Honoring Jewish Heritage Month

By Ken Wagner, Ph.D.

As I was reading the quote on the wall, I felt a sense of pride; it resonated deeply with me. I went to the museum café, grabbed a napkin, and copied the quote. Later, I typed it, printed it on fancy paper, put it in a frame, and it’s been on a shelf in my office for nearly 30 years. It’s a quote from Albert Einstein, posted on a wall in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  

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Dr. Einstein speaks to what Judaism means to him. My perspective has always been similar, although I certainly could not articulate it in the eloquent way he did. Dr. Einstein begins with the words,

“A desire for knowledge for its own sake, a love of justice that borders on fanaticism, and a striving for personal independence—these are the aspects of the Jewish people’s tradition that allow me to regard my belonging to it as a gift of great fortune.”

It’s the history, the overcoming of obstacles, and the sense of responsibility to help those who need a hand that creates the Jewish community. Fundamentally, Judaism is a religion striving for improvement and progress.

These themes run deep in my life. I gravitated to the study of the Science of Behavior. A science that is almost “fanatical” about disseminating a technology that is practical, actionable, and focused on helping people reach their full potential and improve the quality of their lives. B.F. Skinner, the famed Harvard Behavioral Psychologist, wrote, “the ideal of behaviorism is to eliminate coercion: to apply controls by changing the environment in such a way as to reinforce the kind of behavior that benefits everyone.”

Similarly, it’s with this perspective that we, at ALULA, approach our work; we assume positive intent, we look for opportunities to create fairness, and opportunities to build in successes. Conceptually, our mission is to help people grow their capabilities, so their organization grows its capacity.  

Dr. Einstein’s reference to “striving for personal independence” shows up in our partnerships with clients with slightly different descriptors. While our primary function is to help organizations achieve success on key performance indicators, it is our core belief that the sustainable mechanisms to get there lie in building “just cultures” through empowerment, personal ownership, universal engagement, and positive accountability. Our mission is to uplift people, helping them be the best that they want to be, and our purpose is “to inspire and accelerate the extraordinary growth of individuals and exceptional performance of business.”  

Dr. Einstein writes about “a love of justice” and this concept is embedded in our work as we are unwavering advocates for fairness, diversity, equality and inclusion, pay equity, safe work conditions, realistic goals, and objective communication.

His quote ends by saying:

“…so long as we remain devoted to truth, justice, and freedom…we will achieve through positive labor, works that contribute to the ennoblement of humanity.”

This sentiment is a recurring theme within the Jewish Community. For example, these words are illustrated in the remarkable life of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Dr. Elie Wiesel. Dr. Wiesel set his life’s mission to hold war criminals to account in a court of law and through all legal means, rather than personal retribution.

I am perpetually amazed that, despite the horrors of his childhood, Dr. Wiesel advocated for peace, optimism, and education; that he spent his life inspiring others rather than instilling fear and negativity. The devotion to truth, justice, and freedom called multitudes of prominent Jewish leaders to actively engage in civil rights battles. And, to ennoble others—to help those in need—is a fundamental tenet of Judaism.  

The connection of these lofty goals to the tactical work of ALULA is in our mission. We are committed to translate this sentiment—the devotion to positive labor and ennoblement of people—into organizational culture. I am proud that as I look, read, and watch the work of my colleagues, there are recurring themes of building positive relationships and motivating people to want to contribute. We choose continuous improvement over the status quo, we choose equality over separation, and we choose uplifting over coercion.

I still go back and read Dr. Einstein’s quote from time to time, and think about how it applies on a personal, business, and societal level. I recognize that the Science of Behavior can have a profound, positive impact on people’s lives, and we have the privilege to share it. It reminds me of what I strive for in my work; to ennoble people; to help them be the best they want to be.

Topics: Culture

Ken Wagner, Ph.D.

Written by Ken Wagner, Ph.D.