Monday, November 9, 2015

Biennial Convention: Final Post

When I write a blog during my professional travels, I am trying to give you the feeling that I am taking you with me. I serve Congregation Beth Yam and I have proudly taken you with me on my  journeys to Israel, conventions and other unique rabbinic experiences. Your comments are appreciated and provide me with insights and feedback that I respect. Your input enhances my understanding about just how diverse and complex our congregation is especially when it comes to religion, culture and politics.

The URJ Biennial is concluded. It was a wonderful charge for the spirits of our leadership and for me as well. The URJ is the umbrella organization of our movement. It does several important functions that we do not often think about but, nevertheless, play an important role in our movement. Remember the URJ supports an extensive camping  and youth group movement. The URJ pursues the value of Tikkun Olam- Repairing the World which addresses Reform Judaism’s social justice mission in America and Israel.The URJ works on supporting the functioning of congregations whether it be for administration, fundraising, membership and programming. The URJ supports partially the operation of the Hebrew Union College, and many other organizations. The Women of Reform Judaism and the National Brotherhood play critical roles as well in advancing the programming and scholarships for aspiring clergy for the future of Progressive Judaism. Admittedly I have not covered all the roles the URJ plays but it does serve as the central address of Progressive Judaism.

The last ten years the URJ has undergone enormous changes in its organizational structure and its mission. The volunteer and the professional leadership completely reorganized the organization. There are many who championed these changes and even more who watched on cautiously as the changes occurred.

Today’s overarching direction focuses on youth grouping, camping and social justice. In a recent meeting with Rabbi Jacobs many clergy expressed the need for the URJ to reinvest directly in the grass roots of our congregations throughout our great nation and develop future adult leadership and programming as they are doing for the young people. What else would we expect but to have creative differences and disagreements within a movement? What else would we expect but to see that many leaders care who deeply enough to engage in shaping the vision of Reform Judaism even when it comes to positions the Movement takes through the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C? That kind of debate and dialogue is necessary to a vibrant movement. 
Our congregation also consists of diverse viewpoints on religion, culture and politics. I appreciate the recent feedback which I have received from my first blog and respect all opinions from my congregants whether or not those opinions coincide with my own way of analyzing Jewish life. The truth is that when we love and respect each other as members of Congregation Beth Yam we can respect all sorts of diverse viewpoints on religious practices, styles of communal worship, positions on Israel or domestic politics. It is all part of the drama and the creative force that we as a Temple community possess. Let us pray and remember that we channel those energies to holy purposes and never to divisive ones.

I see things about the URJ which give me pause for reflection. At the same time those ideas about policy or practices in the URJ which I question never rise to the level where I doubt that I am a Progressive Jew or  the viability of the URJ .I just believe that at times  being constructively critical about issues in the URJ or any other cause does not automatically mean being disloyal to an organization or to the cause or even to the leadership that I uphold and believe in. It can just as easily mean that I or anyone else is being supportive enough to make it a better organization and mission.
I hope to stimulate your awareness about the Union of Reform Judaism. I hope we can all think more about Progressive Judaism. I would like for us  to be engaged in learning about the direction for the future of Reform Judaism here in America and in Israel. Issues matter and ideas fill our spirits. Do not hesitate to write me back with your input and feedback.
God bless you and Congregation Beth Yam.
The next Biennial is December 2017 in Boston. Sounds cold to me!!!

Rabbi Brad L.Bloom

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