I just came back from one of my frequent visits to New Jersey and wish to share some observations with you:
Bizarre as it sounds, the most educational, and may I even dare say inspirational moments of my visits, emerge from my constant travels along Rt. 10 and its vicinity. Between the famous diners for meetings and socializing, the Aidekman campus for functions and more meetings, the various area synagogues for spirit and even more meetings, and obviously the shopping malls for commercial responsibilities but no meetings, I learn a lot about the state of the state and the state of the community.
This time around, my non-objective and non-scientific Rt. 10 litmus paper indicated some very positive results: I identified more new and crowded shops, restaurants, and businesses. I heard less about the mythological financial crisis. I saw my Prime Minister receive rounds of applause on the Hill. I participated in some of the most inspiring community functions. I witnessed UJA and Women's Philanthropy’s “Up Campaigns.” I took part in an impressive allocation process for many appealing needs all over the world. I was involved in some creative, cutting-edge initiatives. I even heard, with my own ears, Professor Steve Cohen, a world-renowned scholar, declaring that MetroWest is among the four leading Jewish communities globally. Israel was very visible alongside Rt. 10, not only by the flags and lions on campus, but also throughout the discussions within the board rooms and over “Caesar salads, no chicken” in the local diners.
So why am I not totally happy? Because at the same time I also heard about the negatives.
Political leadership — Oy
Unemployment, real estate market — Oy, Oy
Status of Israel, situation in the Middle East, upcoming September in the U.N. — Oy, Oy Oy
Next generation, future of the community, organized Jewish world — Oy Vey
Etc., etc., etc.
How can it be that my sensors are receiving so many different messages all at the same time? I was thinking about it the entire visit and tried to analyze it while driving back and forth on Rt 10. One answer is the good old story of the “half full, half empty glass.” It is clear that some people tend to look at the positives and others at the negatives. It is a matter of nature and personality. But if one reflects more about it, there is something else in the glass: the empty half is always at the top of the glass while the half full is at the bottom, beneath it. Read it again, picture it if you like, but don’t argue. This is physics, a philosophical statement but also a fact of life. The negatives are always there on the surface, easy to see. However, in order to detect the positives, one needs to dig deeper and invest time and energy. So since we always like the good news, my advice would be to dive into the depths of our glasses and look for the positive points of view from within. There’s always something down there.
And there is also another dimension to the fact that I keep hearing too much pessimism: I am dealing here with the children of Israel. It is rooted in our tribe’s tradition, from the time of our exodus from Egypt, to worship the complainers, to admire the denunciators, and to adore the grumblers. Perhaps it helped protect us from our enemies over the years and eliminated unhealthy euphoric situations, but at the same time it clearly made us the “nation of the whiners,” and the “the people of the Oys.”
I reached this deep philosophical insight as I was driving on Rt 10 after one of my meetings late night meetings. I passed by the famous toy store and suddenly it hit me: it’s huge neon sign lost one letter that made the entire difference. I made a quick typical Rt. 10 jughandle turn and took a photo of what I think represents the character of our nation. Here it is: