Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
As you may know, I like sports. I don’t want to brag but I was quite the athlete during my summers at the URJ Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi [pause for laughter]. Just so you know, camp friends: I still play a mean game of ping pong.
I also enjoy watching sports and cheering on the athletes. My absolute favorite is watching professional tennis, but I do enjoy all sports – the athleticism, the competition, a game well played. But from the Superbowl to the Winter Olympics to March Madness to the summer of baseball on the horizon… I began to wonder: why do we love to watch these games so much, and why do the people playing them devote such energy to them?
Why do these elite athletes compete so hard every four years for those little gold, silver, and bronze medallions? Why is the Lombardi trophy given each year for the team that wins the Superbowl? And when it comes to my favorite sport of all, what’s with the extra-large trophies for the winners of the major tennis championships – so large that the winner oftentimes has to book an extra seat on the plane just for the trophy?
Is the trophy the end game? Is it all about winning?
Clearly, it’s not just sports where awards are given a lot of weight. What about the actors, musicians, writers, directors, cinematographers and others who receive an Oscar, a Grammy, or a Tony? (And much more so than with most sports where the points system is clear… truly, when it comes to a performance or production, it’s so subjective! How do you choose the best? By the way, to all of you actors, authors, and directors reading this, please don’t misunderstand. You deserve a medal too. But what’s the points system?!)
Whether it’s sports or the arts or any other job that gives out awards, I believe it’s not necessarily “winning,” although for some that’s very important. It’s not about the trophy or medal, though some truly do covet those at all. But for most people, I believe it is, above all, about recognition.
We all want to be recognized for a job well done. Celebrated for our achievements. Sometimes there are clear ways of doing just that. It’s easy to give a Salesperson of the Month award to someone who makes the most sales. That’s easy to track. For some professions, though – even more so than for actors! – it’s hard to determine what a “job well done” looks like, and recognition can be hard to come by.
For example… what about those of us who work in the Jewish community?
I would argue that our achievements are just as notable as any others in the world. Certainly I believe that the work we do changes lives, preserves a vital heritage, does all sorts of wonderful things for the world… but it’s hard to measure, which sometimes makes it hard to recognize.
I think everyone who works hard in their chosen profession should have the opportunity to win an award or to be recognized for a job well done. It’s not necessarily that one’s performance is better than another’s – all of us in this meeting have done something as part of our day to day work of which we are extraordinarily proud.
So today, I invite you to celebrate. MAZEL TOV, YOU JUST GOT A VIRTUAL MEDAL! What did you do deserve that medal? For there is no doubt in my mind that you 100% deserve a medal.
If you would like to share what you won that medal for – please raise your hand and share with the group (er, leave it in the comments on this post). Congratulations… and thank you!