The Jew, the Jew, and the Gentile

My friend Valerie and I were biking back to Clinton Hill from Williamsburg. It was evening; she wanted to take the Wythe route through the Jewish part of the neighborhood, as it was better lit and less hilly. I noticed a woman in a traditional white long sleeve blouse, long black skirt, and tights signaling quietly but clearly to me with her finger as if to ask a question. Valerie hadn’t seen and kept biking, but I slowed to a stop.
“Excuse me, do you have a moment?” she asked.
We’re trained to run the other direction in those situations (thanks, Greenpeace), but I saw no clipboard in sight. It was also a very quiet street; I wondered how long she had been standing there. I said sure.
“Could you possibly turn off our air conditioner; it’s getting colder than we expected but can’t do it ourselves.”
It wasn’t Shabbat, but I realized that similar Jewish law regarding “work” (like turning a switch on or off) might apply on holidays, so I asked if it was because of Sukkot, to which she said yes.
“Ok, let me make sure my friend will watch my bike.”I thought for a second and then realized what I needed to disclose: “I should tell you that I’m also Jewish but do not follow the same observance custom; does that matter.”
“Oh, yes, it does matter; it won’t work. Is your friend Jewish?”
“No,” I replied, a bit stunned that I couldn’t perform this mitzvah myself. I also felt apologetic. “I hope it’s not offensive that I don’t observe this custom.”
She warmly thanked me for letting her know, and Valerie agreed without missing a beat to go in and turn the switch off. I stayed with bikes and she went in.
When Valerie emerged 5 minutes later, the woman sent her out with cups of water and gave a friendly wave and thanked us again, and we hopped back on our bikes and rode away.
Everything about this little interaction was exciting to both of us. Like anyone would be, we were curious; who in New York doesn’t like seeing any and every apartment possible and how people live? I was also so thrilled that Valerie could – and proud that she willingly did – perform this mitzvah for a family enjoying dinner during the holiday. I was also a bit jealous and uncomfortable that I couldn’t perform the task myself – I had no moral issue with it – but at the same time, I felt a sense of community with a person whose reality seemed so different from my own, because despite my style of dress and relative ambivalence towards the holiday, I was still a Jew in her eyes. I loved too that traditional observance truly mattered so much to this woman, despite how odd it seems in today’s times. 
One more Brooklyn story…

Happy International Women’s Day!

Here’s to all the women who live life to the fullest, those who have paved the way for increased opportunity in the past and present, and those men who have chimed in with their undying support. It is my wish for women worldwide that we continue to raise our voices, proudly work and raise families if we choose, and celebrate our unity and spirit.

Read more about celebrations, history, education and advocacy happening today around the world.

Community Calls For Improved Safety Measures At Brooklyn Intersection

It makes me sick that this happened. It also makes me sick that transportation precautions to protect cyclists and pedestrians are lacking in more places than they are present, and that they would absolutely mitigate the chance of fatalities. What will it take for the City to act? Also, the Bandes family has my deepest respect for pushing for a response during such a difficult time. I hope their voice can work in tandem with Transportation Alternatives to make some changes.

Community Calls For Improved Safety Measures At Brooklyn Intersection

Keynote Speaker: Youth Philanthropy Connect Conference

I’m very excited to announce that I will be the keynote speaker at the Youth Philanthropy Connect conference in Disneyland this June! I enjoy sharing my passions and embrace the challenge of communicating new topics to enthusiastic people, so this should be a ton of fun. I’ll also be leading a few workshops while I’m there that I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from, too. The participating demographic is just starting to form ideas of what giving means and to discover their personal values, and they will be empowered to leverage these thought processes into meaningful action! And, I commend the conference organizers for providing a platform for these important conversations; I’m very honored to be a part of it.

As I often do, time to crowd-source my remarks! Step back into your 8-21 year old selves (probably a few different versions, I know!). What might resonate well with you on topics of VALUES, RECOGNIZING NEED, GIVING, and UNLEASHING YOUR POTENTIAL? Don’t be shy; I want to hear from you!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, mindsets, and ideas!

The issues are complex, and there’s no magic bullet. But there are strategies that have demonstrated progress and promise. We believe that the way to move forward is to empower and engage communities, foster collaboration, and provide the tools to implement change. With our new Healthy Food & Community Change initiative, the Illumination Fund aims to inspire healthier communities.

Laurie M. Tisch, President, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

I’m very excited about this new initiative and the conversation surrounding it.

What’s your vision to make your community healthier?

Bringing Policy to the Table: New Food Strategies for a Healthier Society

imageThis morning, we’re launching the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund’s Healthy Food & Community Change Initiative. The conference, Bringing Policy to the Table: New Food Strategies for a Healthier Society, features an incredible lineup of participants who hold positions in public office, philanthropy, nonprofits, and health entities. 

Want to learn more? The event is over capacity, but join us from the comfort of your computer! Tune into the livestream beginning at 8:45am, and tweet with us using #tcfood

Editorially, I’ve worked hard on this event, and I think it will feature fantastic conversation and ideas. Very worth joining in, or at least sharing with a friend or two!