Archives in June 2021

Independence is a Work in Progress

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
June 25, 2021

In this video message, I take some time to reflect on the twin Independence celebrations of Juneteenth and the 4th of July. This week, I share — through my personal lens as a Jewish mother of a child with a disability — how I understand the journey of independence, and what we owe to one another along the way.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives


The Next Chapter

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
June 18, 2021

“To be a leader, you do not need a crown or robes of office. All you need to do is to write your chapter in the story, do deeds that heal some of the pain of this world, and act so that others become a little better for having known you. Live so that, through you, our ancient covenant with God is renewed in the only way that matters: in life.”
--Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l

This week, Gateways underwent an important leadership transition as we paid tribute to our Board President of four years, Michelle S. Alkon, and installed our new Co-Presidents of the Board Nora Friedman and Dara Grossman at our Annual Meeting this past Monday evening.

When I started last August, Michelle was determined to ensure I was set up for success in my new role as CEO of Gateways. While there were never crowns or robes of office — our offices were virtual and we never worked together in person — Michelle's candor, openness, and deep personal devotion to Gateways always shone through the perennial computer screen.

Tamar, holding a flower, and Michelle, wearing a Red Sox shirt, both grinning   Michelle and I met in person
   for the first time in our respective
   roles just a few weeks ago!

 These values were the guideposts of our successful lay leader/staff partnership. Together, among many things that Gateways accomplished during the pandemic, we were able to oversee a fruitful strategic planning process, which culminated in the unanimous approval by our Board of a new Strategy Roadmap at our Annual Meeting. This Roadmap outlines a mandate for how Gateways will redouble our commitment to supporting systemic change in formal and informal Jewish educational settings. I look forward to sharing more about this Roadmap with you in future communiques!

So who will our next lay leader partners be as we seek to implement this Strategy Roadmap? At the Annual Meeting, Michelle introduced our new Co-Presidents of the Board beautifully, "Both Dara and Nora have held leadership roles on the Gateways Board for many years.

Image of Dara Grossman   Image of Nora Friedman
Dara Grossman                                                    Nora Friedman


"They understand the vital work that Gateways does and the role we play in our community… Each brings her own valuable perspective to Gateways. They represent the dream team for leadership."

I hope you will join me in thanking Michelle for her tremendous service as Board President these last four years and in welcoming Dara and Nora as they enter their new co-presidency and help write the next chapter of Gateways' story.

I am so grateful for our leadership and to YOU for your devoted service to Gateways’ mission of providing access for all of our children to Jewish life and learning.

Category: Profiles


Graduation Time

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
June 11, 2021

This is the season for graduations, and for all the emotions that come with them: pride, joy, nostalgia, and even bittersweet feelings at seeing a child growing into the next stage of life, becoming more independent, looking ahead to the future.

In this season of graduation, it can be easy to discount or leave behind the many children who do not develop on a traditional student trajectory along with their peers. Yet, when it comes to these children, graduation can be an opportunity to remind ourselves of Ben Zoma's insightful words in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): “Who is wise? One who learns from every person.” Especially during graduation time, it is the children on diverse student trajectories who are also our teachers.

One lesson that I have learned from these teachers is that, at every stage in life, we want to find things to celebrate — to have gratitude for our achievements — and as Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain neuroscientist and stroke survivor, shares in her book My Stroke of Insight, we need to celebrate every single achievement, no matter how great or small. In her recovery, the simple task of picking up a pen was beyond her. So she broke down the task into many parts: can I find the pen on the table? Can my hand move to touch the pen? Can my hand pick up the pen? And each time she was able to achieve that individual step, she celebrated. And she had gratitude.

So let us share in our celebrations, whatever they may be, and cherish our children who are our teachers.


Disability Doesn't Discriminate

By Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer
June 4, 2021

People often share with me that Gateways’ annual Sweet Sounds event stands out among many other events because, when you look around the room, you will see representation from every part of our Jewish community. Disability doesn't discriminate, but rather cuts across any divide, whether political, religious, economic, racial, or sexual. However, we as Jews also understand well how disability can compound with other marginalized identities.

June is Pride Month, where members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate LGBTQ+ identity and protest against discrimination and violence. During these first few days of June, I found myself on the Keshet Boston website, reading their "Seven Jewish Values: Guidelines for inclusive Jewish community," which Keshet created to serve as a basis to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality in Jewish life. What I loved about these particular values is that they are truly universal, and can be read through an intersectional lens that applies to anyone.

"Kavod / respect," "B’tzelem Elohim / in God’s image," or (one of my favorites), "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh / all Israel is responsible for one another," are just some of the values we want to model for the next generation during Pride Month year-round. However, the value that resonated most with me in this current moment, especially as our society reopens more broadly in this stage of the pandemic, was number seven: "Al tifrosh min hatsibur / don’t separate yourself from the community." Keshet's "Seven Jewish Values" says, “When you feel different from others in your community, don’t isolate yourself. Find allies and supporters who you can talk to. If you know someone who is feeling isolated, reach out; be an ally and a friend.”

Indeed, we need our allies and friends now more than ever across every divide, because we are stronger together than apart. I remain forever grateful for YOUR continued support and friendship to Gateways and our global, proudly diverse Jewish community.

Category: Reflections & Perspectives

Tagged under: inclusion, jewish values, community