Judaism has a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, of passing down stories from one generation to the next. To carry on that tradition, Stories We Tell, from ReformJudaism.org, will share a new story with you every Thursday. Whether you listen while driving to work, preparing Shabbat dinner, or taking your kids to school, each episode will give you a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.
We all want to make the world a little better, but as it turns out, it’s not always easy. Join Aliza Greenberg, as she tells the tale of Abigail and Ella, two women who try, try and try again, to make the world perfect, in their own eyes.
- Listen to the full podcast below
- Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts
- Suscribe to the RSS feed
Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented from reformjudaism.org. Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, passing our stories down from one generation to the next, and here, each Thursday, we carry on that tradition with a new story for you.
This week you'll hear the story, "How to Fix the World," told by Aliza Greenberg, the executive assistant of the Audacious Hospitality team here at the URJ. And she's also the associate producer of Wholly Jewish, another podcast you should be listening to. You can hear it on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
One day, Ella and her wife, Abigail, were watching the news and saw a report about a bank theft that had left several families without their life savings. They were outraged. How could someone steal from these poor people? They decided it was up to them to fix things.
Ella knew they could make the world better. So she created a global campaign-- anyone who steals will automatically have all of their possessions taken from them without trial. This seemed like a great idea. And they even threw a parade in every country to celebrate this new law.
After one of the parades, Abigail was strolling down the main street when she decided to buy some grapes from the local fruit stand. She smelled the peaches, looked at the watermelons, tasted a grape-- however, she decided that strawberries were the perfect fruit for today. So she purchased them and started walking home with her delicious treat.
About 20 feet from the store, she heard, "Stop, thief." Abigail spun around, hoping to help find the culprit but instead found herself surrounded by people pointing fingers and yelling "thief" at her over and over again. It turned out that someone saw Abigail taste the grape, and as she didn't buy them, it was theft.
All of Abigail's possessions were taken immediately. Abigail and Ella realized that perhaps they should have started at a smaller scale and with something a little less harsh. Ella was always complaining about how poorly people dressed these days-- wrinkled shorts, jeans at work, sneakers at weddings-- and Abigail thought it would be a great idea for there to be a law in the country that we must all dress neatly-- no ripped knees on pants, no scuffed boots, and no stained shirts.
Surely, this would provide a feeling of pride and respect for everyone. Ella was thrilled. She decided to help with this campaign, and so she and her best friend decided to paint a banner for the capitol building of the country, declaring this new law.
Once the banner was finished, Ella and her friend brought the banner to the capitol. But they were immediately reprimanded. It seems Ella hadn't realized she had paint smudged on the bottom of her shoes, and her friend was yelled at because she was wearing earrings that were considered just too bold to be thought of as appropriate.
Ella and Abigail were determined, however. They thought, let's start smaller. Let's start with our state. We were both born and raised here, so surely we know enough about our state to enact some great laws. Ella knew that it always bothered Abigail when she was called just Abi, so Ella decided to surprise Abigail with a law that everyone must be called "mister" or "miss."
When Ella told Abigail about this wonderful new law, Abigail was heartbroken. Abigail explained that her best friend didn't identify as "mister" or "miss." Her best friend identified as "they," "them," and "theirs." Abigail was horrified at her friend being identified as anyone but themself.
Abigail and Ella decided to get fixing things one more try. They thought and thought and thought-- what would really make the world better? Finally, they had a foolproof plan. They declared a city wide ban on littering. If you littered, you would immediately have to pay a huge fine. This seemed like a perfect law.
But on the day the ban was initiated city wide, both Ella and Abigail were given a huge fine. They didn't understand-- they hadn't littered, so why were they being charged? Remember all those parades at the start of the story? Well, neither did Abigail and Ella. They had thrown the parade, but they hadn't thought about who might clean up all that confetti in every country in all of the world.
Abigail and Ella were devastated. "All we wanted was to fix the world," they said. "But we didn't understand that sometimes, there are exceptions. We tried to create a space where everyone dressed the same, but no one felt comfortable. We tried to demand respect, but not everyone felt represented. We tried to help the planet but didn't clean up our own mess. We tried to help, but we couldn't follow our own rules, and we didn't even ask the people what they wanted."
Abigail said, "Perhaps it's time we step back and begin to make changes within ourselves, rather than with everyone else." And Ella said, "Yes, and I bet that if we do, we can help our city and our state and country and our world." And in time, Ella and Abigail did decide to help again, but this time--
After hearing the story, "How to Fix the World," I'm wondering when the last time was that you made a change just for yourself but that really changed the world. If you want to share that with us, we'd love to hear about it on social media.
You can find us at facebook.com/ReformJudaism. And on Twitter, Our handle is @ReformJudaism. And thanks for listening to Stories We Tell. If you enjoyed this week's story, please subscribe and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
You can always find new episodes every Thursday on reformjudaism.org. And don't forget to visit reformjudaism.org to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals or culture or holidays and more.
Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.
And until next week -- l’hitraot!