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Stay Focused

If focus is the fuel that will keep us moving in the right direction, then that’s what we need more than anything else right now.
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December 1, 2023
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Last week, a colleague told me that she had made some errors in her work and skipped over a couple of scheduled meetings. “I don’t know what’s going on,” she said, “but I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately. “ 

“I think I know,” I told her. “We’re all very preoccupied. There’s a lot of stuff going on. We’re worried and we’re scared. We’re carrying a heavy load that’s weighing on our heads and our hearts. As the war continues and the breaking news relentlessly crashes over us, we see a lot of people switching sides as quickly as they are switching channels. Some of them are our relatives and friends, and this distresses us. People have become confused and are wrestling with their loyalties and their ethics. Facts and history, even before Oct. 7, are less convincing to people than repeated images of wandering refugees and helpless children. In spite of everything we know and feel and care about, we are questioning ourselves. Making mistakes and forgetting meetings are simply the outside manifestations of what’s really bothering us. And what’s really bothering us is big.”

After our conversation, I continued to think about what we are experiencing individually and collectively, and how it is affecting us and why. How hard it is to concentrate. How easily we are distracted. How messy it all is. I thought about how challenging it is to stay focused when confronted with a multiplicity of jarring stimuli and competing causes. I thought about the tension we carry under the burdens of our feelings of powerlessness coupled with a sense of obligation that we don’t know how to fulfill. We are overwhelmed and unsure of ourselves and, without any clear solution or resolution in sight, our focus is often blurred, and the true object of our concern is lost or displaced.

I concluded that we need focus more than anything right now. Bob Iger, when asked about Disney’s recent economic downturn, confessed, “We lost some of our focus.” Athletes claim that focus is the #1 essential for their success on the field. In March 2022, “Master Hypnotist” Thomas Bresadola wrote in Rolling Stone, “Sustained focus allows you to think ahead and envision a clear path to the final goal.” 

When you type the word “Focus” into your Google browser, this is what comes up: “Your ability to focus on what matters most will determine your results and then your future. It is the fuel that will keep you moving in the right direction.”

If focus is the fuel that will keep us moving in the right direction, then that’s what we need more than anything else right now. We need that fuel. We need to keep moving in the right direction. We need to determine our future. We need to focus.

So, what to focus on? 

My short list includes the following:

1. Bring the hostages home;

2. Destroy the power of Hamas to repeat Oct.qasw” 7 as they Israel has have vowed to do;

3. Promote a government in Israel that restores sense and sensibility, and provides security for all of its citizens;

4. Stand up to antisemitism by using my voice, and supporting people, politicians and institu-tions committed to that purpose.

By focusing on these imperatives, I can establish priorities and sustain positivity of thought and action. By focusing on purpose, I will be more likely to maintain motivation. By focusing on the ultimate goal, I can proceed with clarity and direction.

Ideally, with time, there will be additions to this list. They are already in formation. But for now, these are the immediate and salient imperatives. I am going to focus on them. My focus will remain sharp if I zoom in on the real issues and blur out distracting details in the background. With a little luck – or a lot of it – I’ll soon be able to widen the lens and bring more elements into the frame.

The conversation with my colleague lasted for only a few minutes. Before we hung up, she thanked me for providing her with clarity, and we concluded with a virtual hug. It is I, however, who should have thanked her, for throughout the following week, I thought of little else but the imperative to stay focused.

Our Jewish tradition teaches us to focus. We practice it in prayer. We practice it in observance. We practice it in study. We practice it in memory and we practice it in planning ahead. 

Our Jewish tradition teaches us to focus. We practice it in prayer. We practice it in observance. We practice it in study. We practice it in memory and we practice it in planning ahead. 

For every one of us, the time to focus is now.
It is not about politics.
It is not about American Jews or Israelis or Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews.
It is about Jewish peoplehood.
We are Jews.
It is about us.
Stay focused.


Rochelle Ginsburg is an Educator and Group Facilitator.

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