Stepping forward

Stepping forward photo

Have you had the joy of watching a baby walk for the first time?

I was lucky enough to be there when my nephew took his first steps years ago. Cautious at first, he put one foot in front of the other and wobbled his way to his destination, growing more confident with each step. When he reached the finish line, 3 feet away, we all applauded our sweet boy's newly discovered ability. 

He was so pleased with himself and his newfound freedom, recognizing that he no longer had to rely on his elders to get him from Point A to Point B. It was a turning point for him -- the world was suddenly full of endless ground for him to cover.

Taking one's first steps, literally, is a turning point for us as babies, but hopefully we keep taking steps forward throughout our lives -- transforming, growing, and striving to become the best, most confident versions of ourselves.

This season, as summer approaches, is a time of turning points for so many young people, graduates from high school and college taking their first steps into higher learning, the workforce, and the "real world." How simultaneously thrilling and scary embarking on these new paths can be for grads -- and for their parents too.

Even after we're grown, we're still evolving. Change is scary because it's unknown territory. And, sometimes, as we grow older, we become more resistant to change, stuck in our ways, accustomed to our routines and feeling safe in our stable bubbles.

But no matter what stage of life we're in, we ought to always be brave enough to risk, to leap -- even when we're scared. After all, most of the things worth doing in life take some chutzpah to do them.

I took a class on change management in the spring, as part of my executive master's program in Jewish leadership at Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership. The biggest lesson I came away with is that change is considering what "better" could look like on the other side, and not letting our fears and inhibitions stop us from striving for more.

This month, in our annual young adult issue, some courageous young Chicago Jews share how they took the leap in their search for "better."

For Jeremy, he thought "better" meant choosing to become a member of our tribe. In his poignant piece, he explores his journey as a gay man in converting to Judaism. In another story, Jordyn, an optimistic Jewish 20-something woman, guides readers through her decision to undergo a double mastectomy in light of her testing positive for one of the BRCA genes. For Jordyn, her "better" state meant dramatically reducing her threat of cancer.

Countries face turning points too. This month, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, a turning point for Israel -- the quickest and most extraordinary of Israel's wars in terms of the magnitude of its victory. The war marked a transformation for the fledgling Jewish State in that it solidified the small, but mighty Israel as a key player on the world stage -- no longer an underdog under the threat of destruction.

Indeed, the Six-Day War marked change for Jews on this side of the pond too. The war, during that week back in June of `67, connected American Jews, including those right here in Chicago, to the Jewish State in a new way, transforming Israel into a source of major pride and concern for Diaspora Jews. Israel's fight for existence was our fight too. More than ever before, we were all Jewish brothers and sisters.

We as people, as countries, and as Jewish brothers and sisters should always keep growing, evolving, and leaping forward in our quest to become the best versions of ourselves.


Cindy Sher photo 375
Cindy Sher started her career at JUF 16 years ago. She is the Executive Editor of ... Read More



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