Sophisticated Living Indianapolis

NOV-DEC 2016

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There are three other Jeff Cohens in Indianapolis, though I'm most often mistaken for the one who's in investments. It doesn't help that his wife is also named Jennifer, just like mine. And does he really need to go to the same gym and belong to the same synagogue I do? Quick story about "that other Jeff:" About 12 years ago, my Jen was pregnant, and Jeff and I were walking out of the gym, laughing about how often we're confused with the other one. When I mentioned we were going to have a baby, the father of two looked at me, only half-joking, and said, "Do me a favor. If you guys have a girl, don't name her Kendall. And if you have a boy, don't name him Johnny." He was trying to prevent the mix-ups from becoming multigenerational. Point taken. So you can understand my confusion when I was asked about 3½ years ago to serve on the board of the Bureau of Jewish Education. My response was, "I think you've got the wrong Jeff Cohen." After I agreed to serve, then-board President Mark Roger gave me a gift, a book, "I'm Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers." While there are likely even more Fred Rogerses than Jeff Cohens in the world, this Fred Rogers is one you've probably heard of: TV's Mister Rogers, he of the famous Neighborhood with the cat and the trolley and all that jazz. e book instantly became one of my favorites. "I'm Proud of You" was written by a newspaper reporter, Tim Madigan, who was assigned to profile Mister Rogers. What began as an interview blossomed into a deep friendship. For eight years, until Rogers' death in 2003, the two exchanged letters and emails. And Fred always signed off the same, "I'm proud of you." As I read, I felt immediate connections. I've always told my children how proud I am of them. And I'd guess a number of you may have done that or do it now with yours. I'd also guess that a number of us didn't get approval at home for doing good things. Maybe our parents grew up in tough times, and they didn't get complimented. But Mister Rogers provided that, in between changing his shoes, wearing his famous sweater and singing his song. It really did seem that it would always be a beautiful day in his neighborhood. In the book, this Presbyterian minister was gentle, his love unconditional, just like he appeared on TV, the embodiment of goodness and grace. His lessons are powerful for all of us, from kids to adults. And now, I'm trying to pass those lessons on to a new group of youngsters. I recently began teaching religious school at our temple. Again, I was moved when asked to join the staff — and genuinely excited. I'd get to interact directly with kids this time. An unexpected joy was Jared Schaffer, a veteran at teaching sixth grade who treats me as an equal (though we know that's not true). He's showed me the ropes and been a mentor. Helping me each week in class is a very able assistant teacher, "Miss Deb" Wagner, who makes me look like I know what I'm doing. Both have guided me in learning more than I imagined. I'm about three months into my new gig and have 19 of the brightest sixth-graders you've ever met — kids who are very perceptive and can tell when you're paying attention. I spend time talking with them about what I see, specifically improvements and their bulldog nature of simply refusing to give up when things seem difficult. It's my sincere hope this gives them encouragement and affirms their good choices. As Mister Rogers might say to my whole room: "I'm proud of you." Anyone know where I can get a vintage red cardigan? Jeffrey Cohen jeff@slmag.net From the Editor-in-Chief Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ©2016 e Fred Rogers Company. Used with permission. 30 slmag.net

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