Baby carrots and Black swans….

I read a moving piece of writing today by an old friend, Amichai Lau Lavie. He is an interesting guy, and some of you may have encountered his “Storahtelling” in your communities. We used to work together, briefly, many moons ago. I thought he was eccentric then, and I think so now. But I also had tremendous respect for his mind and talents and his use of them both – and I still do. I am grateful once again to facebook for being able to rediscover and reconnect with people like Amichai.

This is what he wrote today:

Baby Carrots
This has sort of nothing to do with the weekend but it did ignite my thinking about how the much needed change in our community can happen. Before I go to sleep that night at the Hampton Inn I surf channels and land on a food channel program that tells the history of baby carrots. Who knew (or cared)? Only twenty years ago or so some big carrot farmer in California realized that so much of his produce was not fit for market because of size and such and figured out a way to make the problem into a profit: baby carrots, made from the useless excess non sellable carrots. Crisis became opportunity. The farmers’ grandson now rules over a multimillion empire, baby carrots in every lunch box. What’s the discarded excess in the Jewish education system we are not realizing? What is our crisis that can be turned into opportunity? We know the Hebrew Schools are mostly failing, B’nai Mitzvahs are hollow shells of meaning and Judaic literacy is on the decline. What’s the sweet spot? Where is the opportunity? Go to the where the problem – the useless carrots… that’s where change is waiting to happen. I met folks in Florida who get this – who want to be part of the solution and not perpetuate the problem. More and more are trying and starting to think big picture and systemic change. Let’s face it: Sinai – we got a problem. But can it be overcome? I think so. Creative crowdsourcing, and strategic thinking, brave decisions and risky business – I think we have some great solutions waiting to happen, fast. Sinai. Revisited. 5.0.

You can read the rest of his blogpost here.

My husband loves innovation. Of any kind. I am sure it is connected to his ADD. The point is, he often refers to “Black swans”. In the innovation world, this refers to an abberation that can be turned into a blessing, a gift, a new innovation in a certain field.  (Black Swan Event on Wikipedia.)

I think Amichai’s example of a black swan is a great one, and an apt analogy to what is needed in our world.  I love this example because it isn’t about reinventing Halacha, or changing the rules, or saying that we can modify Judaism to make it easier for us in our times.  It is about seeing the potential within what we have that we are letting go to waste.

What are we calling “waste” or “defective”? What babies are we throwing away with the bath water? This idea I like.  What Amichai aptly points out is that the Jewish community is facing a crisis from the current economy that affects us existentially as well as practically. And that this, in and of itself, is a “black swan”, an opportunity.  The Madoff tragedy combined with the depression (yeah, okay, keep calling it a recession…) has decimated much of the finances of the FL Jewish community – and organizations in NY have closed and reopened, redefining themselves.

But this crisis, like all, is also an opportunity. I see all of America slowing down and becoming more reflective during the current crisis. People are simplifying their lives, reexamining their priorities all over the place. (Unemployment gives anyone a lot of time to think, right?)

Sometimes I wish that like Amichai, I could be devoted full time to the macro concerns of Klal Yisroel and how we are going to reignite people, help people love and serve Hashem… and help people who are already committed to serving Hashem to remember kiddush Hashem, chillul Hashem, and the importance of both.

For now, I have to spend most of my time on the micro — my own little bayit neeman b’yisrael. My own microcosm. Trying to raise committed, passionate Torah observant Jews who love all of Am Yisrael where they are, how they are. Kiruv without condescension. Passing a flame without burning anyone.

I am really happy that the Amichai Lau Lavie’s of the world are out there. Our “kolot Hashem” are definitely different. But he is definitely out there finding the baby carrots and black swans of the Jewish world. I think he might be a black swan, actually.

So, oh powerful Jewish Imas… what are our baby carrots and black swans? What are we wasting and throwing away? And what are we going to tell male Jewish leadership about reinspiring, and about “Sinai. Revisited. 5.0.“?????

Related Reading: