Tik Tok executive finds joy and purpose through Jewish wisdom
Michal Oshman is a former commander of the Israel Defense Forces. She holds a master’s degree in organizational sociology and psychodynamics. She has held managerial positions in large companies such as eBay, WPP, Facebook and currently, as Head of European Culture at Tik Tok. Despite these accomplishments, Oshman was for most of his life consumed with anxiety, riddled with fear. For example, by signing an authorization form for a child’s school trip, she could imagine a terrible bus accident.
Years of therapy have made matters worse. Each therapist insisted that she still had “unfinished business” with her parents and a painful past. “I knew there was a spark of joy hidden within me that I just couldn’t reach, but I believed it was there,” she writes in her new book, What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Discover a life filled with purpose and joy through the secrets of Jewish wisdom. The question in the title is taken from the book, Who moved my cheese? and has become a standard challenge for Facebook employees.
Oshman honestly came by his anxiety. His father was one of Israel’s leading pathologists, and even as a child Oshman understood the nature of his work. Sometimes she would come across horrible photos. As a teenager, she lived through Intifadas and terrorist attacks. Her grandparents on both sides were Holocaust survivors, and their obvious manifestations of trauma, including her grandmother’s cries of nightmares, affected her deeply.
Oshman had been raised to be academically and professionally successful, but had not learned the spiritual and emotional foundations of Judaism. That all changed nine years ago when she first heard Lady Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president of Facebook in North America, interviewed in the British press. “It was the first time I had heard a business leader talk about her own Jewish faith, how her four children were the most important thing to her and the centrality of keeping Shabbat in her life.” , Oshman told Aish.com. “It had a magical effect on me.”
At the time, Oshman was seeking relief from her emotional distress, and while searching online under the terms “depression, anxiety, Judaism,” she came across the teachings of Dr. Kate Loewenthal, a psychologist affiliated with Chabad. “I emailed him and asked if we could meet for coffee because I was in pain. She saw a hunger in me and told me to attend a ‘shiur ‘ (Torah lesson), a word I didn’t even know yet.
I realized that my wrestling was really something quite beautiful; it is a symptom of always wanting to grow, like the flame which is drawn upwards.
Oshman discovered these Jewish women and their nourishing messages at an almost desperate time. Becoming a mother had exacerbated her anxiety. She was even afraid to give her child chopped grapes or to let her go to a friend’s house. “I had so much to celebrate,” she says. “I had a wonderful marriage, children, a fulfilling career, but I didn’t find the meaning. I had so many negative thoughts.
As she began to absorb new Jewish ideas about life, struggle, and purpose, the clouds began to lift. She writes: “I hadn’t realized in all my years of therapy that I was looking for something spiritual. . . The discovery that I had a godly soul gave me a lot of hope. I also realized that I didn’t have to keep fighting my inner anxiety, because Judaism showed me that it was just part of the human condition. I realized that my wrestling was really something quite beautiful; it is a symptom of always wanting to grow, like the flame which is drawn upwards. I have not been a failure; I was just a beautiful flame.
Oshman’s gratitude for how Jewish wisdom helped transform her life motivated her to write this book. In each chapter, she introduces a concept and shows how she has integrated it into her personal and professional life. These include ideas such as replacing fear with a goal; find your own “narrow bridge” and learn to cross it; recover from a broken heart; create a psychological space for others; create a culture of leadership at home and at work; raising children with a conscience of the soul; learn how to volunteer and give family charitable habits, and discover who you are deep inside. Each chapter also ends with practical exercises and the reminder: “If you don’t change anything, nothing will change.”
Having discovered these ideas for the first time in my late thirties, it was a challenge to change what had been secular family life. “When we got married we were in a different place and we took it one step at a time,” she said. “I have always been clear that shalom bayit, maintaining a peaceful marriage and family life was above all else, ”she said. Living in London with their four children, Oshman finds Jewish involvement even more important than when they live in Israel. “In Israel, you don’t need to know when it’s Yom Kippur,” she observed. “Here it is more important to offer our children a Jewish identity. We have a lot of dialogue with our older children, while doing everything we can to continue to accommodate the activities that are important to them with Jewish observance.
She believes that today’s young adults crave spiritual messages: “They are values driven, and I find that inspiring.”
While working at Facebook, Oshman gave a presentation to several hundred people on the Jewish concept of Eishet Chayil, the “valuable woman” who is hired every Friday evening. She explained that Jewish women have always played a central role, not only at home but often in business. “She makes, creates, produces, sells,” Oshman said. “This song recognizes her contributions each week at a special time.”
Far from being dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned, Oshman called in many young women to tell him how much they appreciated the message: “A few of them told me that they hoped one day to have husbands who would sing their praises, too. ”After the conference, her supervisor began messaging her“ Shabbat Shalom ”every Friday afternoon. Based on her involvement with young adults at work and through social media, the young adults today crave spiritual messages. “They are value driven and I find that inspiring,” she said.
Oshman’s book was published during a time of crisis for Israel and for Jews around the world, given the recent battle between Israel and Hamas and the alarming surge in anti-Semitic violence. The author is both “shaken and more committed” to spreading Jewish wisdom in response to the crisis.
She observed, “When I wonder, what role can I play? I believe my mission is to shed more light and build more bridges through Jewish wisdom. It includes the beauty of finding the positive in everything. “
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