Day Two-CCAR Convention
We are sitting in the large convention hall praying the morning service. One rabbi leading the service is playing the guitar leading our group in communal prayer. During the Torah service another rabbi officiates standing at the dais donning tephillin as well as talit and kippah. On two sides on the walls behind the service leaders there is a computer generated image of the prayers in Hebrew, English and transliteration of Hebrew. When the Torah is read, we can watch on either of the two large screens the inside of the Torah text as it is being read. Welcome to the Reform Rabbinate of the 21st century. High Technology now is permeating the entire worship experience. Ritual and tradition give us many choices as to how we are going to conduct our public worship as well as develop our own personal spirituality.
One of the highlights of that service was the honoring of the rabbis who are celebrating 50 years in the rabbinate. Four or five rabbis ascended the bimah during the Torah service. One of them Rabbi Ronald Milstein came up with his wife, son who is a rabbi and daughter in –law who is also a rabbi. Just watching them all standing with dignity and pride as the congregation blessed them and they recited the Torah blessings. It was truly a moving experience. Just to survive that many years in the rabbinate is a true blessing.
It is interesting to behold just how diverse reform rabbis are these days. Age, gender, sexual orientation are all issues make our assembly look very different than what we appeared to be two decades ago. It was also a solemn moment when we prepared ourselves to say kaddish and intoned the names of our colleagues who passed away since last year’s convention. It struck me this year when I gazed up to the screens and saw their names. When I read the list I discovered about five of them who I knew quite well. One of the rabbis was my thesis director in rabbinic school. Two others I got to know over the years.
The next major event was listening to a lecture in the same hall to Dr. Arthur Green. He is well known in the rabbinical world as a scholar who reads and teaches Jewish texts from the mystical and Hasidic traditions. He is a liberal Jew but not a Reform Jew. He is professor emeritus from Brandeis University and is president of a Rabbinical Seminary in Boston.
He spoke to the rabbis about cultivating our own personal theology. He urged us to continue to learn for ourselves about what we believe and not be afraid to share it with the congregation. He said to us that most of our congregants will never think about God and the sacred texts the way we do. But that does not mean that our congregants are not hungry to hear what we are learning and believing.
He urged us to get beyond the ritual or the ethnic part and delve into the mystery of the unfathomable aspect of God as well as balance the journey to the intimate side of God.
The final aspect of the day was sitting down the at the CCAR tech table. This table was staffed all day long with expert rabbis in technology. I sat down for an hour with one expert colleague. He showed me how I can conduct a class in my Google plus- hang out room with 14 others who can listen to my class and to each other at the same time on their computers. This is I believe is cool! High tech strategies for high touch teaching. More to come on expanding our high tech future at Beth Yam. I was taken back to see how many rabbis downloaded an APP for the Reform Movement Prayerbook Mishkan Tephillah onto their IPADs. They were praying with it as their Siddur. Is this the future for us at Beth Yam?