Making Connections with The Great Schmooze
By Ben Raab, Workers Circle High School Intern
I will never forget when I was told “you get from giving and learn from taking” during one of my Great Schmooze calls. The Great Schmooze is a Workers Circle program in which members of our community are given the opportunity to connect with one another through arranged one-on-one conversations. During these half an hour phone calls or “schmoozes,” participants are able to exchange family stories, childhood anecdotes, and life lessons.
Admittedly, when I first received an email notifying me about the program a few days before the start of my internship, I was a bit unsure of what to expect. As only a rising junior at the Bronx High School of Science in NYC, I had never heard of the Workers Circle nor interacted with members of their community. Additionally, I was skeptical about how I would be able to relate to the Workers Circle members I’d be calling.
Fast forward to 5 minutes before my first call. I was still feeling a bit anxious; because I knew almost nothing about him, I was not sure how to carry the conversation. However, my anxiety quickly dissipated. After just a few short minutes of schmoozing I realized that this was someone with years of life experience who I was interested in learning more about. As the call went on, I found myself wishing I had more than just the allotted 30 minutes. Furthermore, I realized that despite our age difference, we had a lot more to “schmooze” about than I had initially assumed. We were able to bond through our shared Jewish values and yiddishkayt, and shared the same passion for social justice.
I have now schmoozed with 5 different people, all with their own interesting stories and backgrounds to share. And now, the lesson “you get from giving and learn from taking” has rung true for me in so many different ways. Through giving just half an hour of my time to talk with someone else, I learned a lot from and about people in my community, who I likely never would have gotten the chance to meet otherwise. In a time where people are so socially disconnected from each other, participating in the Great Schmooze has been a powerful and enjoyable experience for me. Moreover, I think it has also led to my own self-improvement and discovery! My skills as a communicator have greatly improved, and I discovered the importance of storytelling as a way to relate to other people.