CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 5

Navigating in a Time of Change
CCAR CONNECT 2020

Isolation Need Not Mean Loneliness: President Ron Segal's CCAR Connect 2020 Opening Remarks
from March 23, 2020
Each year at CCAR Convention, it's customary
for the CCAR president to address the rabbinic
membership. However this year, given the realities
of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCAR was forced
to cancel our annual Convention and move the event
online. Below is the address that CCAR president
Ron Segal gave to the digital gathering of Reform
rabbis who gathered online throughout the country
in this time of change and need.
The date on which I delivered my first address as
CCAR president was April first. April Fools Day;
the parashah was Tazria-Metzora. "Could it get any
worse?," I remember thinking.
And...here we are.
Considering the present reality of our world and
the fact that, this year, I have the great privilege
of sharing a few comments in front of a desktop
monitor, I realize now how unimaginative I was!
If ever there was a time when Tazria-M'tzora was
fitting for the time in which we are living, surely it is
this year. With the exception, perhaps, of a handful of
U.S. senators, who could possibly have imagined such
a reality: a time when every one of us has essentially
been isolated from the camp until such point all have
been declared clean? Determining how best to lead
our communities while also in isolation is surely not
something for which most of us were prepared or
trained. This is surely unfamiliar turf for all of us.
These past several months and, no doubt, the months
still to come are a staggering reminder about the
unpredictability of our world. While recognizing
that too many of our colleagues have previously
experienced tragic manifestations of life's caprice, we
convene today with the knowledge that all of us-no
matter where we live, no matter the nature of our
rabbinate, regardless of our age or station in life-
each and every one of us is confronting the same
unfamiliar, anxiety-ridden, fear-inducing, individually
isolating, community-rending pandemic.
I don't know about you, but I will honestly share that
to be a rabbi at this moment feels overwhelming.
Even with the forced cancellation of numerous trips,
appointments, meetings, and community functions,
and a calendar that at first blush might seem more
open than it has in years, it feels like we have never
been busier. For in addition to the heightened
relational and pastoral needs of those we serve, we are
also now buried under an enormous list of decisions
to be made on how to transition every aspect of
our complex roles and organizations into an online,
virtual format. Further, trying to sift through and
extract helpful guidance from traditional sources

and the constant stream of articles, news programs,
op-eds, Facebook posts, and non-stop emails has felt
like drinking from a firehose. It's been...a lot, friends,
has it not?
Assuming my conversations and interactions with
colleagues are representative, I would daresay that
many of us might presently describe our inner life
as one of pizur hanefesh-possessing a scattered
soul-understood by some of our sages to be the
consequence of having to simultaneously devote one's
attention to too many things for a sustained period of
time, resulting in an inner life that feels scattered, out
of balance, and far from the spiritual ideal.
I think about the 250 or so rabbis and IJS alumni
whom I join each weekday for a virtual, half-hour
guided meditation in the hopes of merely trying to
center myself, and I am further convinced that there
are countless scattered souls among us.
However, I also believe that colleagues are eager and
need more than ever opportunities to address our own
feelings of isolation and to regain a sense of internal
balance. Whether through meditation, exercise,
reading, or any other means, we surely recognize and
understand we will be better equipped to lead during
this time of uncertainty and physical separation if we
can do so with a calmer soul and more equanimous
spirit. I found these very sentiments affirmed in the
conclusion of a poem written and posted on RavBlog
by our colleague Lance Sussman this past week. "We
Shall Prevail: A Poem for Unprecedented Times" ends
with these words:

believe that "to prevail" means we must not allow this
unexpected window of time to pass by unappreciated,
without discovering anew the simple miracles of daily
life too often obscured from sight. Liberated from
the grueling routines that have dictated our lives for
however many years, might not this moment awaken
in us a spirit of renewed curiosity, hopefully greater
humility, and an appreciation that, though physically
distant, we are in truth "alone together," convening
both individually and collectively at the same time?
I genuinely believe we need this heightened awareness
to confront as a rabbinic community what is
increasingly understood to be a watershed moment in
our history, when the character and nature of future
Jewish communities as well as where and how Jewish
communities convene are being defined literally
before our very eyes.
(Continued on page 9)

We'll journey together again soon.

Now is the time to collect our inner selves
and to be strong alone
until the time comes again
when we can be strong together.
Until then
until that day
Let us resolve that we shall prevail.
And of course, we will prevail, just as rabbis have
done throughout history. Each of us will soon come
to a point in time during this pandemic and isolated
existence when the number of urgent decisions we
have to make will diminish, and the course for our
respective communities will have been charted,
and...we will actually be able to stop, catch our
breath, work on unifying our souls that feel so very
scattered, and come to understand and internalize
what I know we have been saying repeatedly to those
in our communities, that "isolation need not mean
loneliness."
During this period that none of us has ever known,
even as we continue to support those in need, I also
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CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020

CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 1
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 2
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 3
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 4
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 5
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 6
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - Insert1
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - Insert2
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 7
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 8
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 9
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 10
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 11
CCAR Newsletter May/June 2020 - 12
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