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Podcast Transcript

The Human Before You

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:11  
Welcome to"Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we uncover what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, welcome to what might be a first for us on the podcast today.

Marsha Clark  0:27  
Well, I think you're right, Wendi. Today, we're very excited and honored to welcome Rabbi Heidi Coretz, who's here with us today as we recognize the Days of Remembrance, which will be observed from April 16th to the 23rd this year. So first off, before I offer our listeners a little background and context, I want to say thank you for being here, Heidi, and welcome.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  0:50  
Thank you so much for having me.

Marsha Clark  0:51  
Well we're really honored to have you here. And you know, you're the first is you're very first Rabbi on the show. So this is indeed a special day and especially in recognition of the Days of Remembrance.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:04  
So yeah, well, I think and Heidi has told us beforehand that we don't have to call her Rabbi Heidi, we can just call her Heidi, but that might slip out of my mouth. So if listeners, forgive me. Marsha, I know you wanted to open up with some context on why we reached out to Rabbi Heidi, Heidi, and invited her on the show this week. So you want to share that now?

Marsha Clark  1:26  
I do. And thank you for that prompt. You know, as I mentioned a moment ago, this episode is airing on April 12 which is the week before the Days of Remembrance commemorations that begin on the 16th. And the Days of Remembrance mark the annual acknowledgement of the Holocaust here in the US, and was officially established by our Congress. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC takes the lead on educating, organizing and promoting events and supported the Days of Remembrance. And we wanted to find our own way here on the podcast to acknowledge and support our Jewish friends and listeners this week. And Heidi came very highly recommended. And as it turns out, is a perfect fit for us.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:11  
Yes, I mean, we had some conversation before we started rolling the tape here, and Marsha and Heidi have some common people in common and all kinds of good stuff. So there's one thing I wanted to share here in the opening that I found on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website. And this is how they described that museum on their page. "Located among our national monuments to freedom on the National Mall, the museum provides a powerful lesson in the fragility of freedom, the myth of progress, and the need for vigilance in preserving democratic values. With unique power and authenticity the museum teaches millions of people each year about the dangers of unchecked hatred, and the need to prevent genocide. And we encourage them to act, cultivating a sense of moral responsibility amongst our citizens, so that they will respond to the monumental challenges that confront our world." Wow. I mean, that really will hit you between the eyes.

Marsha Clark  3:17  
Sure, it is very powerful. And it we love to repeat things around here when things are so hard hitting, you know, we say we listen first with the head and second with the heart. So, it I first visited the museum when I was doing a master's program at American University Prep in Washington, DC. And there were moments I just had to go into a corner. I mean, I just couldn't see the atrocities that were represented there. It hit me so hard. And you see this display of just shoes, right? I mean, just the shoes or the, the the suitcases that were taken and and that sort of thing. So this this, I have chills right now just even thinking about it and visualizing it. So I do think this is a perfect transition into our conversation today. Because the idea of teaching people about the dangers of unchecked hatred and supporting each other, and really holding one another, accountable ourselves as well as others and in how we treat each other and calling out those behaviors that really are intolerable and not just sitting by silently. It's a huge responsibility we have as leaders, as allies, and honestly just as decent human beings so heck of a way to start a podcast today. So are you ready?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  4:34  
I am ready and you're you're so absolutely right. It's such a rising time of of open hatred and rising anti semitism. And it does take good people everywhere to call it out and to stand against hatred anywhere.

Marsha Clark  4:47  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:48  
Yeah, well, Heidi, we usually share with our listeners how we're connected to Marsha and I realized today that this is a pretty loose connection. So do you mind sharing how you ended up here in Frisco all the way from SMU campus down in Dallas?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  5:03  
Absolutely, I'm happy to. So this is kind of an example of women supporting women, which I know is important to you and your listeners and and about connection and authentic friendships and relationships. So my path began to getting into this room a little over five years ago when a few women, two in particular, Denise Baison and Sabah Ileus, here in Frisco, connected with me and we decided to create a circle of support women's group. And we call the group Daughters of Faith. And it's an interfaith group composed of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. And we're very intentional about wanting to learn more about each other as women, about our faith, and build authentic friendships and connections around these diverse traditions and cultures. So we wanted to deeply understand each other and connect at levels that transcends traditional religious boundaries, and we meet in each other's homes. And we've been doing this for about over five years.

Marsha Clark  6:05  
I love that. I mean, the idea that we're going to listen to learn and not to judge, right, yeah, and this can be daughters of faith, or daughters of politics or daughters of education. I mean, it could be a model for many of us to truly listen. And as I said a moment ago with our heads as well as our hearts.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  6:26  
Yes. And we've been meeting before COVID, before the pandemic, and we met through the pandemic. And now we're back to meeting again in person for a while, and it's part of my path to being here today. Saba Ileus, is very involved in other organizations in Frisco, including the Frisco Inclusion Committee, she's quite a Shiro out there, and doing the good work of making everybody feel really valued in the city of Frisco. And her network happens to include Tracie, your content writer who reached out to me inclusion committee for a recommendation for a female rabbi, and she connected us and the rest is history.

