A Personal Story from Amy Rabbi Irvin M. Wise, Senior Rabbi, Adath Israel Congregation, Cincinnati, Ohio
Suzanne Jacobson, Sr. VP of Development, Jewish Federation of Greater HoustonRabbi Marc Belgrad, BíChavana Congregation

Recently, we had our third wonderful visit at Adath Israel in Cincinnati by Danny Siegel as our Shabbaton scholar-in-residence.

And again he taught, inspired, challenged, made us laugh and reflect; all of us, including older members, younger members, parents, children in our religious school and students in our high school, community professionals and others joining us from our Jewish community.

Rabbi Irvin M. Wise, Senior Rabbi, Adath Israel Congregation, Cincinnati, Ohio

When the Jewish Federation brings Danny Siegel to our community we know he will inspire and motivate everyone who attends a session with him! Danny will engage every age group Ė teens, emerging young adults and veteran leadership. His stories not only enthrall you as you listen Ė you want to tell them to others yourself.

Danny is an amazing teacher, innovator and story teller who inspires everyone who hears him to dream and envision his or her own personal role in community life.

Suzanne Jacobson, Sr. VP of Development, Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

I encourage you to consider bringing Danny in as a guest speaker. I do so wholeheartedly. If you donít know him, he is an energetic, knowledgeable, engaging teacher who knows more about Tzedakah than anyone I know and gives practical insight and suggestions to enhance personal and congregational Tzedakah work. His impact on my congregation ó BíChavana ó has been profound. He met with us during our trip to Israel in June 2014. He inspired our members to launch a first Mitzvah Day. By Rosh Hashana our folks had fashioned a presentation to launch the process and by April 2015 had carried out a program that exceeded our immodest goals. Last June, he came to bring it full circle with some wonderful teaching and reinforcement for our success.

Rabbi Marc J. Belgrad, BíChavana Congregation, north and northwest suburbs of Chicago
Amy's Letter:

Dear Danny,

Regarding the Conference of Mitzvah Heroes...I cannot begin to tell you what a life changing experience that was for me. I am not just saying this! (You can even ask Rabbi [Neal] Gold -- he's heard this story ad nauseam!) In a nutshell, (Autobiography Alert! Make sure you're in a comfortable chair!), I am 100% Jewish, but, like many assimilated Jews in the 70's, my parents chose not to observe much.

My brother was Bar Mitzvah'd, but when I started Sunday School in First Grade, I decided I didn't like it. (Truthfully, the only thing I really remember about it was that my neighbor (with whom we carpooled) threw up in our back seat on the way home one Sunday. Aside from that, no memory.) I complained enough about it, and my parents said I didn't have to go. As I got older, I always felt like something was missing, and to be honest, felt like an outsider in synagogues (yet longed to be a part of one).

Meanwhile, in my "everyday" life, I have always (from a young age) felt a very deep and innate sense of connection with (and empathy for) others, and a strong desire to be helpful. Nothing feels better than helping another. Cut to: years later, when I became a parent myself. We joined Shir Tikva not long after Neal was hired, and our purpose was to simply get in, get the kids Bar Mitzvah'd, and get out. Not feeling like I belonged at the Temple (because of my own baggage), I always sent my husband (who grew up in a Conservative home) to the Hebrew School events, parent education programs and even just for pick up and drop off. Since he had been Bar Mitzvah'd, surely he belonged, I reasoned.

THEN CAME THE CONFERENCE OF MITZVAH HEROES! (I told you I'd get here!) When I read about it, I was immediately drawn to it. Here was a language I spoke (and loved)! From that first night when we recorded our "[Song] of Love" for a boy named Nicholas to Sunday's Second Wind Dreams presentation, (and everything in between) I was totally riveted.

This was the language of the heart, and it spoke to both my heart and soul. Tikkun Olam was the connection I needed to feel "a part of" my Jewish roots. I also appreciated the many organizations you introduced us to, and how you taught us that it is the little, EASY things that we/I could be doing RIGHT NOW that have the power to make a big impact.

What a concept! I had never thought of that before. Shortly after the Conference, I wrote to Rabbi Gold to both introduce myself, and to thank him for such a meaningful and profound program. I don't need to tell you what a mensch he is...of course he wrote back, and of course we sat down for a conversation, and of course the rest is history. :) Rabbi Gold has been my friend and my teacher ever since.

I am also delighted to share that I became an Adult Bat Mitzvah in May!

So that is the long and the long of it! Thank you for reading, if you've made it this far. :)