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My Worst (Or Best?) Rosh Hashanah



Two years ago, I had the privilege of spending my first Rosh Hashanah in Israel. That first morning I woke up to my roommate getting dressed. It was only 7:30 a.m. but I remembered one of my mentors telling me that since Rosh Hashanah is Judgment Day, it is best to make it to shul on time. I pulled myself out of bed.

My friends and I were amongst the first women in the shul that morning in Ramat Bet Shemesh. The natural light poured into the tall windows and beamed onto the white walls. Everything looked so pure. All that could be heard were the whispers of people’s morning prayers.

I found the clock; we had about five hours of prayer ahead of us. An hour or so into the service, I began to squirm. I glanced at my friends. Their heads were buried into their siddurs (prayer books).

I flipped to the back of the siddur and saw that we had about two hundred pages to go! As time went on, it was becoming harder and harder to sit still and focus. I heard myself think, “I don’t want to be here.” Then louder, “I want to leave!”

I looked around, paranoid that someone heard me. Then I realized how silly I was. My friends might not have known what I was really thinking, but G-d did. I couldn’t hide from Him. And what’s worse, I was being judged today. Suddenly it felt like all of the growth I accomplished in the past year didn’t matter because today, deep down, I wanted to leave and go home and read in bed.

I tried to ignore these blasphemous thoughts and continue praying, but a battle raged in my heart. Finally, I decided to engage my feelings of resistance.  “O.K., Jenna,” I told myself, “You can leave. No one is stopping you. If you could call a cab right now and leave, what would you do?” I imagined the yellow cab waiting on the dusty road outside the shul. Then, as I imagined myself getting into the cab and driving away, a quiet voice within me said, “No!” What was that? I thought.  

There were two voices within me: the yetzer hara and the yetzer hatov.

In one corner of the ring: the yetzer hara. The yetzer hara is our “evil inclination,” the voice within us that is aligned with our basic, animalistic desires. The yetzer hara always speaks loudest and always speaks first.

Yet Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski points out that the essence of our yetzer hara is not its desire for physical pleasures, but its desire for freedom.[1] I felt constricted that day in shul, with a long script of prayers I had to recite.  Me, who had chosen to come to Israel that year to deepen my connection with G-d. Who knew that  the Sages had written these holy prayers with Divine inspiration, a secret formula so to speak, to connect with G-d on the deepest level. Yet I still felt that this day was being thrust on me. Today of all days, which was about crowning G-d as our King and part of me just wanted to break free.

In the other corner of the ring: the yetzer hatov. The yetzer hatov is our “good inclination,” the voice within us that is aligned with our spiritual aspirations. It is the voice that wants us to be our best selves, aligned with G-d’s will. It is the quieter voice. Deep down, when I gave myself the theoretical option, I could hear myself say that I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to be right there, in the last row of the crowded shul, praying to G-d from the bottom of my heart.

When the shofar blew, there was silence. I could hear my friend sobbing into her siddur. I was exhausted; I felt like Jacob wrestling with the angel. I turned inward and said the only words I could say with total honesty: I want to want good, I told G-d. Please send me the blessings I need to be my best self, to achieve my purpose. G-d: I want what You want for me this year. I repeated this over and over again. The cry of the shofar awoke the cry in my heart. I want to want good. Help me, please.

That year, I left shul feeling like a failure. Looking back, I realize that I was a spiritual champion. Just because I struggled to engage in the long day of prayer did not make me any less holy than my friends. If anything, my merit was in my struggle.  

Despite the voice within me that wanted to leave, I chose to act upon the voice that wanted to stay. As Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller says, we are an accumulation of the choices we make. By acting on the voice that wanted good, I was one step closer to becoming my best self. With each good choice we make, Rebbetzin Heller explains, choosing good becomes easier.

I bless us all that we should be empowered to make the right choices in our lives and we should be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a healthy, happy, and sweet new year!


Jenna (Marin) Maio, Esq. studied English/Creative Writing at Emory University and Law and Environmental Sustainability at the University of Pennsylvania. She recently launched her website,, which shares relatable lessons and stories of eternal Jewish wisdom. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram @modernjewishgirl.

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IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area



 World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment

Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.

IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.

“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”

The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.

With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.

“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”

Professionals interested in attending should RSVP here  and/or learn more and join the network here.


About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.

About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.

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Nothing Matters More Than This



We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy



On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at


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november, 2019

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