Sep 21, 2010

Upstart Bay Area: Dust and Dreams

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There is a strange elation that occurs at the end of Yom Kippur.  Once the afternoon headache has worn off, the sky begins to deepen, and the culmination of the day approaches, we, somehow, do not want the day to end. This period of heightened awareness and closeness to God, to that which is beyond us, and to the depths of our selves, can become our new norm, even, perhaps, comforting. Who wants to return to the "real world?" If all can be forgiven, if nirvana-like peace and joy, kindness and compassion, can be achieved within the meditative, prayer-like state of removal from worldly concerns and behaviors, why return to that difficult world? Yom Kippur is the Jewish people's "India" stop on the Elizabeth Gilbert  "Eat, Pray, Love" tour, and, when it concludes, we aren't quite sure where we should head next.

The Jewish response to this potential desire to linger in Yom-Kippur-mode is the holiday of Sukkot. We are literally commanded to get up, take a long drink of the hydrating beverages of this world, and head outside with our hammers. In the Jewish tradition, we are never encouraged to linger at the periphery of this-worldliness for very long. Sukkot reminds us that all of our praying, meditating, and achieving inner peace is merely the first step in a process. The next step, which must propel us forward into messy living, is to get out there, and, no matter how flimsy the materials and how unsteady our hands, start building.

Our community's social entrepreneurs embody this spirit all year long. They are our Sukkah-dwellers. Come rain or shine, they camp out in their tents, like the Israelites in the desert, amidst dust and dreams. Their Sukkot are vulnerable; they can be easily blown away, but, in their tender states, they remind us that our doors should never be so firm that they do not rustle in the wind, and that our roofs should not be so dense that we can no longer see sky. On Sukkot, we have the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges of building a new home, of embarking on a new project, of starting, again, from scratch. This opportunity is what keeps our lives, individually and communally, relevant, meaningful, and exciting.

This year, Upstart has welcomed four new organizations into the protective shade of its tent, where Jewish social entrepreneurs can dust themselves off as they head towards their dreams. These organizations raise interesting questions that we encourage you to consider during the holiday of Sukkot.  Discuss these questions with your friends and family, and bring these ideas with you as you embark this year with your building materials, ready to re-begin anew.

Who Lives in Your Home? Moishe House, which creates living opportunities for Jewish post-college graduates around the world, has created a revolution of Jewish life amongst the 20-30-something crowd. No matter religious affiliation, Jewish young adults now have a physical structure, a home, in which to congregate and design their own meaningful Jewish experiences. This year, think about who you invite into your home, and how you can create your own mini-Moishe house, developing and celebrating vibrant Jewish life in whatever way is meaningful to you and your community.

What Do You Talk About? Zeek magazine strives to complicate our conversations. This year, think about issues that are important to you, and make a concerted effort to talk about them, especially with people with whom you disagree. You never know what you might learn, and how that might inspire change.

And, finally: What Do You Eat? Bay Area Kosher Meats and In The Market are part of an emerging food movement challenging the Jewish community to be more mindful in their food choices. Where did your food grow? Who helped get it from the field to your table? Where did your hamburgers graze and how were your chickens treated?  This year, as you sit down to your meals, talk about your food's journey, and grapple with how that affects yours.

These UpStarters, in addition to our continuing groups - Kevah, G-dCast, Wilderness Torah, and Fair Trade Judaica , inspire us to dream, to ask difficult questions, and, no matter the risk, and the dust, dare to answer them, to re-begin our journeys. Who knows where we might end up?

Wishing you a shana tova, a year blessed with constructive creativity,
The UpStart Team


UpStart Bay Area is generously funded by:
Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.


UpStart Bay Area
332 Pine Street, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94104

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