Marsha Clark  7:07  
Networking, 101, ladies, and the power of relationships. I mean, I know, we talked about it many times that women learn through relationships, we learn through our stories. And so what a perfect, you know, way for that, to now lead you to be in this room with us. And, you know, I also love that the whole thing can be traced back to your Daughters of Faith group and the genesis of women, not just talking about supporting one another, but actively and authentically supporting one another.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:34  
Yeah, this is a big lesson in how if we would just look up and reach out and step out of our comfort zones and learn more about each other. You know, that's one of the things that we'd love to do today is learn more about your journey, Heidi, and your role as the rabbi. And then we also want to hear about the work you do at SMU as a part of their office of chaplain and religious life. There has to be so many interesting overlaps between your journey and your work, and then the messages where we focus here on the podcast.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  8:06  
Well, I hope so. So what would you like to know?

Marsha Clark  8:09  
I do want to point out to our listeners who are not local, hear that in the Dallas market, but SMU is the Southern Methodist University. And they have a rabbi as a part of their office of chaplain and religious life, which I think is awesome. So let's just start with how did you come to be a rabbi?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  8:27  
Okay, well, let me start a little further back to my family. So I was raised in a Jewish family in South Florida. I grew up in Boca Raton, and we were very secular. All my family all the way back was Jewish. But we were not particularly religious. We celebrated some of the holidays, but I didn't regularly attend a synagogue or anything. And I went to public high school, public school all the way through. And in my public school English class, somebody came to tell us about a program where we could go study in Israel and get high school credit and college credit. And, you know, she mentioned things like, you know, you get free weekends, and there's no drinking age in Israel and things like that. And I love travel. I loved you know, the idea of learning about different cultures that you haven't, you know, go study in China or anywhere. So I was interested, but I didn't think my parents would send me and so I brought the brochures home, and I kind of laid them on the kitchen table. And I was like, Oh, do you want to send me to Israel? You know, my parents. I forgot all about it. But they thought about it for a couple of days. And then they brought it back to me. They said, if you like to go study on this program, we will send you and so that was the beginning of connecting with my Jewish identity while there and and when I got to Israel, I was and the program wasn't only for Jewish people it was it was for people of any faith or no faith. But what I felt from being in this sacred place to the Jewish people is I felt this deep connection to my heritage to being pard of this unbroken chain of tradition that has come all the way down to me. And when I came home, I got connected to a local synagogue that one of my classmates went to, he brought me with him and I got introduced to this young rabbi. Then I, you know, went off to college, and when I would come home, I would show up at services Friday night, Saturday morning, and the rabbi would say, you know, are you here for this week? You know, why don't you make an appointment, come in, let's talk. And I would always take advantage of that, because I was really hungry for the connection to Jewish learning and to the community into the religion and all the aspects of the culture. And when I would meet with him, you know, you'd hear how things were going in college that I was really active in Jewish life on campus. And he started to say, you know, have you ever considered becoming a rabbi? Because you know, half of the students now in rabbinical school are women.

Marsha Clark  10:51  
Ah, very nice. Glad to hear that.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  10:53  
So I did consider it you know, I was I was really active in the organization that I now work for Hillel, which is like hill and then el Hillel at University of Florida. And I was there, you know, seven days a week at Hillel planning programs and, you know, celebrating Jewish holidays, learning but leading, and also at the same time, I became a Jewish Studies major. I thought I was gonna go to school for psychology, but then it ended up Jewish Studies. And really, in the middle of of that time, I figured out with this rabbi from other experiences from people I knew and experiences I had that, you know, that was what I thought was for me. And so then I applied to rabbinical school. We do our first year in Israel. And then we do four more years stateside, and the campus I chose to go to is the original campus since 1875 in Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College. So that's where I finished my studies.

Marsha Clark  11:53  
That is amazing. I mean, I love the 50% in rabbinical school are women. I love that part of it. And just to go back to the first part of your story about I brought the brochures home and laid them on the counter and said, What does that mean? So there's two things there. One women are often we have soft asks, right? When it might be a suggestion or, you know, an offer or whatever, but it's also about asking for what you want, and you know, good for your parents for hearing even that soft message and responding accordingly because it set your life on a whole different path.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  12:22  
It really did. It really did. It just made such a tremendous difference in my life to feel truly part of this people and and deeply connected to the to the faith and the culture and and the land of Israel.

