Help Wanted

Help Wanted

May 28, 2021 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

In recent years, Jewish institutions have joined efforts to address issues of equity in the workforce, encouraging transparency in publicized pay scales, promotion criteria, and job requirements. This endeavor has been facilitated by pioneering organizations such as the Gender Equity in Hiring Project that did not exist when I negotiated salary for my first classroom teaching position. I reflect back on the hiring process, which felt at the time like a puzzle for which I was meant to know the solution but could not access; I now understand that these feelings of isolation were common, particularly when no formal pay scale existed. Today as an activist for workplace equity, I benefit from the wisdom of current advocacy; at the urging of some of our alumni, The William Davidson School weekly newsletters have recently begun to only post descriptions that include salary ranges. This seemingly small change enables a level playing field, putting employers and job candidates on more equitable negotiating grounds.  

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Taking the Long View: Lessons of Leadership

Taking the Long View: Lessons of Leadership

Jul 3, 2020 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Balak | Hukkat

The iconic story in our parashah of Moses striking the rock to bring forth water for the People of Israel is often framed as a morality tale, the consequence of a toxic—and disastrous—combination of unchecked rage and faltering faith. Indeed, God doles out the harshest possible punishment to Moses for flouting God’s directive to speak to the rock, in full display of the congregation: “Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them” (Num. 20: 12).

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Letters Unopened

Letters Unopened

Dec 27, 2019 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Miketz

Several years ago, during a period of intense dreaming, I started keeping what I lovingly referred to as a “luminous journal.” Immediately upon awakening from a dream, I would reach for a notebook on my nightstand and furiously transcribe all I had experienced, inclusive of dialogue, and mood—a verbatim as if recounting a real-life event. I had learned over time that otherwise, the intense narrative and video that had so vividly played for my one-person viewing audience would be lost. No record, no memory of my dreams.

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Basic Questions

Basic Questions

Oct 12, 2018 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Noah

Early in my teaching career I worked with kindergarteners, incorporating drama into daily Judaics lessons. The holiday cycle offered developmentally appropriate treasure troves of life lessons: practicing ways to say “I’m sorry” to loved ones during Tishrei; exploring Esther’s mustering of courage to speak the truth; hesitations of the Israelites to part from predictable routines in the known and familiar Egypt to try something brand-new and strange.

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Woodcutters and Water Drawers

Woodcutters and Water Drawers

Sep 15, 2017 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh

The opening verses of this week’s parashah pronounce that the entirety of Israel stands before God to enter into the covenant: the leaders, the elders, the officers; every man, child, woman, and convert, as well as the “woodcutters and water drawers” (Deut. 29:9–10). Unlike some other Torah excerpts that clearly demarcate mitzvot reserved for a particular classification of people, all people are told to show up in this moment. They are beckoned to view themselves as integral parts of an expansive and inclusive community.

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Getting to ‘Sorry’

Getting to ‘Sorry’

Sep 26, 2016 By Shira D. Epstein | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

Forgiving and Asking Forgiveness: Sound Bytes for the High Holidays 5777

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Easing the Transition From Shabbat

Easing the Transition From Shabbat

Apr 1, 2016 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Shemini

The parashah delineates several distinctions between holy and unholy: what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice; which animals fall within the category of kosher; the actions that might transition a vessel, oven, or garment to the status of unclean.

At the end of Shabbat, we invoke these same words during havdalah, praising God “who makes a distinction between holy and profane.”

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Snacking and Satiation

Snacking and Satiation

Aug 7, 2015 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Eikev

Moses relays to the People of Israel that when they eat and are “satisfied,” they should bless God for the land that was given to them (Deut. 8:10). This passage from Parashat Eikev, incorporated into the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals), tethers the sensation of fullness and abundance to the act of offering gratitude for the source of our food. In this modern era of overly-processed packaged goods and “in-between snacking,” how many of us are actually tuned into the moment when we experience satiation, or take the time to consider the original source of what we ingest? We crunch on cookies in between errands, slurp sodas at our desks, and leave a trail of crumbs behind us as we hurry to catch a bus. 

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The Suffering of Loss

The Suffering of Loss

Jun 20, 2014 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Korah

We have grown accustomed to an incessant newsfeed scrolling of horrific natural-disaster footage.

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Miriam’s Legacy of Leadership

Miriam’s Legacy of Leadership

Jun 12, 2013 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Hukkat

If you were asked to rapidly rattle off the top three iconic biblical leaders, which would you name? There is a high probability that Moses would appear on the list or, possibly, Aaron or Abraham. Even if valued, Miriam most likely would not make the cut.

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