CCAR Newsletter March/April 2019 - 1




Founded In


‫ אדר‬2014 | Volume 62 - Issue 2
* December






MARCH * APRIL 2019 | Volume 66 - Issue 3

David Stern

Betsy Torop

The honors of being a
rabbi are innumerable, and
most of them don't entail
publicity or plaques. Most
of them involve the kavod
of being present: in the
anxious hospital room or at
the quiet graveside, under
the chuppah before you turn your microphone
on, with a soldier the night before deployment,
alongside the bat mitzvah kid practicing from
the Torah in her basketball uniform on a Tuesday
afternoon or the senior leaning on his walker at
the oneg on a Friday night.

"If two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Divine Presence
rests between them" (Pirkei Avot 3:3). These familiar and oft-quoted words tell
us a great deal about the possibilities that can unfold from ongoing learning.
A year ago, at our convention in Orange County, the CCAR overwhelmingly
agreed to require annual Continuing Rabbinic Education (CRE), as is standard
in most other professions. Leading up to this decision, there was an intensive,
year-long dialogue with rabbis across the country, led by David Lyon and the
professional development committee. There will soon be an FAQ available to
summarize the details of this exciting new development.

While the role of CCAR president calls for plenty
of public moments, the essence of this great
honor has for me involved more sitting at tables
then standing at lecterns: studying text or singing
in prayer with colleagues, hearing stories that
have enriched and complicated my understanding
of this calling of ours, engaging in movement
partnerships with our peer institutions and their
outstanding leaders, learning in every moment
from rabbis who work in prisons or hold hands in
those hospital rooms or know that the listening in
private that precedes the speaking in public is at
the heart of it all.

CRE is a commitment to growth, a recognition that our core
identity and all of our varied rabbinic responsibilities are grounded
in learning. It reinforces the integrity of our rabbinate to our
communities and helps us meet our own highest aspirations.
The words of Pirkei Avot also open the door to additional insight
into our commitment to CRE.

The phrase "words
of Torah" reminds
us that dialogue,
the sharing of
words, can be
integral to in-depth

"If two sit together" teaches us that learning provides the
opportunity for relationship. You have told us, in focus groups and
conversations, that there is a profound need for connection with
colleagues. Every learning opportunity that we create is centered
around this essential need. Webinars allow us to see and talk to
each other and enter break-out groups to learn together. In-person
seminars and travel provide an opportunity for intensive dialogue
and study around a shared interest or concern. Convention
workshops and study sessions allow us to learn from new colleagues, question together and make
connections that last beyond Convention. And while the rich list of archived webinars can be viewed
alone, there are colleagues who partner to watch and then connect to discuss.

Levinas, in describing the quality of rabbinic
hermeneutic practice, writes that it emerges from
people "with ears and eyes on the look-out,
attentive to the whole from which the excerpt is
taken, open as well to life: the city, the street,
other human beings." That has been the bar I
have set for myself as CCAR president, and one
that I have only occasionally reached. But I have
learned volumes from the text of the rabbinate we

The phrase "words of Torah" reminds us that dialogue, the sharing of words, can be integral to
in-depth learning. Many of us study alone in our weekly preparation for Torah study and adult
education. This is often rewarding, but we have learned from you that it is not sufficient. Continuing
Rabbinic Education can be about listening, questioning, and reflecting in partnership on the broad
array of topics that inform our rabbinates. Every issue-even the seemingly mundane-is grounded
in history, text, and values. This is the Torah that we learn together.

I have heard stories about struggles for livelihood
and adequate health insurance, about the
profound desire for chevruta and the busyness that keeps us from developing collegial
relationships with colleagues less than five miles

All of this is why the commitment to Continuing Rabbinic Education is much more than a formal
requirement. It is a welcome into a rabbinate that is strengthened and enriched by our shared
commitment to study, by the building of the relationships that are essential to our intellectual and
emotional well-being. I look forward to your feedback as we continue to learn from each other.

"The Divine Presence rests between [us]" draws these ideas together. Relationship and dialogue
centered on learning can bring the Divine Presence not to each of us alone, but between us.
Learning with colleagues provides the spiritual nourishment that you have told us is all too hard to
find in a demanding rabbinic life, a spiritual nourishment that emerges from being together.

(Continued on page 5)


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter March/April 2019