Gather 5000 Jews together in one place and you are bound to bump into old friends, camp cabinmates, former classmates, and past students. Hanging at the Reform Movement’s Biennial convention in San Diego is an experience of Jewish Facebook come alive.
Perhaps the most fascinating part has been bumping into generations of former Or Ami interns and faculty members. Catching up over lunch with Rabbi Alissa Forrest now of northern California, I came to realize just how poignant the Or Ami internship experience has been. Our small synagogue, 11 years old, has provided deeply meaningful learning laboratories for scores of future Jewish professionals. We afford them much leeway to experiment; we kvell when they find success; and we show patience when ideas do not pan out as they would have hoped. Our interns have helped deepen Mishpacha, create Temple Teen Night, develop the Shabbat morning service, reinvigorate our youth group, write Religious School curriculum, lead services, provide coverage when our rabbi is at convention or vacation, brainstorm new ideas and more. Or Ami has shined brightly because of their contributions. We all are hearing how meaningful our former interns found their experiences.
There was Shaina Wasserman, family educator in a huge synagogue in Palo Alto. Rachel Margolis (formerly Rachel Isaacson, our Mishpacha Coordinator) speaks of the exciting work she is doing as educator at University Synagogue in Brentwood. Here is Josh Barkin, a significant player now in the Jewish educational publishing world at Torah Aura; our current Mishpacha co-chair Sara Mason (incidentally Josh’s future bride) is gathering best practice concepts for use in our Mishpacha program. Rabbi Brett Krichiver is at Stephen S. Wise Temple now; his wife Tami Krichiver leads music as Cantorial Soloist at Or Ami’s Shabbat Morning Service. People are kvelling at the thoughtful, engaging d’var Torah that our current Rabbinic/Education intern Lydia Bloom Medwin gave at a service yesterday; her husband Dan Medwin, our other current Mishpacha co-coordinator, was overheard kvelling about his current experience and gathering ideas to bring back to the synagogue. Here were former faculty members (Kate Spizer and Jake Singer); there are current faculty members (Rachel Ackerman and Jonathan Rothstein-Fisch, who also serves on staff for this Biennial).