This week I had the honor of leading a session for the NFTY Convention’s Youth Summit which took place in Atlanta. The session was titled, “Igniting the Spark: Adolescent Spirituality” and it was lead by me and my colleague, Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire, dean of the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education at Hebrew College.

When I heard that this gathering would be taking place in Atlanta I knew I wanted to try to present. At the time I was completing my doctoral work and thought that a presentation would help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I reached out to my colleague, Michael Shire, because we are both interested in childhood and adolescent spirituality.

At the time that I reached out to Michael it felt a little audacious. Michael had been and is a mentor. Before I knew him personally he was one those people that I had heard of. When we’ve heard of someone they can sometimes take on a superhuman dimension in our minds.

I found in Michael not only a willing but an enthusiastic colleague. We pitched the session together, developed it together, and this week co-lead it. We had a few hours to hang out after the session and both agreed that it was a meaningful experience for us (and we think for the participants) and that it was much more meaningful because we did it together.

All of us have mentors. But not everyone has experienced the flattening out of a mentoring relationship. The moment when a mentor becomes a friend and colleague. I’ve spoken to many of my mentors over the years and they’re generally quick to emphasize that the friendship, the mutuality, and the reciprocity have always been there, but it’s still delightful and a little bit surprising to realize that someone you’ve looked up to considers you a teacher as well and even more importantly a friend.

I hope that the participants in the session that we led found the session to be meaningful. It was an awesome and inspiring group of Reform Jewish youth workers and educators. And I hope they enjoyed the fact that Michael and I so thoroughly enjoyed working together and working with them.

When a Mentor Becomes a Colleague