CCAR Newsletter November/December 2018 - 1







Founded In


‫טבת תשע״ה‬/‫כסלו‬/‫חשון‬
‫טבת‬/‫חשון כסלו‬

Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis


November * December 2018 | Volume 66 - Issue 2

Betsy Torop

David Stern
I write this in the days
following the testimonies
of Dr. Christine Blasey
Ford and Brett Kavanaugh
before the Senate Judiciary
Committee. By the time
this newsletter arrives, the
fate of Mr. Kavanaugh's
nomination will have likely been decided. But
regardless of the specific outcome, this has been
a week of searing pain for the conscience of
our nation, as yet another woman's testimony
of the sexual violence she has suffered could be
dismissed as suspect, irrelevant, or somehow
acceptable given the circumstances in which it
took place.
In a small hearing room on Capitol Hill,
Dr. Ford delivered shocking specifics with
deep emotion and great control, while Mr.
Kavanaugh responded to her charges with fiery
and evasive bluster. Based on the testimony
before the committee (and while, at this writing,
the additional FBI background check is still
underway), none of us can claim certainty
about what happened that night in the summer
of 1982.
But especially for those of us for whom the 1991
Anita Hill testimony was a watershed, the hearings
on Capitol Hill this week made clear both
how much has changed since an all-male and
all-white Senate panel interrogated an African
American woman and how much has remained
the same. Regardless of Mr. Kavanaugh's guilt
or innocence, the culture wars that have become
inflamed this week have once again confronted
us with the stubbornness of deeply embedded
cultural norms of white male privilege and
gender bias and the profound gap between
male and female perceptions of a whole array of
interactions, from the workplace to the bedroom.

In the past month alone, I have talked to an amazing array of rabbis. I have
learned from a rabbi serving as a chaplain in a major hospital and a rabbi who
works in a nursing home. I've heard about the unique continuing education
needs of our rabbi-educators. I've had conversations with rabbis experiencing
their first Holy Days after retirement, rabbis who have been retired for decades,
and a rabbi who is under-employed. I'm working with rabbis in congregations of
all sizes, in urban and rural settings, and in established organizations. Through
phone conversations and email I've connected with parents of children with
special needs, bereaved rabbis, rabbis celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah or wedding in their family. I've
heard stories of rabbis who have spent decades in one place, rabbis who work outside of the Jewish
community, and rabbis whose careers have been a journey from the congregation to Hillel to an
organization. The list could go on-and this wasn't a particularly unique or unusual month.
The Talmud (B'rachot 17a) teaches: "I who learn Torah am God's creature, and my friend who
engages in other labor is God's creature. My work is in the city, and my friend's work is in the field.
I rise early for work, and my friend rises early for work. . . . One who brings a substantial sacrifice and
one who brings a meager sacrifice have equal merit as long as each person's heart is directed toward
heaven." The Talmud speaks to the variations of life paths and actions-and to their similarities. There
is a diversity of workplace settings and similarities that cut across that diversity. And at the
end of the day, what really matters-the unifying element-is that all of our hearts are directed
toward heaven.
While the ancient rabbis surely did not envision the Reform rabbinate of today, their words could be
broadly describing our CCAR chevrei. The settings in which we serve the Jewish people are more
varied and diverse than many of us even imagine. That diversity results not only in a different work
environment, but in different personal lives. The rhythm of the year, the weekly celebration of
Shabbat, the establishment of friendships, the type of pressures can be very different from one
setting to the next.
This CCAR is actively striving to respond to these varied needs. Continuing Rabbinic Education
courses include addressing the experience of the rabbi sitting in the congregation, discussing issues
facing retired rabbis, and sharing our unique and varied rabbinic journeys. The convention program
is being intentionally and thoughtfully created to help rabbis in all settings learn and grow. We have
heard ideas about how to create connections and develop learning programs for rabbis in different
settings. We have learned that the rabbis outside of the congregational rabbinate feel an added
measure of isolation. The Member Services Support Task Force, created to guide our response to
issues of loneliness and isolation, includes organizational and congregational rabbis, a therapist,
chaplain, and social worker. We are carefully planning for the creation of confidential groups around
shared issues that transcend rabbinic setting. We are listening and learning.
The rabbinate of today is changing in many ways. At the same time, we are bound together by our
work as Reform Jewish leaders and by the sacred calling that we have chosen. The rabbis of the
Talmud were right. While our paths may be unique, we are all serving the Jewish people and our
hearts are all directed toward heaven. And that makes us one.

(continued on page 3)


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter November/December 2018