I may say this as each month begins, but I cannot believe it’s already October! Our first day of Lev Solel was a few weeks ago, and I was grateful to have the attention of all our students and their parents to speak about the youth group and our programs we have planned for the year. As I started my seventh school year here at Solel, it was wonderful to look out and see not only so many familiar faces, but also many new families in the sanctuary. While I was speaking about our upcoming events, two things were racing through my mind.

First, for a 4 or 5 year old, this is a big deal! Coming to Lev Solel (Sunday school) for the first time, with other students you only see once a week, and a teacher you only see once a week – that’s crazy! As I mentioned in my brief talk during the assembly, our student community is unique in that we don’t just have Highland Park students but we have students from 12 different communities across the area! Attending Lev Solel only once or twice a week is what makes the experience more meaningful. The student from Highland Park can see her friend from Buffalo Grove; the student from Deerfield can see her friends from Lake Forest and Chicago. Watching the students making these friendships and bonds that are lasting into high school and college is what makes each Sunday and Tuesday even more special for all of us involved.

Our youngest students at Lev Solel seem to show no fear, but it can be tough to be away from mom or dad for those two hours on a Sunday morning. Which brings me to my second thought that day, how on earth did I get in front of a group of 200 people who would want to listen to what I had to say? I think this quote from Uber’s new CEO may help me explain. The multi-billion dollar ride service company Uber recently appointed a new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. He stunned the tech and business world when he was quoted as saying:

“I have to tell you I am scared. I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is like outside this place. But the times of greatest learning for me have been when I’ve been through big changes, or taken on new roles – you have to move out of your comfort zone and develop muscles that you didn’t know you had.”

How can someone, with years of business and leadership experience, say he’s scared? Why does he make it sound like being scared is a good thing? Because we have to get out of our comfort zone and try something new; like our PreK students and other students coming to Lev Solel for the first time, or kids attending a youth group event on their own, or like me, who can talk about my job for hours on end to my wife and my friends, but talking in front of a group of people makes my nerves kick in.

After I saw what Uber’s new CEO said, I immediately went to the Jewish archive in my brain and tried to find something to complement what Mr. Khosrowshahi had to say. I went right to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a late 18th century Hasidic leader. His quote has since become a popular Jewish folk song:

“The whole world is a narrow bridge and the important thing is not to be afraid.”

Over 200 years separate these two quotes. While I am not comparing the head of a tech giant with one of Judaism’s most quoted and still revered rabbis, they both have something to say when it comes to conquering fear. We should step out of our comfort zone. We should do things we would not normally do. We should not be afraid. I encourage all of Lev Solel’s students to attend at least one youth group event, with or without a friend. Develop those muscles you didn’t know existed and meet some new friends. As for me, next time I am in front of 200+ people will probably be at our spring Purim Shpiel, where I will most likely be wearing a silly costume, but remembering Rebbe Nachman’s wise words. And to quote another rabbi, Evan Moffic, “picking something totally outside your comfort zone is more challenging than studying a familiar topic, but potentially more rewarding” (The Happiness Prayer, page 56).

Michael Schneider
Assistant Director of Education, Youth, & Engagement

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