Oct 20 2010

Off the board

Today was my last day on the board. While a bit relieved I also feel a bit sad about it. Board?? What board you ask. Diving board? Ironing board?

About 5 years ago I started getting involved in a number of Swedish organizations. And by that I mean organizations where I was probably the only Native English Speaker in the group. My kid was growing up, a staff job had begun to replace the freelance life (which, anyone who ever had a freelance life knows, makes it hard to plan anything in advance), my family didn’t need me as much as before, I had finally begun to feel confident in speaking Swedish and I had completely stopped blow drying my hair. I felt like I had some extra time on my hands.

The first organization I joined was a group called Progressiv Judendom i Sverige (PJS). It was a non-profit association formed to bring Reform Judaism to the Jewish Community of Stockholm. As a long time member of Stockholm’s Jewish community, I had spent many years complaining about the very conservative, almost Orthodox and extremely lifeless and meaningless type of services conducted in the Great Synagogue here. When I heard that a group was forming with the intent to start holding a more liberal and different type of service, I realized that I had to put my money where my mouth was and join. When I saw that the contact person had the same telephone exchange as I did I realized that she must live right near me and it was just fated for me to be a member. I’ve been on the board ever since. I do the website. But I’m a very bad webmaster – always late updating. But we have very pleasant monthly board meetings across the park from my place in Eva-Britt’s apartment, where we eat home made soup and chat before starting our meetings.

The next group I joined was sort of an offshoot of the first. It is the infokommittén of the Jewish Community. I got volunteered for it by a fellow PJS board member but don’t regret joining. Its a loosely organized group of people working in the advertising and media branch and the main thing we have in common is that we are Jewish. We gather at the Jewish Center every 5 or 6 weeks to discuss how to keep the Jewish community here alive. In other words how to increase the number of paying members. There is a wide range of Jewishness in the group, from Orthodox to secular to cultural, with an interesting mix of personal stories and like with most European Jews a wide range of different national experiences. Everyone is very professional and whatever differences we have regarding how we practice our own brand of Jewishness never seems to get in the way. Its interesting and I get to hear about all the inside workings of the community.

Finally, the last group I joined is the one that I no longer am a member of. For almost 2 and a half years now Ive been on the board of the Thorildsplan gymnasiums föräldraförening. I guess you could call it the PTA of my son’s high school. Once again, I was on the board of a brand new organization. The woman who has been the chair and guiding force is named Ann. And it just accidentally turned out that she was the mother of one of Bevin’s three best friends in his class. Once again fate steps in. That we have our sons in common was just another reason to join. I have always been very involved in my son’s schooling, ever since I enrolled him in a parent cooperative daycare. In lower school (1-3 grades) I probably went on every day trip as a class parent that his class took. In middle school I was a class parent every year and helped plan his sixth grade class trip to Åland. I also went along as a class parent on that trip too. And in 9th grade, his final year of grammar school, I once again helped to organize their final 2 day trip, going along as class parent one more time and I ended the year as a chaperon at his school prom.

But by the time a kid reaches gymnasium (high school) it seems that most Swedish parents are no longer interested in their kid’s schooling. Very few gymnasiums have PTAs. But Ann was determined to start one at Torildsplan gymnasium. And I joined her in her quest. Together with a few other board members we would meet about 8 times during the school year in the school’s teacher’s lounge to drink our coffee and discuss how to get parents in the almost 1000 student school interested in being a member. At Open House we gave out flyers, telling them about our organization. It was an uphill battle. Parents just didn’t seem interested. Tonight was the General Annual meeting for the new school term. 5 or 6 new parents came to the meeting. Which was good, since this past spring my son graduated from Torildsplan and is now in college. Some of the new parents were willing to join the new board. Ann, whose son graduated alongside mine this spring, was still willing to take on the responsibility of being the Chair. I, however, felt my time on the board was over. I feel that its time to move on to something new. But even as I left the cafeteria and walked along the corridors headed for the door while the new board members held their first meeting, I felt sad. It was an ending and I think endings are always sad. When my son graduated this spring, it was also an ending. But up ahead, just around the corner, he had a whole new school life waiting for him to begin, in college.

I’m still on the board of PJS, I still will be going to meetings of the infokommité, but my time on the föräldraförening has ended. I wonder what is waiting for me – what is it that is just around the corner.

Jul 25 2010


You can pick your nose.
And you can pick your friends.
But you can’t pick your friends’ nose.
That rhyme has rattled around in my head ever since I was a little kid. I don’t know why. So much other stuff doesn’t seem to be able to stay in there but that little ditty does. I always thought it was funny for some reason. The idea of picking one’s friends. It’s not the same with family. You can’t pick your family. They become attached to you the moment you are born. And they follow you for the rest of their lives. When I was much, much younger I used to wish that we could also pick family. One goes through a certain period of one’s life when FAMILY is either embarrassing, annoying or just plain irritating. It isn’t until you move far away from them that you realize just how important FAMILY really is.
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