Marsha Clark  12:35  
Just becoming, I literally see it as a connection, right. I mean, my feet are firmly planted and, you know, and it's part of who I am.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  12:44  
Exactly, my identity just felt full. I found my identity, you know, in many places along the way as well. But quite significantly, so there in that program.

Marsha Clark  12:59  
Nice. Very nice. So where did you go from there? What happened after that?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  13:02  
From there when I went to college, I said, I became really involved in Hillel, that's an organization where we're in our 100th year now. It started in 1923. So just after the first year, we started our 100 year celebration. We're on 850 campuses, and wherever Jewish students are in college, that's where we exist. And so I've been the Hillel director at SMU director since 2004.

Marsha Clark  13:32  
So for a long time.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  13:34  
So what what really influenced me when I was, you know, in college at University of Florida now I have the pleasure and the honor, you know, to get to do for other young students.

Marsha Clark  13:45  
Do you hear others with a similar story to yours?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  13:48  
Not necessarily very often, you know, not to the point of becoming rabbis. A lot of people that are rabbis and cantors, educators and Jewish leaders really did grow up in a more typical Jewish family wherein you know, religious school, were members of synagogue had a bar mitzvah bat mitzvah, went to Jewish summer camp, went on this trip to Israel. When they're 17 usually the summer between junior and senior years were common, you know, so that would be probably a more typical experience for people that end up in in Jewish leadership but I'm far from alone.

Marsha Clark  14:25  
Well, and I just think about the fact that you took a non traditional route for others who might be on that same route. How nice to know someone like you who can relate to their story.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  14:33  
Yeah, well, I think I think you know, whatever we whatever background we come from really does inform our ability to reach others and for me, that has been especially significant on campus in that my life was changed so much around this age, and and on campus as well. So it does give me the opportunity to relate especially well, I think to our students.

Marsha Clark  14:55  
Very nice. Very nice. So before we explore more about the transformational work do at SMU, I'd love to learn a little more about the role of women as rabbis in the Jewish faith. And you shared earlier that you came back from your study abroad in Israel that you felt deeply connected to your Jewish identity. And, you know, someone asked you if you thought you would want to be a rabbi, were there a lot of women rabbis at that time for you as role models? I'll admit I wasn't even sure women were allowed to be rabbis when I was younger.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  15:06  
Yeah, you know, that's a really good question. I get asked a lot of questions about women in the Rabbinate. So if we kind of go back to the time of the way back to the time of the Enlightenment, late 17th, early 18th century, this is when the type of Jewish person that I am begins to evolve, reformed Jews. Reformed Judaism begins as the Jewish people begin to acquire their rights as citizens in Europe, right. So in 1810, we have the first reformed synagogue, and it's in Germany. And it's really cutting edge because men and women are sitting together in mixed gender pews as families. And up until that time, in traditional synagogue, men sat in one place, and women sat in the other. And the early reformers, the founders of Reformed Judaism in Europe, were much more committed to equality than Judaism had traditionally been, and women in general, were starting to receive more rights in the non Jewish world as well. But what that looked like for the Jewish, you know, reformed synagogues were that bar mitzvah coming of age ceremony for boys was generally replaced, or at least additionally, there became a confirmation ceremony that was for both boys and girls. Okay, and so really, those are the beginning of the emergence of more gender equality. And then in 1935, there is the first female rabbi who was ordained. She's the first precursor to what becomes many women rabbis much later, though, and her death in Auschwitz marks a long pause between the time that the first woman, to women rabbis practicing in the United States and all over the world. And so really, that starts in the 1960s, with the first woman who's going through this, you know, graduate program, it's five years, I said, so in the late '60s, Sally Priesand and is in rabbinical school at the same seminary where I ended up going. There's one reformed seminary for the United States. We just have campuses in Jerusalem, LA, New York, and Cincinnati. So she was in Cincinnati, and she is ordained as the sole woman in the class in 1972. And in those early years, you know, there's one and then there's two, then there's four, then there's eight. By the time I started Seminary in 1990, it had for a while been half women. Okay, what was really exciting for us, we were the first class in 1990. There had been gay rabbis, you know, long before, but we came in under the policy, that there can no longer be any discrimination based on any LGBT identity. And so yeah, so that was really exciting for us in 1990.

Marsha Clark  18:18  
When I think about all of the Jewish friends that I have, the word equality goes hand in hand. And it's a part of why I love partnering with them, getting to know them, learning from them, and so on. So it's really encouraging to hear that there's such a strong commitment to diversity, even when you think about the gay as well as the women.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  18:36  
And, and I'll just stop you for a second. For Reformed Judaism, diversity is really, really important. And I'll add to that, all kinds of diversity, but especially being more aware of inclusion of Jews of color, okay. Okay. Some people think of Jews in America that we present white, and many of us do, but many of us don't. And if you go to Israel, you know, half or more of the Jewish people in Israel don't present as white and are, you know, from Sephardi communities from North Africa, from Africa, from the Middle East and all over the world.

Marsha Clark  19:13  
Okay, so I say this is educational, and I'm learning so thank you for that. It also sounds like there are subsets of the faithful who are sticking to the older, more male oriented traditions. Where does that fit?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  19:27  
It's a good question. If you had asked me it. When I was in rabbinical school, there had been more of a stark difference. But as Reformed Judaism now evolved to take the best of modernity, so did all the other movements, even up to till today, that modern Orthodox Jews and Orthodoxy is a big spectrum on its own between ultra to very modern, but modern Orthodox Jews today even ordain women rabbis. It's just the The beginning of it we're back to 1972 for us, right, where they're, they're just getting to be. Now it's in the 10s. And dozens of of them. But, but it's really been in the by thinking about the last 10 years. Conservative Judaism has ordained women I think since 1985. And it's again, you know, 5050 are very common to have both reform and conservative rabbis in Dallas.

Marsha Clark  20:26  
Gotcha, gotcha. Very normal.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:28  
So you've moved from leading a congregation in Lubbock. We haven't talked about that. So tell us about that.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  20:37  
Yeah. So when I was first ordained, in 1995, I became the assistant rabbi at a reformed synagogue in Tulsa. And I happened to have met my husband there. And and then we got married and left and went to Lubbock so I could lead my own small congregation. And from there, then we came to, we moved to Dallas, and we've been here since 2000. I've had the opportunity to be an interim rabbi at a reformed congregation, Arlington, I worked at a part time for a large conservative congregation in Dallas, and I'm actually living in Dallas, but going on the weekend, I was for 13 years at a congregation in East Texas in Longview. But since 2004, my full time work has been working on the campus at SMU.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:27  
Yeah. Which, again, as Marsha noted, is Southern Methodist University. And I just love that we've got that diversity going on there. And the group that you work with the university is called the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, which, according to their website says, "Seeks to create an inclusive community that celebrates intellectual curiosity about religion, spirituality, and nurtures ethical decision making, cultivates deep spiritual exploration and supports faithful living." So I'm sure our listeners are curious to know what drew you to make such a shift from like Lubbock to SMU. That's, that's a that's a shift.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  22:11  
Well, my husband, all through that time worked for American Airlines at the Sabre group. And that's what really brought us to the Dallas area. And once I was here, and I was a mom, I had children. And this position opened, it just seemed like a great fit for me. (Yeah. Wow. Awesome.)

Marsha Clark  22:30  
So you mentioned earlier when you were telling your faith journey story, and that's coming up again, in your job description. For our listeners who aren't familiar with it. Will you explain what Hillel actually is?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  22:43  
Yeah, so, Hillel is a Jewish student organization that's on all college campuses, where there is a Jewish community. At SMU we say that we serve a Jewish population on our campus of about 350 Jewish students who, you know, attend and live on our campus at SMU. And so we do everything from advocate for, you know, any needs they might have, such as food or days off for holidays, to we host bagel Mondays on Monday, you know, just for people to gather and have authentic conversations. I teach on Wednesday nights, not for credit through the University, but a fellowship group, that is called Jewish Learning Fellows and we explore different topics each semester. And we celebrate Shabbat dinners, Jewish holidays, you know, we have Passover friendly dining throughout the week of Passover, and all kinds of you know, social and educational and cultural programs that are just one off type program.

Marsha Clark  23:47  
It sounds like acknowledging and honoring the traditions of the of the religion itself.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  23:52  
We are and really, you know, when you're a minority on campus, just coming to be with your people, you know, supporting the authentic relationships and expressions of, of your faith tradition together. And so that's really important if you're a minority student on campus, and we offer that for our students as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:11  
Yeah. And so Heidi, I know in addition to your work on campus, there are other faith communities that are supported through the office of chaplain and religious life. Will you tell us a little bit more about some of those programs?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  24:25  
Yeah, well, we really aim to support all students on campus, whatever their faith tradition, or if they have none, and they might be searching. But in addition to having myself as a rabbi on staff, we also have an imam for the Muslim students and they have, they have their prayer room, they have their washroom, they have their on campus, you know, Friday worship service, they have Hillel dining app in both our main dining rooms for all their meals. So that's an example of how we try to really advocate for every student. We do so for Hindu students also have a large population on our campus, but right really even if you're the smallest group and you come to us, we would encourage you to, you know, to come into the office chaplain and, you know, tell us how we might be able to support you. Even really small group. (Very nice.)

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:10  
That's so impressive. I mean, and I'll Okay, I'm gonna admit to doing a little more snooping on the website about you personally, Heidi. So here's what it says about you. Rabbi Heidi Coretz is the assistant chaplain for Jewish Life and director of Hillel at SMU. Rabbi Coretz enjoys one on one meetings with students and getting to know them, whether they are seeking spiritual and personal guidance, or just enjoy chatting about life over a cup of coffee. In addition to working to build a robust Jewish community on campus, celebrating Shabbat and Jewish holidays together with our students and cultivating student leaders, Heidi has been active in the broader SMU community working on many interfaith endeavors and partnering with organizations across lines of difference. That's just so beautiful.

Marsha Clark  26:01  
It is. It's it's a very beautiful statement. And when I I mean, that's living your purpose, and mission and calling and all of those things. And you've been there almost 20 years now.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  26:10  
Yes, yes. It's been a great experience so far. Sounds good on paper, but in real life, it's been, you know, just a wonderful journey, just a wonderful way to spend one's life in meaningful relationship with the students, but also feeling like reaching out across campus and having important relationships, you know, all across lines of diversity and all over campus. It's been very enriching for me.

Marsha Clark  26:36  
So when I think about 20 years, and all that's happened during that time, there's been a lot. And so how has that job changed? You say you support around 350 students now. Has that been pretty steady over that time period and, you know, I think about with COVID, you were even talking about your Daughters of Faith group and how you, you know, stayed the test of time with virtual and so on and so forth. So have you had to, what have you seen? And how have you made changes to be able to respond to and support the students there?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  27:04  
Well, I think when I first started in 2004, we were a very small group, I had a handful of students, and I was able to connect with some really wonderful faculty and staff who helped me to start to build our program. And I think in the early days, like many synagogues and churches and other community groups, we thought of ourselves as much more program based. And all organizations like ours offer programs, and they offer authentic relationships, right. And I think now 20 years, 19 years in my in my case later, and going through COVID, but even before and COVID pushed it further, quicker, I think is that we're much more relational based. We still have programs, I mentioned some of the programs, but even the programs themselves, you know, Bagel Monday is not about offering free food on campus, though it's a side benefit and people like bagels and you know, but it's really about the coffees and the bagels and the Shabbat dinners where we get to know each other in a different, deeper way. It's about learning together in the Jewish learning fellowship. It's not just about what we're learning as the subject, but what we're learning about each other in the cohort and having those deep, meaningful relationships and conversations that, you know, really inspire each person. It's how we learn whether we're in college or post college. That's right. You know, it's those real deep relationships, I think, that are much more the center of this kind of work today. We call it engagement in the Hillel world. And engagement is really much more what we're about. Sometimes it's through programs, often it's through programs, that's fine programs are great. Yeah, offer off times, it's just through, you know, over a cup of coffee or, you know, across the table.

Marsha Clark  28:57  
Well, I agree conversations are wonderful and and stories, what are what are your stories, and I want to hear what your life experience has been. And I want to understand where that came from and who you are as a human being and the conversation that's in the stories. I certainly support and recognize that with with the work that we do with women. (Absolutely. Absolutely.) So what adjustments have you been making, you know, in reconnecting and re-energizing and all the things that you're trying to do in that community?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  29:30  
Well, I think like I said, just kind of thinking through and rethinking. Sunsetting programs are no longer important and reprioritizing our time and our resources to things that speak to students. There's just this ever rising again before COVID It was true as well, but I think COVID has really brought it out, this level of loneliness and disconnection from our students that we really want to address through students reaching out to fellow students through the different religious leaders, the chaplains on campus. We have many other religious leaders that are beyond the chaplains that lead other groups, including, we have our own Catholic priests. Catholic is the largest group at SMU. They serve a population of 1,500.  And we have regular mass, daily mass, and I think five masses on Sunday. So we have many other colleagues serving this population, but really, to just have those rich conversational experiences that will build these meaningful relationships and create rich memories, kind of deep rich relationships. And, you know, that's kind of what college is all about, right? So in college, there's kind of two different parts, right? We don't always think about this, and I learned this over the 20 years, but there's kind of the academic side of the university, and there's, you know, some kind of technical knowledge in a particular field of study or a degree or whatever, you know, certificates, one would need to accumulate along the way and, and through COVID, we've seen that a lot of that can be provided in different formats, even the through a zoom kind of online format, right? Well, the kind of the work I do is the counterbalance to the academic side. We're the student affairs side, and many things fall under us. But we're kind of responsible for the more existential outcomes of figuring out in college, who you are, discovering your authentic self, your purpose, your passion, meaning you want to bring to your life, exploring what is possible. And both of these outcomes are essential to the on campus experience. So on on the student affairs side, we have, you know, housing, dining, sports, health and wellness, all kinds of things of diversity, including the office of the chaplain, and then for the academic pursuit, those deep discussions that they have, you know, in the classroom and labs all across campus, and together, you know, we give the full experience of college life, the full college experience, and that kind of life changing experience that students want and parents want for their students. And, and I'm just that one little piece of it, the office of the chaplain.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:28  
Yeah, it's an important piece.

