CCAR Newsletter November - December 2017 - 1
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
November * December 2017 | Volume 65 - Issue 1
FROM THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Steven A. Fox
FROM THE PRESIDENT
I write this on the eleventh
of Tishrei, still digesting.
Digesting everything I ate
after N'ilah (my first sin of
the new year is generally
gluttony), digesting what
happened over the last
ten days and the months
preceding, and confronting my annual eleventh
of Tishrei dilemma: what to do with the piles of
notes and scribbles that didn't make the cut?
I take comfort in the surplus notes: if I have
material that ended up on the study floor,
that means I actually showed some editorial
discipline; and the piles serve as tangible
reminder of how much I have read and learned
over these weeks, regardless of what did or
didn't make it into shul.
I learned recently that writing instructors offer
polarized approaches to the dilemma of the
piles. Sara Manguso wrote in the New York
Times Book Review this summer that some
teachers say, "Throw everything away"; others
insist, "Save everything. When your archive gets
bought, they pay by the cubic foot."
I, like most of us, land somewhere in the middle.
I begin with the premise that I am reading and
scribbling notes to learn something, not just to
write something. That means that the notes that
don't make it in were an investment of time, not
a waste of it. In his homiletics class at HUCJIR, our Conference's former president Rabbi
Jerome Malino, alav hashalom, used to urge
us to develop "apperceptive mass"-he told
us to read as much as we could, because you
never know what will float to the surface of your
consciousness and come in handy someday.
Rabbi Malino's instruction fits nicely into my
bad habits: when (always) faced with a blank
Elul screen, I am a devoted practitioner of
procrastination by over-reading. Who knows?
A Meaningful Yet Difficult High Holy Day Season
These High Holy Days have been meaningful for Jews and others who join us
in worship and celebration in large part because of the tremendous amount of
learning, preparation, and work that rabbis are blessed to do at this time of year.
Everywhere I travel, your dedication and energy are admired and respected by
the lay leaders with whom I regularly speak. For me personally, the experience of
the Holy Days is even more enhanced by the liturgy of Mishkan HaNefesh, along
with its opening essays and commentary that offer a deeper understanding of the
spiritual and emotional work we are each challenged to do through the t'shuvah process. During the
midst of services, when a particular passage touches or moves me, I give thanks to the machzor team
for its work.
Yet, at the same time, this has been an extremely difficult High Holy Day
season. Many of our rabbis and their communities continue to experience
additional challenges and stress brought on by several hurricanes in the
Houston area, in Florida, in St. Thomas, and in Puerto Rico. Then, as we were
transitioning from Yom Kippur to Sukkot came the tragic killings in Las Vegas.
And, as of this writing, California is experiencing devastating fires.
When colleagues are impacted by forces like hurricanes, other natural
disasters, or tragedies, the power of rabbis reaching out to rabbis provides
nourishment for all of us. This kind of support is an important role that rabbis
can play one for one another, and an important role for the CCAR.
for all of us."
The CCAR is here for rabbis impacted by natural disasters, tragedies, or other life events in a myriad
of ways. For example, we have a system in place by which CCAR Board members and other volunteers
reach out to our colleagues, such as phone calls to those impacted by the recent hurricanes, along
with efforts of CCAR staff. The feedback we have received from both those who reached out to
colleagues and the colleagues who felt supported has been very meaningful and in some cases
In this particular hurricane season, some of our colleagues lost their homes, and some of them had
damage to their synagogues and community organizations. We know that each situation is different,
and we are in the process of both offering support with our current resources and assessing what we
can do to help each of our colleagues who have experienced this year's hurricanes and other losses.
Three examples are:
*Increased personal support services are available to members through the work of Betsy Torop, who
has been serving as our part-time manager of member support.
*Betsy has begun to ensure that more support systems are available for rabbis, including the addition
of Rex Perlmeter as the CCAR special advisor for member care and wellness.
*Our Hesed Emergency Fund is available to individual rabbis and their families who are experiencing
financial stress because of their losses.
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