Category Archives: Education

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: NONPROFITS & CREATIVE MATTERS


By Ryan Naghi
workingtogether Since I started working here at Creative Matters, I’ve heard many people tell me that despite our cutting-edge work, we are at an inherent disadvantage as a nonprofit ad agency. There’s a reason why no place like us exists—nonprofit and ad agency just don’t go together. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only are we surviving; we’re thriving. While bigger for profit companies like Fatburger and Wells Fargo are starting to put their brands in our hands, our work remains centered around other nonprofits. But why?

To understand this, I’ll put myself in the shoes of people who fund nonprofits, because they ultimately decide which missions to power. What do they want? They want to do as much good as efficiently as possible. And what does one nonprofit working with another such as ourselves do; more good per dollar spent. If a need is present, why not purchase it through another nonprofit’s earned income service? They will get the service they want, while allowing another organization to do what they specialize in, and the payments will go towards helping another cause. Working together gets better results, and makes both more worthy of support. As long as people know the extra good they are doing, funding will likely increase. But how you inform a support base is an art in itself, and smart non-profits hire outside support to maximize their impact.

That’s why Creative Matters makes the perfect fit. We are a nonprofit who provides marketing services to raise money for our mission. Since we are both the noteworthy partner and the marketers, our clients fully capitalize on the benefits of collaboration. Letting us manage their brand boosts their nonprofit’s credibility and appeal, because hiring us proves their commitment to bettering society. The beauty of this relationship is elegantly simple. They are more marketable by the very act of purchasing our marketing services, part of which goes towards promoting this new aspect of their brand to the public; it’s a perfect match!

And who exactly are they helping by hiring us? The same people designing the product, because our creative work not only funds our mission, it is our mission. Participating in the creative work itself helps people like me get the job skills, mentorship, and experience that make life exciting again, while making drugs now seem unappealing. Our innovative way of fighting addiction is proven to be 15 times more effective in maintaining sobriety than the dominant form of treatment. Our cause therefore, is one that spells out efficiency and societal impact as well as any, one that donors are more than happy to know they are supporting through our clients’ marketing needs.

Being a nonprofit gives us another advantage. It allows us to better understand their needs, goals, and values, giving the quality of our work a unique boost. For profit companies may still hold some advantages, but they can’t offer the symbiotic relationship that creates this kind of virtuous cycle we share with our clients.

So, here lies my answer to the people with doubts. We fill a tough niche, no doubt about that. It takes a lot for a place like this to exist. It takes persistence and outside support to start up, creativity and ingenuity to grow, and an intrinsic drive for meaning and purpose to manage. Above all else, it takes an understanding of the system at large and how we fit into it. That’s the reason we’re one of a kind. Since these things have all come together, our previous handicaps have transformed into competitive advantages that only we possess. The next step is to continue pointing this out to other nonprofits. It will take some great marketing on our part, but then again, great marketing is what we do.

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On “Bullet in the Brain” – A Story from Shavuot


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By Michael Fallon

It was three in the morning at Beit T’Shuvah on Shavuot when I started reading aloud the story “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff, eager to share it with those members of the audience hardy enough to stay up that long. There were several people dead asleep on the couches in front of me, but if Wolff’s sharp, funny and startling story didn’t wake them up, at least it would entertain and inspire those still alert.

“Bullet in the Brain” is the story of a man standing in line at the bank for the last minutes of his life. Anders is a book critic, and his cutting and supercilious remarks are interrupted by two bank robbers who take the customers hostage. Anders is so superior and oblivious to the danger he faces that he ends up repeatedly insulting one of the robbers, who shoots him in the head.

The rest of the story concerns the last memory to which Anders flashes back as the bullet travels through his brain. Wolff makes clear Anders was not always a joyless, judgmental curmudgeon, but started out with a love of words, of language, that curdled into a desperate infatuation with his own vitriol.

The story recalls what Anders doesn’t, reeling backwards through his life, like a time-lapse film in reverse: through the years of disappointment with his dull wife and indifferent daughter, his love and affection toward that same daughter when she was a child, the honest horror with which he reacts to a tragedy he witnesses shortly after her birth, the pang of jealously he feels at a colleague’s first published work, and finally his respect toward its worthiness, long before he came to “regard the heap of books on his desk with boredom and dread.”