Marsha Clark  32:29  
Well, so important, and I, the phrase that keeps coming through my mind based on the leadership work that I do is perspective, right? So the experiences that you're encouraging and supporting, broaden and deepen my perspective, right. So whether it is beyond my religious or faith traditions, whether it is being exposed to people who may be different, and I may have heard all kinds of things about other faiths, and now I get to meet a real one, right? You know, I don't mean to, to sort of commoditize that. But it really, it's good to have a conversation with someone more than just reading about it in a newspaper article or hate speech, or whatever that might be. I find we're more the same than we are different and that broadening and deepening of perspective just really sticks with me.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  33:21  
Well, and it's really important part of the work that I specifically do in the office of the chaplain does so we're very much into authentically celebrating our rich cultural religious heritage, and, and not doing a show for other people. Let them come in and see us. So each fall we build a sukkah on campus for, some people would call it the Feast of Tabernacles. It's the holiday of Sukkot for the Jewish people. And so we build it, we offer lots of times when everybody can come and eat in the sukkah and I give an explanation of the holiday. So those are the kinds of things, or everybody's welcome to Shabbat dinner. Students, as they grow older and get into the workforce, you know, they're going to need, they're going to be part of a diverse workforce. They're going to need to know about other people. So all of the other faith traditions do the same thing on our campus. You know, the Hindu students, they do big celebrations, holiday celebrations that are meant for the whole campus. And for the Muslims, they'll do break the fast Iftar dinners in the month that they're fasting. So it's really about broadening one's perspective in a in a really natural way through knowing different people and, and going in and celebrating with them, celebrating holidays and, you know, eating together breaking bread, having their questions answered. And I think that what we give them that perspective that you said, is really something important for the rest of their life.

Marsha Clark  34:52  
I agree with that and helping them forge their own identity.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  34:56  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:57  
Yes, true. So I think what we've we could have been covering here is that even though the impact of the pandemic, although the academic work was able to continue, like through a virtual platform, which I think almost everyone agrees wasn't ideal, but yet it still got done. There was this other level of getting to know myself, getting to know my other students at you know, and what their cultures and perspectives are, that was missing during that time that you were you now fill. Yeah. Or were filling but...

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  35:33  
Yeah. It was a really tough time for all of us across the world, really not, not across the country, across the whole world. And people that do the kind of work I do, it was extremely challenging. But our students needed us then I would say more than ever, in many ways. It created this, you know, this deep hole that was up to us to kind of help to fill in, us and other heroic staff around campus. So slowly building, rebuilding, those connections that were lost are kind of never built in, you know, we're kind of seeing the outcomes now with these students, you know, either they were in high school when all this happened, or their year was interrupted on their first year on campus, and so forth. And we're still dealing with the after effects in leadership and participation, and in so many ways.

Marsha Clark  36:27  
Well, and yes, and I think, for many years to come, we'll be studying.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  36:31  

Marsha Clark  36:33  
We know that mental health issues are a big challenge right now. So you're making such an important point. As much as we've been eager to, quote unquote, go back to normal" or push through this post pandemic phase you know, there are many people who are dealing with the aftermath of the shutdowns, losing loved ones, missing out on a year or more of what might have been some significant milestones in their lives and, and that and you can't go back and graduate from high school again, or you can't go back to prom, or prom, or any of those kinds of things.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  37:04  
Yeah. And to some extent, it's the only experience they know. And so that feels unnatural and yet authentic as well to to honor that they've just had a very different experience than the students, you know, I met 10 years ago, and 15 years ago, and even five years ago, and I guess the lesson that we can take away from it is just recognize and honor the human before you. Everybody's had their own experience, whether it was traumatic, or it was just different, it's their experience, and they're the person before you. And just kind of honor that.

