CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 1


‫אב תשע"ט‬/‫תמוז‬
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

July * August 2019 | Volume 66 - Issue 6

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬
Hara E. Person

Ron Segal
Frequently, it seems that the
personal goals or rabbinic
work we intend to accomplish
during a given day face
a series of interruptions.
Whether by unplanned events,
unanticipated conversations,
unexpected news, or even
unceasing internal chatter, interruptions in all of
their various forms often result in days that rarely
unfold as first envisioned. Time set aside for writing
or study can quickly be claimed by family members
who need assistance, fellow staff members with
questions, congregants and community members in
need of pastoral support, and other pressing matters
requiring urgent attention. Admittedly, interruptions
might engender frustration in the moment, especially
when thoughts of the work piling up on our desks
clamor for attention. In hindsight, though, we
surely recognize that, if we allow, interruptions are
important teachers.

Reading God's instruction that Moses take a census at the start of Bamidbar,
Isaac Arama notes that this counting highlights the importance of each
individual in the community. He stressed that the collective was not all that
mattered, but rather that the whole was made up of unique individuals,
each of whom counted. That is a beautiful, empowering reading of the text,
but a counter-interpretation presents an important challenge. In The Torah:
A Women's Commentary, Dr. Rachel Havrelock points out that this census
does not actually include every individual in the community, only the men
of fighting age, leaving a significant part of the community obscured and
unacknowledged. The juxtaposition of these two readings pushes us to consider the questions of
who matters, who decides, and what gets lost when not all are included.

In his address to graduating high school seniors at
Atlanta's Weber School this year, Dean of Students
Michael Bennett referred to interruptions as essential
life experiences. "Don't resent the interruptions to the
plan you had in mind," the dean shared. "Instead,
ask yourself, 'How am I growing? What can I learn?'
I would argue that life is actually what happens
in these moments, not in what we imagined or
expected. Don't live in the world of expectation.
Instead, surround yourself with people who will pull
you back to the land of the living, friends who care
enough to challenge your mantras and push you to
love and feel. Whatever books you read ... whatever
geniuses and mentors [and rabbis] you might follow,
the greatest teacher in life is experience."

The understanding of what a rabbi is has shifted dramatically from generations past and continues
to shift every day. The core competencies we are expected to have within our grasps constitute a
longer list than ever before. The opportunities for rabbinic service are more varied than could have
been imagined only a short time ago. And at the same time, we are also facing shrinking numbers
of affiliation, synagogue closures, and a diminishment of communal resources.

I suspect that Mr. Bennett, who also happens to be
Catholic, did not turn to rabbinic texts for inspiration
while crafting his remarks. Had he done so, he
would likely have first encountered numerous
sources that seem contrary to his message, texts
affirming the importance of immediately following
a blessing with the appropriate action-without
interruption-so as to avoid a b'rachah l'vatalah.
However, a more in-depth exploration could also
(Continued on page 3)

As I prepare to step into my new position as CCAR chief executive,
I understand that for all the CCAR members who feel seen and
acknowledged, there are others who feel that they are the uncounted
members of the community, those who are unrecognized and
underappreciated. There are many joys and great fulfillment to be found
in the multitude of ways that we rabbis serve the Jewish community.
And I'm also all too aware that many parts of this sacred work are
unspeakably difficult, sometimes in ways that bring real, profound pain
to our colleagues.

"The understanding
of what a rabbi
is has shifted
dramatically from
generations past
and continues to
shift every day. "

With this expanding perception of a rabbi comes many challenges. How do we support an everdiversifying rabbinate? How do we program for the ever-widening definition of a rabbi? How do we
meet the needs of rabbis serving in so many different ways? Where do we put our limited resources?
And how can we increase our resources to better serve the needs of our members? These questions
are deeply on my mind and are part of ongoing conversations with my senior staff partners Cindy
Enger, Betsy Torop, and Laurie Pinho, with our rabbinic staff members Dan Medwin and Sonja Pilz,
as well as with the entire staff. As we begin the work of moving forward with a new leadership team,
we will be using these questions to frame much of our thinking and planning.
I'm not going to promise you immediate solutions and responses. The work ahead of us is complex
and will require time and resources and thoughtfulness. I cannot promise to find answers to
everything. Some concerns may go without resolution for the foreseeable future. But I can assure
you that I will listen, take your concerns seriously, and look for creative solutions wherever possible.
As I embark on my stewardship of the CCAR, I will surely get some things wrong, but I will be
working hard to listen to you and to vision with you. Regarding that same verse in the opening of
B'midbar, Rashi notes that God orders the census because the people are dear to God, implying
that God receives some pleasure from counting and assessing the people. It is my hope that we
can be dear to each other, that we can listen to and acknowledge each other, and that we can find
pleasure in appreciating the individual gifts and rabbinic journeys that each member of the CCAR
brings to the totality of the Reform rabbinate.


CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019

CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 1
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 2
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 3
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 4
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 5
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 6
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - i1
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - i2
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 7
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 8
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 9
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 10
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 11
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2019 - 12