Today I had the pleasure of hearing Sherry Frank speak about her life story as it is represented in her remarkable book entitled, A Passion to Serve: Memoirs of a Jewish Activist. As Sherry spoke, I found my heart opening to her message and felt inspired by her powerful testimony as a leader in civil rights, human rights, and many important causes of the last 40 years. As I reflect on the experience, here are a couple of personal takeaways.
- Everything comes from somewhere. Sherry spoke briefly about her realization as an adult that some part of her passion for social activism came from her father, who passed away when she was not yet a teenager. I’m reminded of the fact that my great grandfather’s mandolin hangs in a place of honor in my home and all the other ways that parents, grandparents, and others have influenced my life, personality, and choices without my conscious realization.
- Let Torah guide you. Sherry spoke not only about activism, but about Jewish activism. She spoke of the importance of knowing your tradition and helping others understand where you are coming from by making your spiritual and religious roots explicit. Sherry spoke about how she always tried to incorporate a Jewish value, idea, or teaching into her written communications and interactions. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of helping others understand where we are coming from and leveraging the power of religion, in this case Judaism, to do go.
- Stories speak louder than facts. Sherry told stories. She explained that she wrote A Passion to Serve so that her grandchildren could understand the world she came from and her place in it. Her stories were a powerful reminder of the importance of storytelling more generally. We make the most sense to others, and have the greatest likelihood of connecting with others to form relationships and coalitions, when we know our story, share our stories, and are able to hear the story and stories of others.
It was a wonderful afternoon of inspiration and learning. A great way to immerse myself in the central task of the month of Elul– spiritual reflection.
Thank you, Sherry!