Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"New Year Coffee, Unanswered Questions" by Adena Kirstein (Assistant Director at George Washington University Hillel)

8/27/13-As the summer ends and the school year begins, I’m quietly watching the GW campus come to life without me.  June marked a momentous time in my life with the birth of my first child; although I miss not being part of the firsts of the school year, I’m home treasuring the closing weeks of maternity leave with my new daughter.

While this may mean my coffee dates with students are on hold, I still need my morning cup of joe – shared everyday with my beautiful 10 week old coffee date.  This daily ritual on the couch has obvious marked differences from my coffee routines on campus but they share a key thing in common – they are filled with questions.  

With students, I’m filled with inquiries, wanting to know who they are, where they come from, are they happy, what they seek from their Jewish lives.  With my daughter on my lap, the questions aren’t all that different: Who will she grow to be?  What does she want from her life?  How can I support her in her growth?  Of course, the key difference is that other than an occasional coo, my daughter doesn’t answer back.

On the cusp of a new Jewish year, which coincides with the back-to-school season, I think there’s a great deal to be said about questions without answers.  The start of any new school year is filled with unknowns, whether one is beginning a life in Washington or starting to end a chapter that began years ago.  

For me, the real challenge isn’t in the asking, but being comfortable with the silence that sometimes meets us in response.  I’ve always craved black and white answers, knowing that often we learn the most in the grey areas of our lives.

What questions are you asking yourself for this new year?  And where do your discomforts in lacking answers potentially hold space for growth?

May your Rosh Hashanah be a meaningful one (we hope you’ll share it with us!) and may the year to come be filled with joy & growth.


About the author: Adena Kirstein  
I'm Adena,  
When I sit around with friends and they talk about their lives on the Hill or in their law offices, I secretly think: “I have the best job in the world.” 
I spend my days on campus at George Washington University, working as the Assistant Director at GW Hillel.  On my resume, this job description might say something about supporting programming, creating innovative initiatives, and working to create vibrant Jewish Life at GW.  In reality, this means I get to hang out with college students all day, honored to hear about what’s going on in their heads during these crazy, emotional, exciting, vibrant 4 years of their lives. 
At Hillel, my goal is to give students the (Jewish) tools they need to find long-term (Jewish) meaning in their lives.  In pursuit of this, I drink a lot of coffee and I ask a lot of questions.  And I’m always thinking about how to do more of this with each hour in the day I’ve been given.  That’s where the Adena the Coffee Queen blog comes into the picture. 
I’m not crazy about the whole idea of blogging, thinking my words are any more or less important than anyone else’s.  But the other day, a few students got in my ear about using a blog to tell the story of Jewish Life at GW and to ask more questions, more often, considering the fact I’ll never be able to individually reach every GW Jew.
So…here goes nothing.  I’ll tell a few stories about what’s going on in the heads of GW students; but mostly, I hope I’ll ask some questions that you’ll start thinking about, prompting some coffee dates of your own.

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