The Rabbis conference: Day three and four
We have concluded the conference of the CCAR. I can now see quite clearly that progressive Judaism is truly at a crossroads. From a liturgical standpoint, we are embarking upon a new journey to create a High Holy Day Mahzor. I attended a meeting with the chairs of the project and listened to them discuss their idea of faithful translations of liturgical texts. We saw very clearly at this early stage of the process and after viewing sample texts that Reform Judaism is once again redefining itself in more than a liturgical way but that by producing such a prayer book we reshape our belief system. The team of committees in this process is looking forward to a prayerbook that will be contemporary and relevant to reform worshippers. The question is not just how faithful their translations will be but how faithful the committee members are to the ideas and history of Judaism that has bequeathed us this beautiful spiritual heritage. Once again a few will alter the course of history for the many.
We also had an opportunity to discuss a position paper that a group of rabbis who on their own developed a document calling for significant organizational change in the entire organizational culture that comprises the Reform Movement. The last session of the day we listened and reacted to their initiative that has already led them in dialogue with the volunteer and rabbinic leaders of Reform movement. Sitting in the room there had to be over two hundred rabbis. I sensed that there was a unanimous belief that our national organizations had to reaffirm a new vision if Reform Judaism is to remain viable in the American soil. There was also the recognition that we had gone astray on many levels and lost an edge of energy and focus that is supposed to inspire us to serve the congregations and individuals who belong beneath the tent of Progressive Judaism.
The issues are not only about allocation of financial resources and fundraising. Those issues are critical to securing a strong future. The underlying issues revolve around establishing a consensus about what we stand for and where we should direct our energy in the upcoming years. It is also about who really sets the vision and leads this movement. There is a growing feeling in the hearts of rabbis that while we cherish the partnership models we have spoken about between rabbis and volunteers the real discussions must address the reality that there is not a consensus about how rabbinic authority and volunteer leadership can respect each other’s expertise. That is the delicate subject beneath the surface that must be part of the conversations that will lead us to a brighter future.
This convention brought us all together to take workshops, expand our knowledge and reconnect with our community of rabbis. We studied, ate the cuisine of New Orleans, and prayed together. We even laughed and sang together. Of course conventions like these put us all on an equal footing that we cannot experience on a day to day basis. We charged our batteries and we grew in wisdom. Even though rabbis have to take care of our congregations first and foremost, we cannot ignore our responsibilities to the global Jewish community and the Reform Movement in particular
The rabbis say, Pray as if everything depends upon God. Act as if everything depends upon you.”(Talmud).