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After ‘welcoming’, it’s all about the relationships

Shariee Calderone

Hot off the presses – I have a copy of Dr. Ron Wolfson’s new book, Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community. Ron Wolfson is a powerful speaker, visionary and thinker, but above all he’s a mensch and a good friend to all he meets. Never will you sit next to him without his asking if you’re ok or if your needs are being met, and he truly wants to hear your story.

book cover 2In the very beginning of the book he states, “My father taught me how to begin a relationship with a stranger. He was the kind of guy who got onto an elevator on the first floor, engaged you in conversation, and by the time you reached the sixth floor of the building, he knew your story and you certainly knew his.”

This reminds me of Julie Wiener’s keynote address at one of our regional conferences for early childhood educators and leaders back in October of 2010. Julie, who is the Associate Editor of The New York Jewish Week, spoke from a more personal voice and shared her experience visiting with, and then selecting, a Jewish preschool for her daughter. Reflecting on the process ,Julie challenged the audience of Jewish professionals to consider whether enough steps were being taken to get to know, really know, the families who were walking through their doors and joining their various school communities. She described it then as a ‘missed opportunity’.

Ron Wolfson takes that sentiment one step further saying, “We have failed to develop deep relationships with many of the individuals who come into our midst”.  Is he right? I don’t know. He certainly gives enough poor examples to chew on. But at the same time he’s able to leave the door open to possibility – to invite you in to conversation, and into the challenge of what we need to do next. Although his book is not from the lens of early childhood, the question is, are we gong to be at that table? At the front door really, with Ron, as he invites us all to consider  (more…)