Marsha Clark  37:42  
And get curious about it. And, Heidi, I have to tell you, one of my favorite T shirts says on the big front of it says "Humankind. Be both." Be human and be kind, and, you know, being open to understanding what that experience was like for them rather than either feeling sorry for them because as you said, they don't know what they don't know, or what, you know, they they know, on the surface, what they missed, but, you know, being able to find those things that we often gain from those events in a different way, and they may be more self sufficient and self reliant than we give them credit for today.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  37:44  
And I think I think you're right, that we've all changed. You know, that need to, I'll speak only for myself, but I was out most nights, I was busy, I was doing things, I was, I don't really have a need to be as busy anymore. That time where we sat down and and couldn't go out or, you know, there was some risk to going out you know, that was that that time where we prioritized, we thought what was really important. And I think to some extent, that might have been a good effect, the the constant busyness, the need to program your life to program the campus, to you know, have every minute filled, I don't think we have that same pull anymore. And that's maybe not a bad, that's probably a good thing, I'll say not a bad thing. And probably I would see it maybe as a good thing, also to recognize that everybody was impacted so differently by the pandemic, right. So, some people were mildly impacted, I'll consider myself that, you know, I just thought in the middle of this, that I was in this sweet spot, I didn't have young children. And I wasn't caring for elderly parents, you know, I was just taking care of my, you know, like my needs and, and, and I didn't suffer losses in my family. I didn't I didn't get COVID, you know, so everybody has a really different perspective on that. Some people's experience throughout the pandemic was devastating, horrible, beyond stressful. And we don't we don't know, you know, also just the turmoil of the past couple of years, you know, just kind of coming to terms with the true understanding that black lives matter and we need to advocate for human treatment for all people everywhere, the rise in anti semitism across our country and needing allies to know to really to stand against this ancient and modern hatred that seems to be still rising all the time around us. All of those, you know, just honoring people's different, really radically different experiences over these last few years and truly just being present and caring for. And that's the job of the chaplain. We care for the community, caring for, knowing, honoring that human before you.

Marsha Clark  40:34  
Yeah, one of my co-facilitators in a women's program that I do is a trauma therapist, and she gave me a shifting question, if you will. You know, when we see somebody do something that we're really not understanding what is going on with that person, instead of asking either ourselves, much less them of what is wrong with you, it's the more compassionate place of what happened to you. Yeah, because something that happened to them is what's prompting any one of us each and every one of us to behave in the way we're behaving. And so my way of I've always said everybody's got a story and everybody's working on something, right. I mean, and so we don't know all those stories. So the idea of me shifting my thinking not to what's wrong with you but what happened to you, is going to allow me now to see them as a human being and and engage at that level.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  41:28  
That's a really great point. And I know when I was getting trained, you know, over 20 years ago in community organizing for social justice of a variety of kinds, that when groups get to know each other, if we're going to kind of go into battle together to advocate for new policies, or any kind of social justice work, I need to know what hurts you and you need to know what hurts me. And if we truly can try to hear it, and will never fully understand it, but try to understand it and try to bear witness to it and try to, at least at the very least know what hurts me even if it doesn't feel that way to you, but really acknowledged and know, then we're going to be better off together, stronger together.

Marsha Clark  42:07  
And I look at that as the difference between empathy and compassion because empathy is I can't walk in your shoes. I don't know what it's like to be for anti semitism, that it doesn't hit me the same way it hits you. And yet I can have great compassion for how that must impact you know, just thinking about that. I can't know but I can love and support you, knowing that it's what hurts you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:31  
And now this conversation is making me remember, Marsha, the parts of the Power of Self Program, talking about the power of just holding people's stuff without trying to fix them or change them. Like and because that's like the underlying threads, the back and forth of what you two have just been discussing.

Marsha Clark  42:53  
Well, it really is. And we've been saying, you know, this idea of let me just listen to you, let me hold your stuff, not try to fix it, not try to, you know, rationalize it or any of that. Just say, wow, you know that had to be hard, or I hear the pain in your voice or the hurt in your voice. And that goes such a long way in creating deep, authentic relationships that make a difference in this world. So are there any other themes or trends that you'd like to call out for our listeners today, just for us to be on notice, if you will?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  43:27  
You know, I think we've talked a little bit about it. At any stage in your life, whether you're a parent or you know, helping your children with that, what whether you're a parent and you're feeling isolated, whether you're your young adult in college, or you know, whatever your stage in life, from, from birth to elderly is just the importance of investing in these relationships. It's gonna give your life such rich meaning and reward. And I think people that value that value relationships and experiences above all else, certainly more than acquiring stuff. I think during during COVID everybody started saying "Why do I have all this stuff in my closet?" And you almost couldn't donate it anywhere because all the boxes were extra full. Maybe out of COVID we came to realize just the importance of caring for one another and just investing in what matters in relationships, experience, education, growth, you know, personal growth. I think those are the kinds of trends at least going forward of what I hope we get out of this time.

Marsha Clark  44:41  
Right. You know, one of my favorite authors is Margaret Wheatley, and she has a DVD called The Eight Perilous Questions and at the end, she said on her tombstone she wants written, "We were together. I forget the rest." Oh. Isn't that beautiful?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  44:58  
It is and I always just think like we've gone through really hard times, and not just COVID. Everybody's had their stuff in their life. I mean, like, we don't have to even say like, everybody's had their stuff. And if you haven't had your stuff, stuff come to me. But you know, the more you can get past all those hard times, a lot of what I personally do remember is the people that were there for me, and I remember so beautifully and with such gratitude that I would never wish the bad experience on anyone or, you know, I'm not glad I had the bad experience. But what comes out of it is something so positive, often, you know, that, that we find the people that show up for us, we learn the lessons that are so enriching to our lives and so forth.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:39  
Yeah. Well, Heidi, as we wrap up here today, final thoughts, words of wisdom?

