On Saying ‘Yes’

By Joan Yenawine, CJP Staff

As someone with two kids, a full-time job, a three-hour round trip commute and a partly-written novel, I have become an expert at saying ‘no’ to people who want me to expend more energy, time or money.

Can you volunteer an entire Saturday to sell baked goods at your daughter’s skating rink where you already spend half of your disposable income?

No way.

Can you drive a carful of high school kids to swim team practice at 2:00 p.m. every weekday?


Can you make one change to your schedule without having to rearrange the lives of three other people?


So saying ‘yes’ is hard for me. It means reshuffling things. Sometime it means giving up novel-writing time. Mostly it means leaving my comfort zone.

But sometimes, saying ‘yes’ is worth it.

I first said ‘yes’ to CJP about nine years ago, when they offered me a writing job.  To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right decision. For one thing, I’m not Jewish. My family tree includes several nuns (that’s my Great Aunt Magdalen, a.k.a. Sister Marie David, in the photo), and even more people who just look like they ought to be nuns. So while I’m well versed on when to sit, stand and kneel in church (when in doubt, do all three, in that order), I didn’t know why the number 18 is important, or where Haifa was, or what to do with an oneg. But I took the job anyway.

In just the past few weeks I’ve been given such a wealth of learning opportunities by CJP that it made me think: what if I had said no?

If I’d said no, I wouldn’t have schlepped out on a Tuesday afternoon with the entire marketing team to see “Dough,” a movie at the Boston Jewish Film Festival (one of the many cultural events that CJP supports). And I wouldn’t know how to use “schlep” in a sentence. I wouldn’t have sat in that cozy theater, surrounded by good people--some from CJP, some from Hebrew SeniorLife, some from the Brookline neighborhood—as we all added some Jewish inspiration to our weekday schedules.

If I’d said no, I wouldn’t have gotten to attend “The Power of Storytelling to Achieve Your Mission” workshop--a part of CJP’s Jewish Learning and Engagement Professional Development Series. I wouldn’t have met the JF&CS professional who runs TeenSafe, a unique program (yup, your CJP gift is at work there, too) that helps kids recognize, avoid and get out of abusive dating relationships. And what wanna-be novelist (oh yeah, and marketing writer) doesn’t want to learn more about storytelling? It was a fascinating morning, more than worth the extra effort it took to get there.

And finally, if I’d said ‘no’ to CJP, I wouldn’t have been at our Staff Campaign meeting last week. This is our annual opportunity to invest in CJP by making our own gift, and each year almost 100% of us do just that. But this year was special, because this is the year that we all got to see Barry Shrage bust a move on the dance floor, lip syncing to The Spice Girls. That alone was totally worth it.

So, if you want my advice, the next time CJP asks, say ‘yes.’

Whether they are asking you out to an event, or offering you a fascinating new class, or giving you the chance to support all this good work by making a gift, say ‘yes.’

I guarantee you, it’ll be worth it.

CJP welcomes an open dialogue!  Please refer to our policy for more information.


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