The Jewish Heritage That Shapes My Values and My Work at BrainPOP
“Sacrifice.” This is the first word I remember from my childhood when my family taught me what it means to be Jewish. In Judaism, sacrifice does not have the traditional meaning of giving up or losing something. Instead, it is rooted in devotion to others—welcoming, including, and treating them with empathy.
I joined the BrainPOP People Team to focus on talent acquisition, specifically recruiting and welcoming talented people from all backgrounds. I feel a personal responsibility to create a culture that is affirming for all. Our work values resonate with me because they are inherently the Jewish values on which I was raised. Three of these values are particularly close to my heart.
Lead with Empathy
Empathy is at the core of everything we do at BrainPOP. It is directly related to the concept of “tikkun olam,” which is pivotal in Judaism. The Hebrew phrase literally translates to “world repair.” Tikkun olam is a call to action to be the positive change that you want to see in the world for the sake of future generations.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Mister Rogers famously said, “No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be tikkun olam—repairers of creation. Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy, and light, and hope, and faith, and pardon, and love to your neighbor and to yourself.”
When I reflect on the role of education, and BrainPOP’s mission to empower kids to shape the world around them and within them, I think about tikkun olam. Our work feels especially important during times of confusion, loss, and pain. Adults often lean on our resources to make space for difficult conversations, and to help kids make sense of big ideas.
Learn and Improve Together
In my eyes, this work value relates to active listening, which is an integral part of tikkun olam. How can we make the world a better place if we don’t listen to the ideas and needs of others? Applying this value every day has empowered me to lead with integrity and an open mind and heart in all of my interactions with colleagues.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is considered the holiest day of the year for the Jewish community. It emphasizes the practices of self-awareness, reconciliation, and rebuilding. Self-awareness is an exercise in curiosity. It’s about learning and improving as individuals, and being better today than we were yesterday. This, in turn, enables us to build stronger relationships with others.
Use the Power of Today
For me, this work value is about being present. I am able to do that through expressing gratitude, which is a core value in Judaism. It might be expressed through prayer or by acknowledging people for the ways in which they impact our lives. For me, prayer is a form of mindful meditation. It enables me to be fully present and centered in my role, so when I am faced with an opportunity or challenge, I can confidently say, “Yes, I can do this!”
We have a company Slack channel where employees post messages of gratitude to colleagues on a daily basis. Gratitude can be a powerful connector and motivator, making us feel seen and inspiring us to keep doing our best work.
Jewish traditions date back many generations and thousands of years. So much wisdom and knowledge comes from all the challenges and trying times that my people have gone through. My culture gives me the perspective and ability to bounce back stronger from adversity.
Living these work values, which are also an integral part of my Jewish American-Israeli identity, allows me to show up at work each day as my whole self.
Talya Horowitz is talent acquisition manager at BrainPOP.