Blogging about creative youth philanthropy

Under the Arch, Under the Shekhinah

I have very vivid memories of the St. Louis Gateway Arch from a childhood visit. Something as impressive as this structure stays with you. The day I arrived it was after 11PM when the magnitude and mystery of that giant arch compelled me to drive about 25 minutes downtown to see it. After a long day of travel, unpacking, strategic trips to Office Max (order pads, St. Louis map & booth candy), Home Depot (clear fishing wire) and Kinkos (sign printing) and a late dinner I was powerless to resist. I drove the straight highway to downtown and the riverfront. I couldn’t see it and then a glimpse and another mile or so and suddenly there it was. An awesome passageway to the “west” looming majestically over the Mississippi River. I got closer, it got bigger. The roads were congested and narrow, filled with Saturday night revelers headed to the riverfront casinos. A couple more turns and then the silver legs were directly in front of me. Shiny. With sharp steel edges I did not recall. I looked up, following its graceful arc – awesome. The locals are jaded. When I want to talk about it, they’re fairly blase. Just like the native new yorkers who’ve never visited the Statue of Liberty, I suppose.

Monday my dad arrived. He’s been enriching his rabbinic life for decades at CAJE conferences. He surprised me at my booth and then was off to his sessions. Later we hooked up for evening programs. Family singing with amazing and energetic musicians, Joe Black and several others (I don’t have my book with me to refer). After stayed for the lovely stories and singing, vibrating and radiating shekhinah of four amazing women – Marge, Cheri, Peninia and Helene.

All’s going very well at Booth 48. Solid sales; Great interest. Excellent prospects and wonderful connections with an amazing group of passionate and creative educators. I can’t wait to send them their orders so they can run with them!

Today is my workshop. Last night I made my tile collage sample – its theme evocative of St. Louis, CAJE and this lovely gathering. Here it is:


What’s Enough for Darfur??

Yesterday I set up my booth at CAJE 32. The configuration was not what I had anticipated so I made some modifications on the fly. I think the display is eye-catching and people are immediately engaged – understanding the potential of the tzedaka/charity boxes. Lots of interest, lots of preliminary scoping around as it was the first day.

My Dollars for Darfur campaign, however has started off rather slowly. A miserly $4, including one shiny golden Sacajawea coin. That was cool, but otherwise disappointing. I don’t want to push the donations, after all, primarily I am talking to my visitors about their educational endeavors and how my products can assist them. Occasionally I’ll suggest a small donation after our conversation when they are dropping their business cards into my box.

One gentleman said, “oh, I think I’m good with Darfur donations this year.”

Hmmm. Within the Jewish community, Darfur has been a major battle cry. I wonder, thought, have we reached a saturation point of Darfur awareness and giving?? Last I looked, millions of people are still living in refugee camps, with inadequate food, clothing and other basic human needs. Safety? Healthcare? Peace? Minimal, if not at all. Are people so tired of hearing “Darfur” that they can’t drop a $1 into a tzedaka box?

Partly my reaction is shock. Another part of me is thinking, wow, I should have picked a more “hot” charity, and, well, what might that be? It’s an interesting predicament.

Stay tuned.

CAJE 32 Tzedaka Challenge for Darfur

I am excited to be at CAJE 32, the Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education, held Aug 5-9 in St. Louis. Giving Arts will have a presence in the EXPO (Booth 48) and I will also be a workshop presenter on Wednesday afternoon, teaching A Collaborative Creative Arts Approach to Teaching Social Action and Tikkun Olam.

I’ve conceptualized a Tzedaka Challenge to raise money for Darfur relief efforts.

Throughout the conference I hope that attendees will visit my booth and, if nothing else, give $1 into my great big tzedaka box that I’ve built. I will empty it every night and hand over the cash to a CAJE employee for safekeeping.

I believe that 1500 people will be at the conference and I am setting my goal at $1000.00 on behalf of CAJE 32 for a donation to Save Darfur, the coalition of 180 organizations working on relief efforts. Lets do it!

The start of it all

The day was sure to come when I would start blogging.

Part of the nudge came from the announcement that my online community, Omidyar, would be shutting down in September. Feeling a bit like the rug was being pulled out from underfoot, the end of the social entrepreneurial network has had most of us considering where to land and continue our online dialog and network weaving and sharing. The web has many places for like-minded connections to occur. At Omidyar there was a thread that linked us, and even though we may have been involved in very different activities and work, there was a cross-pollination that I found precious and priceless. We shall see where the winds of technology and human spirit take us.

Yet, perhaps the bigger and more compelling reason for me to start this blog is to plant the seeds of my own vision and invite more in-depth conversation and exploration about how to build creative, sustainable programs and projects to teach our next generation to be thoughtful, empathetic, questioning, giving and helping to make our world better.

I look forward to open sharing and working together with people, organizations and businesses who seek to do the same.