I must admit it’s more than a little embarrassing to receive an e-mail from a classmate (and Jerusalem roommate!) telling me I was the first colleague to register for our upcoming CCAR Convention in Chicago. It’s one thing to be an enthusiastic member of our Conference (which I am), but it’s another matter entirely to be the loudest guy cheering at the pep rally.
But I’m glad Joui Hessel reached out to let me know I was the very first registrant, because it’s given me a chance to reflect on why I rushed to make sure that I would be a part of yet another meaningful, productive, and refreshing CCAR convention. And I can boil all that down to two things: learning with colleagues, and doing with colleagues.
The learning at Convention is always top-notch. Be it the speakers (Michael Chabon last year was a highlight for me) or the smaller sessions, there’s always something new to think about, a new perspective provided, and thoughtful friends (unfortunately scattered across North America) with whom to discuss. And then there is the incredibly important informal education: catching up with colleagues in the hallways, restaurants and [let’s admit it] bars, to see what’s happening in their lives, and to talk about common challenges we face. There’s no better course of professional development than conversing with colleagues of all ages to help orient me before I return back home.
Learning is good, but doing is more important. (That’s in Pirkei Avot, I’m pretty sure, but this isn’t a scholarly article.) And the “doing” that we rabbis get to work on together changed profoundly for me last year in Long Beach. There we launched the first campaign of Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, which has led to a massive year of continued effort and focus on helping Comprehensive Immigration Reform pass through Congress. The Convention not only allows our strategy team to meet face-to-face (in place of bi-weekly conference calls), but it more importantly allowed all of us to connect to colleagues who soon became comrades-in-arms in this crusade. It was incredibly energizing to see a room full of rabbis engaged in an issue; it’s more encouraging, many months later, to see how many of those rabbis have found meaningful ways to remain connected to and involved in the work since Long Beach.
I find that time away from home and hearth and study allows me time to get better perspective on my life and career. For thirteen straight years, I find no better partners in finding that perspective than my friends who share CCAR Convention with me. Because these times are so precious to me, I’m proud I was the first to register.
And I hope you’re the next one to do so! See you in Chicago!
Rabbi Seth M. Limmer is rabbi of Congregation B’nai Yisrael of Armonk, New York.