Friday, December 13, 2013

Day Two Blogging the URJ Convention

Day Two URJ Biennial 
There are times when strolling through the halls and enormous exhibition hall  can lead one to as much knowledge then the workshops. After we posed for our outreach award with Rabbi Jacobs (Marcia Frezza, Mike Weingarten and myself) we scattered like the rest of our delegation to the many activities. 
My first event was sitting down at the booth of the National Association of Temple Administrators. I spoke with two administrators from congregations. I told them about our growing congregation and how much of a challenge it is today to manage in a professional manner all the different events that go on at Bet Yam. We discussed a variety of staffing options that congregations our size are going with to meet the demands on a temples like ours.
I should say that one of the risks of this kind of strategy of learning by visiting different booths is who you run into. It could be a cherished colleague or volunteer temple leader from a prior congregation. Suddenly you are immersed in a conversation with someone whom you have not seen in years. This all happens when you are in the midst of having a serious discussion on the topic where you have stopped by to discuss with the person in the booth.  That is just called the URJ family and it happens at any  minute during this convention.
I also spent quite a bit of time talking to several music specialists in the field. Since we intend on hiring a student cantor through the Hebrew Union College interview process, I posed  questions about our music program and what are the best options to get the right kind of person for our congregation given the financial parameters. Many congregations must also learn to be creative with finding the right person as well. They too must deal with some of the same financial realities as well as programmatic challenges.  We definitely want to go through the interview process to bring a student cantor to Beth Yam. We will, on the other hand, have to be prepared to  look at other viable options to find that special person who will be a good fit for our congregation should we not succeed at finding an HUC student cantor.
I want to make mention of an incredibly important project and celebration from the Women of Reform Judaism. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary . Our past president Helen Hauer who is part of our delegation is very involved in this project. The anniversary book contains an amazing pictorial history of Sisterhood since 1913. This history teaches the critical role Sisterhood has played in the history of Reform Judaism. Kudos to Helen. Also inside the book there is a special tribute page called Unsung Heroines. It is a national program recognizing and nominating women who " made substantial volunteer contributions to a WRJ Sisterhood." We are honored again that our member Nadyne Ulicny was bestowed this great honor by WRJ. Another example of how our members distinguish themselves. Mazal Tov Nadyne.

Finally Rabbi Jacobs gave his big and long (almost 2 hours) speech regarding his  vision of Reform Judaism and the program plan of the URJ. I'll speak to this in a separate blog. Afterwards five thousand Reform Jews circulated throughout San Diego's gas light district of clubs where URJ artists performed. What a great way to end the evening. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day One Blogging the URJ Biennial -San Diego

It is the great pilgrimage. Some would call it the holy convocation. Still others like to declare the Union of Reform Judaism Biennial as the ultimate Reform Jewish Mardi Gras that rotates from city to city every two years.
Last time the movement's leaders gathered together was in Washington D.C. Now we are enjoying the harbor scenes of downtown San Diego, CA. Tonight Congregation Beth Yam's delegation gathered together for dinner at Roy's inside the Marriott hotel for a wonderful evening of dinner. Our delegation is sixteen strong. I am particularly pleased that Linda as well as our daughter Leah and her boyfriend Michael have joined us as well. That takes us to 19 people. I gazed at the tables watching everyone enjoying themselves. Our president Mike Weingarten was so proud to have such a great and distinguished group with us as well. The sisterhood is represented by current President Janet Weingarten who informed us that today Our Sisterhood received an award for great programming. Cathy cite who will succeed Janet as president of Sisterhood and her husband Steve also are with us. Of course our representative on the North American Board of Women of Reform Judaism Elaine Lust does our congregation honor through her service on the national level.
Our forthcoming Temple president Twyla Sable and her husband Bob who also serves on our board are right in the mix gathering all kinds of information and insights in preparation for her new role. Ted and Jeri David are with us. Ted serves on the national URJBoard and on some critical finance and planning committees. Then comes our Temple religious school principal Judi Kleiman who who attends all sorts of workshops. Today Judi went to the workshop regarding the Bar Mitzvah revolution which is about reinvigorating our Temples' vision of an effective B'nai Mitzvah program. Her husband Stan who also serves on the board has a passion for Men's Club at Temple. We both could see so clearly why it is critical for all the men, for all ages at Beth Yam which we serve that affiliating  with the National Brotherhood is the right thing to do for our congregation. Finally Marcia Frezza, our outreach chairperson and board member along with her husband Tony joined us. Marcia is justifiably excited because on Thursday Beth Yam will receive our second Beilen award for an  outstanding program this past year. More to come tomorrow. Of course her husband Tony is with us. 
It really is an amazing group of dedicated leaders who care deeply about the well being of our congregation.
We are in the midst of almost 5000 attendees. There is music and entertainment, workshops and discussions, speeches social action resolutions on major issues of the day. Each of us will bring an idea or an insight back home. We will walk through the exhibition hall where all the artisans set up as well as reps from all kinds of Jewish organizations from all over the world. Of course the momentum will grow for Shabbat when all of us gather to pray, eat and sing our hearts out.  More tomorrow.
BTW - Linda and I enjoyed a late night concert by the well known singer and writer Julie Silver.