CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 1


‫טבת תשפ''א‬-‫כסלו‬-‫חשון‬
Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
November * December 2020 | Volume 68 - Issue 2

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬

From the Director of Digital Media

From the President
I am always grateful to
encounter words of poetry
that can soothe an agitated
spirit-poems such as the
following treasure by Mary
Oliver, "Wild Geese":
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on 	
your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you 	
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Admittedly, I was late turning in this bulletin
column (apologies to the CCAR staff whom I
inconvenienced). By way of explanation, the advance
date by which it was to have been submitted fell on
the day after the first presidential debate. I need not
remind any of us about the torrent of email, social
media posts, op-eds, and more that followed, most of
it in response to the president's green light to white
supremacists. The varied counsel shared by colleagues
on the CCAR members' Facebook page, coupled
with the diverse opinions voiced in our congregation's
morning minyan, the urging of fellow staff members
to definitively decry the president's remarks, and

As Jews, we have a complicated relationship with technology. We readily adopt new
technologies, like the printing press, and we do not let go of older technologies, like
the parchment scroll. Fortunately, we don't continue to use stone tablets, but now we
use digital tablets.
When we first introduced Visual T'filah, over ten years ago, there was some
hesitance. "I spend my day staring at a screen," one early participant explained, "I
don't want to look at another screen in services." And yet, due to the realities of a
global pandemic, we now connect with one another and experience spirituality in
community through screens.
Could you ever have imagined saying to a member of your community, "I hope you have a spiritual
experience these High Holy Days looking at a screen?" And yet, people did have spiritual moments. Some of
us did, too. But not all of us, and not all of them.
Some of us felt disconnected, and not in the least spiritual, as we clicked the mouse, managed the chat, and
functioned more as production managers than spiritual leaders. Conversely, some of us enjoyed connecting
with members of the community and the opportunity to actually pray. Some community members who
perpetually take the back-row seats appreciated the close and intimate view of their rabbis, while others
experienced services passively like watching a show, rather than actively praying. Even with the mixed results,
for the first ever virtual High Holy Days in all of Jewish history, I'd say it was successful and, at the very least,
a powerful learning experience.
When rabbis first converted the sacrificial rites into communal prayer, I imagine they hit a few bumps
along the way. But rabbis were responsible for the successful transition from Temple-based Judaism to
synagogue-based Judaism, and once again rabbis are rising to the challenge of this next transition in Jewish
life and practice.
I'm not suggesting that Judaism will be the exclusive domain of silicon in the future, but for some it will-
because it has been for a while already. Whether due to mobility or health issues, or simply physical distance,
there have always been members of our community who only could access services through live streaming.
The pandemic has put all of us in a similar position and teaches us that when it is possible for many of us to
get back together in person, we must not exclude others who still cannot. We don't know yet what is in store
for us with next year's High Holy Days. Whatever those may wind up looking like, we now have time to
reflect, to practice new skills during Shabbat services, and to explore new technological solutions.
One long-standing incubator for innovations in Jewish life is summer camp, and this summer was no
exception. I had the privilege to participate in a number of Shabbat services with the URJ Six Points
Sci-Tech Academy East this summer-in Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual space where folks can gather
online, build together, and visit practically any environment. We built tents in the desert while singing
Mah Tovu, and we watched the sunrise from a mountaintop for Yotzeir Or. The possibilities are virtually
limitless. And while the novelty certainly captured my interest, what truly surprised me was that I did, in fact,
have a sense of community and a spiritual experience.
This is a time of great creativity and exploration of the new virtual landscape. And you can rest assured, the
CCAR will be with you every step of the way, learning, growing, and providing resources and guidance as

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CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020

CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 1
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 2
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 3
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 4
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - insert1
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - insert2
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 5
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 6
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 7
CCAR Newsletter November/December 2020 - 8