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  45:45  
You know, I think, just invest in relationships that matter to you. And, you know, it's okay to let things go. Keep your friends close. You know, reach out. Don't wait always to be found. (Scarlet O'Hara). You know, don't wait to be found or to be called. Call your friends. But never stop growing, never stop growing in your authentic relationships. And, and just to be fully present for life, because we know that, you know, through this whole experience life, because sometimes it's shorter than you think it's gonna be. And even without regard to COVID, that's just so true. And just start doing what matters now. You know, find your passion. Find your faith. Find what you live for. Hug your kids, your family members. Just, you know, do the things that when you consider if COVID had taken me, you know, what was really important and live that life.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:42  
Yeah, absolutely. Heidi, thank you so much for joining us today. I mean, I can so see myself parked outside your office at SMU waiting for my cup of coffee and having a little chat. I mean, you are such an amazing gift to your students and your colleagues and you've been a fantastic gift to us today. So thank you.

Marsha Clark  47:02  
Well, and, Heidi, I certainly agree with what Wendi has said, and your takeaways are just you know, it's about people being with other people in authentic ways, so that we can support them and honor them, and sharing with them how I need to be supported as well. And especially if it's in ways that aren't so obvious or visible to others. And, you know, I don't want to make assumptions about what other people need. And I don't want others to make assumptions about what I need. But if we just talk to each other, and have that kind of trusting, loving relationship, those those kinds of conversations can happen. And I also want to say to our leaders as we come up on these days of remembrance, that that standing for what you believe in, you might not see yourself, I call myself a social justice warrior for for women and girls. And you might not see yourself in that same way. And yet, if your value is to value humans, then you've got to stand up for some of that and call out bad thoughts and bad behaviors. And so, you know, I have I actually have a quote that I want to use today to close the episode in honor of the days of remembrance, and after our discussion, it really does feel more relevant. And it's from a German pastor, Martin Memola. I hope I'm saying that right. And what he said is that he had originally been a Nazi sympathizer early in the war, but eventually recognize the atrocities and publicly condemned the Nazis and admitted to his own initial allegiance. And the quote I'm about to read is actually part of that permanent exhibit at the US, US Holocaust Museum in DC. And as you wind your way through the entire museum, you find this quote at the end. And according to the museum's website, they're the final words read by visitors and they serve as an indictment of passivity to the indifference that came about during the Holocaust, and they're a powerful reminder about the consequences of individual action and inaction more broadly. And here's the quote: "First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  49:32  
If I could add, I don't know how many of your listeners are local to the DFW Metroplex area. But on Sunday, this Sunday, April 16, at two o'clock at SMU in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, we're having a march of remembrance, and its people of all faiths coming together. We'll have Holocaust survivor, a repentant descendant of Nazis, I think a person who was considered a righteous Gentile descendant who hid Jews during the Holocaust, and it's for remembering for standing against anti semitism today and for reconciling. And we'll do a march throughout campus where we'll carry stones with the names of college age Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and carry them with us as we as we march remembering those three things of remembrance, reconciliation and standing against hatred today. So anyone who's local, you're certainly welcome to come out and attend. And if you want to find out more information, it's (March of Remembrance).

Marsha Clark  50:48  
That's wonderful.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:50  
Thank you for sharing that, Heidi. Thank you so much. And thank you, listeners, for joining us today on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at for links to her book, "Embracing Your Power" and be still getting ready for the next book.

Marsha Clark  51:14  
Well, let me just say this was wonderful today. And you know, I call this an educational podcast and I learned things today. So thank you for that, Heidi, and I do just want to offer to our listeners how important this work is to, to get to know people who are different from us, however we may think of them as different, and to get beyond all of that and really get to know each other as human beings. And that's the that's the part that for me is so powerful in all of this work. And so listeners, you know, if you have needs and want to learn more, let us know. We'll get you connected in the right places. And I hope that you will listen to this, share it with other people and think about it in terms of who is in your network circle or your circle of friends or and and even look around your workplace and see who is there and see them. You know the same, the human before you and that's a perfect way, perfect title for this because that is what it's about and what each of us needs and wants is to be seen, heard and valued. And this is right at the heart of that. So thank you very much.

Rabbi Heidi Coretz  52:23  
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this hour. Really appreciate it. I've learned a lot, too.

Marsha Clark  52:28  
Our pleasure. So as always, listeners, "Here's to women supporting women!"

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