past dorm 6 [of the Bernard Ehrenreich Youth Leadership Village (henceforth, Leadership Village)]. This fence also has a gate which is typically closed/locked at the adjacent road's entrance into the Leadership Village (which is frustrating for us who drive in and out of the Leadership Village, as we now have to drive around and out through the main gate, rather than just out of the one right by). In addition to whichever security advantages the fence affords, it also serves as a huge part of the eruv surrounding the Leadership Village. Also, the gateway into the Leadership Village has been taken down....*
         I remember the ILTC I attended was one of the fullest they've had in a while: they used all 9 dorms of the Leadership Village as well as a "tenth dorm", putting those participants in the Adult Lodge ("A-Lodge"), and there were certainly a lot of participants! This year's ILTC is also really large, perhaps larger than the one I attended in 1998, with 198 participants. However, for some reason, Dorm 6 has been condemned or shut up for some reason (one rumor I've heard is that there's a rare tree in there (although I'm not sure about that)), so they have one less dorm available for use. So, instead of leaving four participants to a room with five participants' rooms per dorm, they have now put more bunk beds in each room, with most Leadership Village rooms containing 3 bunk beds to hold six participants each - along with cubbies for them. In order to help with the cramped quarters, the program stores the participants' luggage elsewhere. (If there is a concerned [potential] donor out there, I'm sure BBYO/BBPC would welcome a donation of a dorm or two....)
CLTC Classroom 1 now with exercise equipment inside
CLTC Classroom 1 now with exercise equipment inside
     A new addition to the campgrounds has been the addition of a new soccer field that replaces dozens of trees that were adjacent down the huge hill to dorms 8 and 9 of the Leadership Village. While it's gorgeous, I remember staffing ILTC in 2004 and sadly watching those trees being cut down to make room for it.... Nevertheless, they basically took away the goal posts that were in the Leadership Village soccer field between the baseball field and tennis courts and now have new ones up at the new soccer field (along with some powerful lights there).
     Also, due to the awful smell and dirtiness of the carpeting in the Music and Performing Arts Center (commonly referred to as the Performing Arts building), it was ripped out and simply concrete flooring in the building....
Since the sessions of the Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) are no longer being held there (the last one was held there in 2005), the four CLTC classrooms are now available for use by ILTC and Kallah, which is great for spreading out. However, for some reason, staff from the Perlman kids camp has moved in a bunch of their workout equipment into CLTC classroom 1 (pictured).... Although it's a bit odd that they would take over a room of BBYO's use, it is, nevertheless, a boon to those of us who would like to get in a few reps (it's perfectly located next to the Adult Lodge, where I'm staying, and en route to the dining hall - perfect for some pre-meal lifting...)....
         One random thing: since BBYO's International Convention is now no longer taking place at BBPC, I wonder what will happen to the time capsule that was "buried and Dedicated on August 19, 1999 in honor of AZA's 75th Anniversary To be opened at International Convention 2024, on AZA's 100th Anniversary" (the caption was from the plaque above the time capsule (which I wrote down eight years ago), although I haven't seen the plaque anywhere this summer....
*According to the plaque on the gateway (which now no longer stands), the Bernard Ehrenreich Youth Leadership Village was "presented and developed by the Boys' and Young Men's Apparel Lodge No. 2460" in July 1973. As to after whom it was named, the plaque continues: "Bernard Ehrenreich represented a perfect example of a three "c" man - he cared. He was concerned. He was committed. And these words sum up his long devotion to public and community service. He gave of himself to many worthy causes and was a lifelong foe of suffering, iniquity and inhumanity... a proud son of Israel.... A true son of the covenant." Although I am not definite, I believe this is the same Bernard Ehrenreich as Rabbi Bernard Ehrenreich, who was one of the founding members of Zeta Beta Tau and also started Camp Kawaga.

05 July 2011

Rabbinic Popularity in the Mishnah VII: Top Ten Overall [Final Tally]

As mentioned previously, I went through the Mishnah and counted which sages were mentioned the most times (see I, II, III, IV, V, VI for previous posts on individual סדרים), tallying them up yesterday and here is the list of the top ten sages mentioned the most times throughout the Mishnah:
2 - חכמים
Rabbi Yehudah was clearly at the top of the list, with nearly 650 references - he was the most referenced in each of the six סדרים of the Mishnah and was frequently the most commonly appearing rabbi in the tractates. The חכמים were all alone in second place, with no one near them at more than 450 references (see the earlier post in which they are mostly voicing their opinions against fourth and fifth generation tannaim). Then, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Yose, and Rabbi Eliezer were all pretty close in positions 3-6. Rabbi Akiva wasn't too far behind them with more than 300 references throughout. The two houses of Shammai and Hillel were pretty close to each other (which makes sense since they mostly appeared together) above 200. Closing out the top ten as well as the last rabbi to receive over 100 mentions in all of the Mishnah is Rabbi Joshua/Yehoshua.
Basically, Rabbi Yehudah and his colleagues' generation (Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Shimon, and Rabbi Yose) were the most frequently mentioned, in addition to Rabbi Eliezer and his colleagues' generation (Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehoshua), along with the two houses....

04 July 2011

Some Changes to BBYO Summer Programs at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp

As mentioned before, it's been seven years since I've been to B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp (BBPC) and, while here, there have been changes that have occurred. In this post, I wanted to discuss some changes to the summer programs taking place here (for some background to this, see here).
The first is that no longer is there four weeks of Kallah, three weeks of International Leadership Training Conference (ILTC), followed by International Convention (IC), nor are there any Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) sessions. First off, the last time there were any CLTCs held here were 2005, one year after I staffed two CLTCs here.
Also, 2005 was the last time IC was held here, when it was held in Atlanta and has switched cities around since.* And since ILTC usually led into IC, there's no more reason for ILTC to follow Kallah, so they switched it, as the mood from Kallah to ILTC often was a sense of a Jewish let-down (allowing for increased Jewish learning and living from ILTC to Kallah). Moreover, instead of ILTC lasting three weeks and Kallah four, they have reduced their lengths to two weeks for ILTC and three for Kallah.
* Since 2005, the cities in which BBYO's International Convention has taken place are as follows:
2006 - Atlanta, GA
2007 - Bruceville, TX
2008 - Chicago, IL
2009 - Long Branch, NJ
2010 - Dallas, TX
2011 - Los Angeles, CA

03 July 2011

Against Whom the חכמים Were in the Mishnah [Top Ten]

As mentioned previously, I went through the Mishnah and counted which sages were mentioned the most times (see I, II, III, IV, V, VI for previous posts on individual סדרים) and discovered an interesting element: sometimes sages were mentioned and then חכמים disagreed with them. Although I don't have any particular speculations as to anything about them (I would love to see what people have to suggest), I wanted to list the most frequent amongst the sages against whom the חכמים had a different opinion:

1 - רבי מאיר
2 - רבי אליעזר
3 - רבי יהודה
4 - רבי עקיבא
5 - רבי שמעון
6 - רבי יהושע
7 - רבי
8 - רבן גמליאל
9 - רבי ישמעאל
אדמון ורבי יוסי