CCAR - July/August 2014 - 1

CENTRAL

CONFERENCE

OF

AMERICAN

RABBIS

NEWS

Founded In

1889

‫תמוז-אב-אלול תשע''ד‬

Publication of the Central Conference of American Rabbis

July * August 2014 | Volume 61 - Issue 6

‫איגוד הרבנים המתקדמים‬
FROM THE PUBLISHING TECHNOLOGY MANAGER
Dan Medwin

FROM THE PRESIDENT
Richard Block

D

oes being a "good" rabbi in the 21st century require us to use more
technology, or less? Should we race after the new technologies and
embrace them like technophiles, or resist and retreat from the use
of technologies like technophobes? As Rambam taught us so long ago
with the Golden Mean, the answer must be both.

Ordination Remarks
New York, May 10, 2014 *
10 Iyar 5774
Boker tov! And Mazal
tov! On behalf of more
than 2,200 members of
the Central Conference
of American Rabbis,
the rabbinic leadership
organization of the Reform Movement,
I congratulate you rabbis and cantors
ordained today, as well as the loved ones
who have supported and sustained you
as you traveled toward this long-imagined
day. And I welcome you warmly as new
colleagues.
Today, you realize a dream long cherished
and you embark upon a sacred pilgrimage
of leadership and service. As you do, I pray
that the dreams you embrace for yourselves,
those you love, those you will lead and
serve, for our Reform Movement, the Jewish
people, and the human family, will come to
rich and abundant fulfillment, including the
dreams too large for you yet to imagine. As
you who are my newest rabbinic colleagues
undertake that pilgrimage, the CCAR will
walk beside you every step of the way,
offering support, resources, and chevruta.
We will walk beside you in times of joy,
abundant blessing, and profound gratitude,
which we hope and pray will be innumerable,
when you say to yourself, "That is why I
became a rabbi!" And we will walk beside
you in times of turmoil, loneliness, doubt, or
disillusionment, times we hope and pray will
be few and far between, when you may ask
yourself, "Why did I become a rabbi?"
We find one such moment in the Robert
Aldrich film The Frisco Kid. Gene Wilder
plays Avram, a young rabbi traveling from
Poland to San Francisco in 1850. After
his train fare is stolen, Avram journeys on

Jews have long since adopted and adapted the existing technologies of
our surrounding cultures. Whether it was using the printing press to create
siddurim or using electric lights and microphones in our sanctuaries,
contemporary technologies have enhanced and shaped Jewish life and
worship. One might appropriately ask, which technologies today can enhance my rabbinate and
allow me to share Torah more widely and effectively?
We have communication technologies such as the phone,
video chatting, and video streaming, which can allow us to
connect with other human beings not currently present in our
own physical surroundings. They allow us to reach further
and wider than ever previously imagined. One colleague
remarked that for her, Facebook was the perpetual oneg-a
way to find out what's going on in the lives of members of her
community, even if they don't explicitly come to tell the rabbi.

"Which technologies
today can enhance my
rabbinate and allow me
to share Torah more
widely and effectively?"

We have organizational technologies such as Evernote,
Dropbox, and Google, which allow us to store, access, and recall more information than ever
previously possible. It is a transition on par from oral to written, but magnitudes greater. We
can access the totality of the world's information from a small device we carry in our pocket.
Instantly. This also includes our own publications such as the CCAR Responsa Collection and
Mishkan T'filah.
And yet...
While we can track down almost any bit of knowledge we seek, so can members of our
community. Answers to Judaic questions of practice and history are no longer being sought by
visits to the rabbi, but by Internet searches that turn up content offered by and funded through
a diverse range of perspectives on Judaism. We must now master the art of learning to interpret
and critically evaluate web content and teach these skills to our community.
And even though we can potentially reach an infinite number of people in an instant through
technology, we can never replace the value of being together in the same place. Facebook
"likes," while causing us to feel a tippa of the neuro-chemical plusses associated with social
interactions, can never replace the healing power of a warm embrace. Often the allure of our
digital devices, and all they allow us to do, is so strong that it can pull us away from that which
matters most: the people in our lives right in front of us.
As Reform Jews, we have embraced a Jewish lifestyle that requires constant decision making.
There are almost no absolutes or extremes. And while this allows for a richer life and practice,
this constant decision making can be difficult and tiring. It is our duty, as Jewish leaders and

(Continued on page 3)

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CCAR - July/August 2014

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