Mentee Name: Shimona Hirchberg
Industry: We’ll Get There / Education/Activism/Culture/Feminism/NonProfit/No One Knows Yet
Mentor: Miriam Margles
I was skeptical about the mentorship program when I first heard about it. I had difficulties deciding which title/position to search for, how was I supposed to get career mentorship? Luckily, I was in my “say yes to new things even if you doubt yourself” phase when I was invited to submit an application for this Genesis program. The personal invite from one of my favourite people helped, too. I went past my comfort zone literally when I drove to the interview (car mix cds made it a pleasure) and figuratively when I advocated for my non-mainstream tendencies in the application and interview process. Saying out loud what I wanted solidified my investment in myself to be me, happy, and making a living. The positive feedback and understanding I received at the interview in addition to my acceptance into the cohort gave me that special mix of being terrified, excited, and comforted in the knowledge that I made the right decision by applying. Each program I went to further deepened that feeling that *this* is life-changing: the orientation with my fellow cohort, my first meeting with my mentor, and the Jordan Banks Genesis event. Each provided me with such a boost and things to ponder as I make my way from student to expert. Observing Alana Kayfetz at work facilitating the orientation and using emojis in her powerpoint was a fantastic case study in professional presentations; I welcome every opportunity to take notes from her. The fireside conversation between Jordan Banks and David Kaufman emphasized living your values in any organization and giving yourself to your community (time, financial, etc); what are the values I want to live, how am I making others better?
My first mentoring session requires a bit more space than a two-liner. I’ll warn you that this is where my blog post gets very personal, like the majority of my creative writing pieces, so continue if you’re intrigued on the details of why and how my mentor, a Rabbi who happens to be female, is an amazing match for me. I was going to write “for an observant/modern orthodox-ish person who happens to be female and uninterested in a clergy career” but I have wanted to be a guidance counsellor (but didn’t want to get a second teachable and be a teacher before becoming a guidance counsellor) and I’m very interested in the guidance and mentor role, and who knows what will happen, so, let’s just get back on track.
For my application and interview I emphasized wanting the two streams in my resume to come together; my paid work tends to steer more towards my logistical and detail-oriented skills while my unpaid work tends to be more team and project-based. I emphasized my feminist and semi-activist roles, my need for flexible hours to participate in dance and exercise classes, and my unwillingness to work at a 9-5 full-time job. With that in mind, Alana matched me with Rabbi Miriam Margles. From the first five minutes of our meeting I knew Miriam was a great mentor for me (we’re on a first name basis). We wrote notes together, laughed together, pondered together, and I cried. We spoke about Jewish feminism and how I was missing the Jewish /observant aspect of my feminism; I cried recalling my experience in a Beer Sheva partnership minyan where I received an Aliyah for the first and only time. I learned about amazing and inspiring existing initiatives like The Orchard after sharing my fixation on being apart of a feminist communal house (everybody read the book “Dietland”). We spoke of my unwillingness to be a trailblazer despite my grandeur feminist plans and spinster qualities (everyone read the book “Spinster”). I shared my plans for a Toronto Jewish Feminist organization-like entity with conferences, webinars, telecourses, and events (everybody check out The Center for Jewish Feminism and JOFA). I talked about people who inspired me and were unknowingly my mentors; afterwards I let them know why they are my mentors and made 2 people cry. Miriam directed the conversation to focus in on what I wanted my life to be like and where I wanted to go.
With Miriam’s help, I noted what areas I wanted to work on to get to the life I dream of instead of settling with my self-doubt. She gave me homework that intrigued me - a pie chart of the parts of myself that are important to me (percentages of how much each is taking up and how much it is now) and a vision of what I’m doing in my work life (who I’m working with, what I’m doing, and make it bigger!). The trust in our rapport as we shared ourselves throughout our first meeting left me with that special mix of being terrified, excited, and comforted in the knowledge that this partnership is right. Couple the knowledge that this mentorship is lasting until fall 2016 (at least) with the fact that all this came out of one meeting, well... maybe one day I’ll be the one on the couch at a Genesis fireside conversation. May my phase of “say yes to new things even if you don’t think you can do it; you’ll learn” last a lifetime.