Finally we come to the moment he does remember: on a baseball field, in the waning daylight, when he was captivated by what a boy from Mississippi said when asked what position he wanted to play: “‘Shortstop,’ the boy says. ‘Short’s the best position they is.’ …Anders is strangely roused, elated, by those final words, their pure unexpectedness and their music.”

Anders leaves this world basking in a memory of his youth, of a time when he stood in a baseball field smacking his “sweat-blackened glove and chant(ing), They is, they is, they is.”

I had timed the story out at 9 and ½ minutes, but by the time I finished reading it, I had left only a couple minutes of my allotted time, and so was unable, until this blog, to share my thoughts on this trenchant work, and some of the questions it raises.

Why is Anders so cavalier about the lethal threat he faces? Does Anders, on some level, want to end his life? Or maybe the scene is simply unreal to Anders, for whom everything has begun “to remind him of something else.” He reacts to the unfolding bank robbery as if it were in a movie, and even compares it to “The Killers” – a movie, and a short story by Ernest Hemingway. Only when he is eye to eye with one of the robbers, and can smell the man’s breath, does the situation grow real for him.

Is there an aspect to Anders to which we can relate? Do we never judge people instantaneously, according to preconceptions about their class, how they look, dress, sound, their accent, their tattoos, or lack of tattoos?

Do we take, if you will, everybody’s inventory? When I see a new client at BTS, do I think “Ah, another jerk-off?” Or do I see a human being, frightened, uncertain, defensive, hopeful, wounded…but nonetheless a child of God?

As we experience life, weather harsh experience, compromise and loss, must we become jaded and bored?
Where are we in that trajectory from innocence to fatigue, from awe to cynicism, from tolerance to indifference, disdain and intolerance?

A saying credited to the Talmudist Yisreol Salanter states that most people “worry about their own bellies, and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls, and other people’s bellies.”

Must we grow tired of life? Become childish: petulant, stubborn, entitled? Or can we remain child-like? Is there a way for us to see the world with new eyes every day, with a sense of wonder and possibility?

I think they is.

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BEIT T’SHUVAH TOP TEN EVENTS OF 2013


By Matthew Greenwald

2013 was one of the most eventful years in Beit T’Shuvah history, marked by tremendous growth, unity, and the strengthening of our overall mission. While the construction of our new temple and the Elaine Breslow Institute dominated the year, we also achieved several other milestones. Here’s a list of the top 10 moments of 2013:

Construction– The construction of our new building next door commenced. In conjunction with this, our main building was radically renovated. The bridge connecting the east and west ends of our facility was torn down in concurrence with the overall makeover and the new Synagogue next door. The bridge had a long and colorful history at Beit T’Shuvah, to say the least. Shirley’s Patio, long known as a place for residents to congregate, was completely gutted and renovated. Although there is no longer smoking in the area, it is still a place where people meet. The patio will also become home to the brick dedication project. The backyard/women’s patio area is in process of being completely transformed, and it will link up to the new grounds next door.construction

The Retreat – In the spring, our entire facility was tented for pests, and all residents and staff were sent to a week-long retreat at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. From all accounts, it was basically Beit T’Shuvah summer camp.

Harriet’s Book – “Sacred Housekeeping” was released to excellent reviews and healthy sales. This book contains Harriet’s own memoirs including the story of how she created Beit T’Shuvah and met Rabbi Mark. The reviews consistently read: Fascinating, engrossing, inspiringsacredhoouso

Rabbi/Father Boyle – In September, Rabbi Mark and Father Boyle of Homeboy Industries held a historic, joint ‘Dinner and Learning’ event at Beit T’Shuvah to an overflowing attendance.fatherg

White House – Harriet and Rabbi Mark were invited to attend the White House’s Annual Hanukkah Party.whitehouse

Birthright – A group of 30 Beit T’Shuvah residents embarked on a Birthright trip to Israel this past August. This was the first trip to be staffed, organized, and attended completely by members of the Beit T’Shuvah community.

The Institute – The Elaine Breslow Institute, will begin taking Beit T’Shuvah in a whole direction. With the formation of this program, Beit T’Shuvah will begin training medical professionals, therapists, and family members in the symptoms and treatment methods of addiction.

