Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

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By David Bornstein
The Good Word 

Do something


For the past decade or so I’ve been having a similar conversation with a friend of mine. Whenever we go out to lunch, he tells me about the latest change in his business as he works to reinvent it with a vision geared toward future relevance and sustainability.

“We’ve redesigned the interiors of the restaurants so they appeal more to young families,” he tells me, “and we’re adding a full-service bar.” Or “we’ve gone completely paperless with all corporate records” or “we’re looking at how we communicate with our franchisees” or “we’re shifting our advertising dollars to take greater advantage of new media.”

Now this individual who shall remain nameless but who runs a large national barbecue chain, gets lots of kudos from me for a few reasons, and not the obvious “he’s not afraid of change.” He gets credit for understanding that a vision takes a long time to implement, and that it’s hard work.

As I put together the collection of columns that constitute my book “The Good Word: A Decade of Jewish Thought and Chutzpah,” I came to realize that, if there is an overriding theme to the compilation, it’s change, or more precisely, transformation. Personal transformation, as I’ve attempted to look at myself and question my most basic beliefs, my sense of who I am, who I want to be, and in doing so, asked you to do the same. On a broad political level, I’ve challenged groups as disparate as Muslim fundamentalists and Israeli politicians to question a peace process that has never worked and try something new. And on a local level, I have consistently, over many years, asked our community and our agencies to look at themselves and ask the most fundamental questions. Are we relevant? As times have changed, have we? Are we using best business practices, making decisions that take, not only who we are today, but who we want to be tomorrow into account, and reaching the right constituency in order to make that happen? I don’t think I’ve ever said a single one of our agencies does a bad job. But I have confronted every agency with a simple statement: Do something!

Do something different. Do something that lets me know you can change with the times. Do something that tells me you have a vision for the future. But please, do something.

The old definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to have vision, that it’s easy to change. It’s not. 

There are obvious reasons not to change. It’s hard. It takes a long time. You have to be able to critique yourself honestly. And it can be scary. When it comes to agency change, or corporate or political change, it can be like steering an iceberg. But it can be done, and the corollary, the downside is eventual extinction.

That’s why this column is called The Good Word, even when people think I’m simply pontificating and spouting negativity. I’m the spaghetti on the wall, the jester to the king, the storm in your brain. I’m what happens when you ask, “What if...?”

What if the Federation asked itself if there was a better way to raise money than old methods and messages, and then did it? What if the JCC asked itself what it wants to be to appeal to the next generation of Jewish families, and then worked toward that? What if the Jewish Academy asked itself whether it wanted to be a school for 150 or 250 or 350 children, and then put forth a plan to make it happen? 

What’s so wrong with asking those questions? What then? What if?

My ideas, when I put them in columns, are just that: ideas. The concrete, determining, course-altering decisions must be made by those affected by them—the agencies, the constituents. But they must be made. And so far, what I’ve seen around me, has been intransigence. More same old with, for some reason, an inherent fear of trying something bold. Something new. Something different. 

I applaud people and companies like my friend’s, who take on the challenge of fundamental change. And for the rest of us, individuals and organizations alike, I’m waiting, hoping, edge-of-my-seat praying to be impressed. Fingers crossed.

And that’s the good word.

Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@gmail.com.


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