Serenity. Inspiration. Exhaustion. Uplift. Shalom.
Choice words to describe the essentially indescribable feelings which permeate my heart, soul and mind as I depart five days of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention outside of Washington DC. With six thousand Jews gathering to learn, dream, celebrate and plan for the Jewish future, the experience was also profoundly overwhelming.
A Shmorgasbord of Spirituality
Whether singing Kiddush during the largest Shabbat dinner ever in existence, charting a new course with Dr. Wendy Mogul to engage Jewish youth more deeply, exploring our shared values of Tikun Olam (social justice) with President Barak Obama, embodying simcha (joy) through rocking out with singer/songwriters Dan Nichols, Doug Cotler and Michelle Citrin, exploring tachlis (hands on, how to) topics such as creating a “social media sermon” and “redefining Jewish adolescents through Jewish summer camps,” or just connecting one-to-one with dozens of old friends, colleagues or new friends, the URJ Biennial gave me so much to enjoy and so much more to consider.
Realigning the Jewish GPS
Most of all, the Biennial experience recharged our batteries and realigned our Jewish GPS. Out wandering as individuals in the wilderness of communal life, we sometimes lose sight of the difference between the important and abiding, and the small stuff. Each Biennial Meet Up, each conversation, each session pointed the way forward by anchoring in the past and dreaming toward the future.
The Biennial brought me back toward these insights:
- I believe with all my heart and soul that Judaism – our teachings, our values, our Torah, our tradition, our people, our homeland, our beliefs, our culture, our religion, our… – exist to transform us into Am Kadosh (holy people) and our world into a Makom Kadosh (a holy people).
- We people called Yisrael are those destined to yisra (struggle with) El (our existence within Existence). Our world – the beautiful, the material, the broken and the whole – exists to be a Makom Kadosh (a place of holiness), where every thing and every moment can connect to every other thing and every other moment. Past to future, tree to sky, street to building, you to me.
- Israel, the land and state, is central to our spirit and story, that its wellbeing is our concern, that its future as a democratic/Jewish home must be assured in conjunction with real peace with a neighboring Palestine, and that more of our peeps must get over to visit her.
- The synagogue is THE primary gateway to the Jewish past, present and future, and if open enough, innovative enough, simcha-dik (joyous) enough and thoughtful enough, the synagogue can touch deeply so many more Jews and Jewish families.
- Engaging youth needs to become our mantra as we create places and spaces for them to struggle, connect, be nurtured and grow. It is not pediatric Judaism we pursue; it is the Jewish future.
- As Am HaSefer, the people of the book, we express ourselves and continue the holy conversation through the written word. Whether that written word be on two tablets, animal skin scrolls, paper back books or the 1’s and 0’s on the computer screen, the emes (truth) becomes clearer, the deeper we delve into the words past down midor lador (from generation to generation).
Watch the Speakers; Read the Sermons
A picture speaks 1,000 words, so I wish I could download my short-term memory bring to life the still and moving images swirling in my head. Since our technological wizards have not yet discovered the process by which to do that, I instead invite you to venture over to the Union for Reform Judaism’s website to see what I saw and hear what I heard.
Then, we can together continue the conversation, and thereby find Serenity. Inspiration. Exhaustion. Uplift. And Shalom.
Seeking Your Insights
For those who attended, what were your favorite moments from the Biennial?