Dr. O’Connor – Dr. Garret O’Connor came aboard, marking the first medical professional to join us as a full-time employee. Dr. O’Connor is both Director of the Elaine Breslow Institute as well as Medical Advisor of Beit T’Shuvah.garret

The Organic Garden/Program – Beit T’Shuvah launched a new Organic Learning Garden project, spearheaded by two new interns, Alison Hennessey and Davis Watson. The project has done several great things: According to Rabbi Mark Borovitz, “This project takes us back to our roots of agrarian society. It gives us the opportunity to be part of our healthy eating and be a working part of creation.” In addition to this, the project has encompassed the community at large around our facility, dramatically improving our relationship with the neighborhood.gardening

Harriet’s Cohon Award – Late in 2013, Harriet Rossetto was awarded the Rabbi Samuel S. and A. Irma Cohon Memorial Foundation award for outstanding accomplishments that benefit Klal Yisroel: the entire Jewish people. We are having a ceremony/dinner celebration at Beit T’Shuvah on January 19th.

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Digital Drugs: Cyberhigh


By Stephanie Lager and Matthew Greenwald

There is a current trend permeating today’s youth culture. It is alarming to some, and ridiculous to others. It’s not quite a drug epidemic, but it might be the next addictive, mind altering component on the minds of curious teenagers. But you can’t get it from a drug dealer; it’s digital. In a nutshell, digital drugs are 10-30 minute tracks of sound, music and white noise, which claim to be designed to induce states of altered consciousness, mirroring those of drugs such as Psychedelics, Ambien, Marijuana and others. For a fee (usually $10-20, but “the first one’s free”) tracks are available on sites such as I-doser. Unsurprisingly, the whole “first one’s free” marketing ploy effectively mirrors how kids experiment with drugs in the first place, with the unable to turn down offer of “just try it—it’s free!”

shutterstock_118236262 We decided to give these “digital drugs” a try and see what all the buzz, or lack there of, is about. We didn’t listen to a complete track, and this type of “high” may only be effective if listened to in its entirety, but all in all, we didn’t quite get it.

In some circles, however, it’s being taken as a potentially serious problem. “Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places,” Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs spokesman Mark Woodward said according to Wired on-line. Oklahoma’s Mustang Public School district isn’t taking the threat lightly; they sent out a letter to parents warning them of the new craze. The educators have gone so far as to ban iPods at school, in hopes of preventing honor students from becoming cyber-drug fiends.

Whether digital drugs is a mere consequence of the placebo effect, or actually capable of concrete changes in the human body, is hard to prove or disprove. What is possible though is the extensive power of the mind in conjunction with the often-underestimated power that music can produce, at producing altered mental states.

Most people can attest to the insane power of music—feeling transported, riding on a roller-coaster of emotions, or inspiring a piece of art. But can music also produce harmful consequences? Is it akin to a drug, and if used dangerously, might it lead to disastrous results? Clearly, that is an overreaching claim, but it’s important to remember that these digital drugs might not fit into the traditional “music” categorization. Digital drugs are more of a compilation of sounds, with no harmony, rhythm, musical instruments, or vocals. What digital drugs seem most effective at doing is capturing a part of the sensation one might feel on drugs. For example, the LSD soundtrack featured a ringing in your ear sensation, which parallels one of the sensations one might experience on psychedelics.

In our opinion, you don’t have to fear any real results. Yet, there is something to be said about our digital obsessed social world. If you over use anything, it can morph into an addiction and take over your entire life, effectively making it just as destructive as a real substance addiction. So, proceed with caution. See for yourself. Do you think digital drugs will rise as the new substance addiction plaguing our youth?

 

 

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Judaism and The Arts


Jud:arts blog photoBTS Communications is excited to announce our new Judaism and The Arts Blog series. Posts in this series will cover various aspects of visual, musical and written art as it pertains to Judaism, and specifically, Beit T’Shuvah. Through historical and current examples, we hope to give a panoramic view of the arts in the Jewish community

The articles will feature historical and critical points of view from figures in the entertainment world, as well as staff and residents of Beit T’Shuvah who are working closely with the arts. With this series, we hope to encourage dialogue with our readers, provide engaging insight on the subject of Judaism and blues music, and help familiarize the reader with the personalities that are the driving forces in this area of recovery and art.

The series will be spearheaded by two BTS staff copywriters, Stephanie Lager, a graduate of UCLA’s English Department, and Matthew Greenwald, an L.A.-based musician and journalist. This is a multi-part, bi-monthly blog, and we look forward to sharing some unique insights and hearing what you, our readers, have to say.  See you in October…

 

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Questions From a Normie #5


By Chris Alvarez

What Do You Do in Those Meetings?

“Those” meetings also know as AA meetings or 12 step meetings are private. So for me to tell you what exactly what happens in them would be wrong. However I can give you an overview, and touch on the reasons why we do what we do.

Basically AA meetings are places where people who want to stop drinking or using can go to get help. They are also a great way for those who have stopped drinking to maintain their sobriety and serenity. In the meetings people  come in and share their experience strength and hope.  Cakes and chips are given to celebrate and acknowledge milestones in sobriety and show newcomers that it is possible to stay sober.

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A meeting is a place where you can speak your mind and ask for help. It is a therapeutic community of people whose only care is that you stay sober and live well.  Over the past 22 months I have experienced more love and support in these meetings than I ever thought was possible.

The knowledge and support that was so freely given to me must be given away if I wish to keep anything I have received.  All I have to say is that meetings are awesome and if you or anyone you know needs help just hit a meeting and there will be many people willing to help. Or just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.

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David in Krakow


By David Gole

Having just arrived back from my trip to Poland, I have several experiences I am still reflecting on. While Warsaw was a very exiting city, Krakow is a different story. When I picture Poland I envision a lot of old buildings and snow. Krakow fulfills that exact stereotype in a way that it glorifies the past. During World War II, Krakow was virtually untouched by the Nazis with only a few of the monuments being rebuilt. In retrospective, my experience in Krakow was both joyous and emotional.

David Walking PolandPart of my trip was to learn about Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, which runs a program to educate high school students about Jewish culture in their town. The first day in Krakow, we traveled to the near by town of Wadowice, which is the hometown of Pope John Paul II and home to almost 2,000 Jews before the war. There we visited the local high school and engaged in what the students were learning about Jewish culture. The students asked us questions about America and wanted to learn more about what it meant for us to be Jewish.

Living in Los Angeles where a large percentage of the people I know are Jewish, I don’t really think about what it means to me. In this small town where the Nazis exterminated almost every Jew, to be able to come to this town was both a unique and special experience. After a short tour of the monuments around the town, we left an everlasting impression on these students and went on our way back to Krakow.

Along with the happy experience of meeting these kids, I also experienced one of the most horrifying things to ever happen on this planet – Auschwitz. The day we went to Auschwitz, we were on the bus before the sun came up. It was around -14°C and I was still cold with my 3 Layers of Clothing. When we got off the bus, the haunted feeling of being in a place where millions of people were murdered consumed me. In the first camp of Auschwitz, called “Auschwitzy One,” the first thing you notice is the infamous sign that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” which means “work makes you free”. The barracks, which were intended to house 100 polish soldiers, were used to house 1,000 prisoners at a time.

BarracksAuschwitz one is also home to the only remaining gas chamber and crematorium. On the walls of the gas chamber you can see nail marks of the victims trying to claw their way out. Although Auschwitz one killed millions, it seemed like a cakewalk compared to Birkenau, or “Auschwitz Two.”

At Birkenau, the second camp of Auschwitz, everything is outdoors and the shelters consisted of thin planks of wood and tiny three level bunks, which they piled on as many people as they could on one bunk. The toilets were nothing but holes in stone benches and all of the prisoners were given a total of 5 minutes each day for everyone to use them. Only half of Birkenau still stands while the Nazis destroyed the rest of the camp during the Soviet invasion.

Gas ChamberThe most powerful experience I had was in the building called the Sauna. The Sauna is where everybody who worked in Birkenau got processed and where all of the paperwork was stored. At the last part of the sauna, my father, Cantor Joseph Gole, led us in the Kiddush to mourn the souls of the fallen and we followed with the singing of Hatikvah, the Israeli National anthem. By the end of the prayers, nearly everyone in our group was very emotional with tears in their eyes. In that moment, my father and I shared one of the most emotional experiences in my life as we walked out of the camp in an embrace both crying.

While the Holocaust was a tragedy in itself, there are two ways to view the aftermath. I can either see the Holocaust as the worst thing to ever happen to the Jewish people—an event that took several of my family members away. Or I can see it in a more positive light. Hitler’s goal was to kill off every Jew on the planet, a mission that was never complete. In that sense, we won. Today, Jews are now able to sing Jewish prayers in Auschwitz, which probably makes Hitler scream in his grave.

In a few weeks, I will be going on a birthright trip to Israel. With the knowledge I have acquired on my trip to Poland, I will have a better understanding and appreciation for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

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