CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 1


‫אייר תש"פ‬-‫ניסן‬-‫אדר‬
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
March * April 2020 | Volume 67 - Issue 4

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬
From The Chief Executive

From the President
A treasured picture hanging
within clear view of my desk
contains a collection of texts*
providing sage advice about
leadership. What makes this
particular piece uniquely special
is that the textual passages
were submitted by CCAR past
presidents in support of a tremendous gift solicited
and presented to me by my Temple Sinai colleagues.
Artistically set against a backdrop of our sanctuary's
ark, the quotes and lessons from both traditional and
contemporary sources not only offer wisdom
for the day ahead, they also serve as a reminder
of the incredible colleagues and rabbis who have led
our Conference.
Two of our past presidents shared counsel from Pirkei
Avot (4:1): "‫הלומד מכל אדם‬, ‫-איזהו חכם‬Who is
wise? The one who learns from every person." Though
personal sagacity remains aspirational, I am grateful
for the charge to remember that each interaction is
significant and an opportunity for personal growth.
Indeed, encounters with innumerable colleagues
throughout this past year have been rich with
wisdom and advice and also provided a much greater
appreciation of the breadth, diversity, opportunities,
and challenges of our rabbinates. Listening and
learning from countless among you is a privilege.
Several colleagues thoughtfully wrote and shared
feedback in response to my previous column
concerning use of the title "Rabbi." Closing the
loop on this matter: After careful consideration,
the responsa Committee, chaired by our colleague
Joan Friedman, determined an existing Responsum
(5759.3: "Who Is a Rabbi?") sufficiently addresses the
matter. Written by our teacher Mark Washofsky, the
t'shuvah neatly lays out reasons why the CCAR has
the right to determine the criteria for who is a rabbi
[in our context] and also indicates what those criteria
are. I should note that the t'shuvah's content mirrors
much of what was shared by those who wrote in.
Another CCAR past president chose to share
Solomon's request of God prior to his reign,
"‫-ונתת לעבדך לב שמע‬Give your servant an
understanding heart" (I Kings 3:9) as advice for

The writing of this column finds me halfway through my first year as CCAR chief
executive. I've learned a great deal, and I know I have much learning ahead of me. I am
grateful to everyone who has taken the time to speak to me and share their thoughts
about the CCAR. And even as I continue to learn, I am proud that we have begun the
work that will lead us into the next era of the CCAR.
In the midst of a great deal of travel to regional events and communities, I have just
returned from the CCAR Art and Culture Study Trip to Israel. This trip was particularly
special, because it was emblematic of the CCAR at its best.
Our annual Israel study trips are an important aspect of the continuing education program of the CCAR.
It is essential for us as Reform rabbis to stay connected with Israel, with the Israeli Reform Movement, and
with our Israeli Reform colleagues. Some CCAR rabbis are able to return to Israel on a regular basis and to
keep up-to-date and linked to what is happening in Israel. But we also know that many of you are not able do
this and long for opportunities to get back to Israel. These highly subsidized trips, created in partnership with
ARZAWorld/Da'at, make it possible for colleagues to visit Israel and to reengage with its complexity
and uniqueness.
This trip offered serious in-depth study, with such scholars as Rachel Korazim and Michael Marmur. We had
in-depth experiences with artists, musicians, dancers, writers, filmmakers, and gallery owners, in Tel Aviv, Um
El Fakhem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. And we traveled with a scholar of our own, Carole Balin, who added
immensely to the rich, ongoing conversation and the way that we processed this look at an Israel that we don't
normally get to see and wouldn't easily be able to access on our own.
One of the aspects that made this trip particularly special was the diversity of the group. We had rabbis not
that long out of HUC-JIR, rabbis in the middle of their careers, and retired rabbis. Among the group were
rabbis of large congregations, rabbis of small congregations, two chaplains, a rabbi-educator, two interim
rabbis, a rabbi/executive director, and more. In other words, there were rabbis from all kinds of rabbinates; the
diversity in ages and types of rabbinates enriched the experience immeasurably. It was truly a beautiful thing to
see rabbis of different generations and experiences getting to know each other and create connections.
We also had several opportunities to meet and interact with our MARAM colleagues. It is so important to
build these bridges between us, and these CCAR trips are a way to begin conversations that we hope will
continue and grow. On Friday night we divided into two groups and went to two different local synagogues
for services and then dinner in homes. That is always one of my personal highlights, to experience Shabbat
in an Israeli Reform congregation, and this particular Shabbat didn't disappoint. The service was joyous and
And with all that, the trip wasn't only about art and culture or about our Israeli colleagues and their
congregations. We happened to be in Israel during the week that the new peace plan was proposed.
We quickly pivoted and were able to arrange for two meetings, one with policy analyst Dan Feferman and
one with former ambassador Dan Shapiro. Both speakers provided fascinating analysis and helped us gain a
more nuanced understanding of the situation.
It was at the very close of the trip that I really saw the best of the CCAR in action. One of our trip participants
had to be admitted to the hospital (everything is now fine!). Once the rest of the group learned what had
happened, the outpouring of prayers and support and offers of help were amazing to see, even as people made
their ways to the airport or on to other destinations.
Colleagues of different ages and experiences coming together to study, to struggle together over challenging

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CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020

CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 1
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 2
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 3
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 4
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 5
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 6
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 7
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 8
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 9
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2020 - 10