Dear Friends of CBI,
I hope to see you this Shabbat at our second Musical Kabbalat Shabbat, starting with a pre-oneg on Friday evening and a beautiful participatory service at 6pm in the East Social Hall.
At Shabbat morning services I will share what I learned at the 20/20 Conservative Movement Conference which I attended this past week.
I’ll share some preliminary thoughts with you below.
My only regret about attending the 20/20 Conservative Movement Conference in Boston from Dec 8-10 is that I was not accompanied by a member delegation from CBI. I am writing this message as I fly back to ABQ from the conference. What delegates from ABQ would have seen is a movement reinventing itself, girded by a growing confidence, and ready to be led by the next generation.
The familiar challenges of the Conservative Movement were acknowledged, but there was no scintilla of pessimism at the conference at all. 1400 Conservative synagogue leaders, staff, and rabbis attended the gathering which was one of the most high tech savvy of Jewish gatherings.
An app was downloadable to my cell phone that help me navigate the rich offerings, and to contact friends and colleagues who I might not have run into at this large gathering.
I would like to give you a taste of my experience.Among the best sessions I attended was “Caring for our Own: A Hevrah Kaddisha Manual for Conservative Congregations.” ABQ can be proud that we have an interdenominational Hevrah Kaddisha. But the value of this session was my realization of how many communities have established burial societies. I learned about the Gamliel Society, a national organization that connects Hevra Kaddisha’s and conducts training to help communities become more responsive. I was inspired to get training to do Taharah-to prepare the body for burial and the ways Jews honor the deceased through careful attention to the body after death.
I attended another session on the potential for online learning within congregations to supplement adult and children’s education. In a Jewish community such as Albuquerque’s we often face the challenges of limited resources. Jewish online learning enables individuals to advance their Jewish learning, not only in basic Jewish learning, but also more advanced topics. Online learning also offers opportunities for younger people to gain exposure to master teachers and to learn Jewish topics in which there is limited expertise in the community.
I was impressed with the new efforts in the synagogue arm of the movement to serve smaller congregations such as ours. I will share with the board the “USCJ commons platform” which enables leaders in smaller congregations to share resources and best practices with each other. I met people all over the country at the conference who have expertise in Jewish education, synagogue management, and volunteer cultivation. I found that sharing problems and opportunities was very fruitful and gives us a path forward at the congregation.
The plenums at the conference were generally outstanding. The most interesting plenum focused on the subject of the movements’ stance of rabbinic officiation at intermarriages. We witnessed a serious debate about the merits and challenges of the movement allowing rabbis to decide autonomously about performing an intermarriage. The debate was informative, passionate, and civil. There was no change in policy, but the conference set the stage for a decisive debate in the coming years on this subject.
The finest presentation at the conference was by my colleague, Rabbi Sharon Brous, the rabbinic leader of Ikar in Los Angeles.
She shared her experience of encountering, the Slave’s Bible, at the Bible museum in Washington D.C. Written by slaveholders before the Civil War, this altered Scripture removed the Exodus story to discourage slaves from rebelling. The slaveholders believed they were fulfilling the teachings of their religious traditions (including some Jewish ones).
Brous went onto analyze how religion in our own time can be used to distort the moral teachings at the core of the great religious traditions. Speaking directly to Judaism’s predicament, she spoke of how our tradition is historically vulnerable to three forces, extremism, routinization, and escapism.
While extremism is relatively easy to understand, routinization and escapism are forces that rely on tradition to avoid and neglect the moral demands that God and the tradition address to us. These forces eviscerate Judaism of its moral dynamism and make many synagogues uninspiring places. She challenged us to live our Judaism with moral courage in these challenging times.
A good conference energizes, and this gathering definitely fit the bill. I will share many more resources and connections with CBI leaders and members in the weeks and months ahead. I hope you find that my enthusiasm is contagious. I hope that I can inspire you to join me in the future to join me and experience the renewal taking place in the Conservative Movement.
“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
– AJ Heschel –Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
Congregation B’nai Israel, Albuquerque
4401 Indian School Rd NE, ABQ, NM 87110
Email: [email protected]
Work Phone: (505) 266-0155 Ext 102
Mobile: (206_ 739-9924
Please contact me by mobile in case of an emergency, or if you have had trouble reaching me by other means.
It is easy to make an appointment with me online.
Click: https://calendly.com/rabbidovappts/pegishah to pick an appointment time that works with you schedule. Appointments are slotted for 30 minutes, but you may choose two 30 minute slots for an hour appointment. If you are not a computer person, please call Anna at the CBI office, (505) 266-0155, to schedule a tentative appointment.
Please note that I try to unplug from screens and electronics on Shabbat and Hagim. In case of an emergency on Shabbat or Hagim, send me a text message at (206) 739-9924 and write URGENT. I also take my day off from my heavy schedule on Mondays. Thank you in advance for not contacting me on that day for routine shul business.
Rav Todot, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg