On the Sunday before the CCAR Convention, I joined an amazing gathering at Temple Mishkan Israel in Selma, Alabama. The list of incredibly impressive speakers included dignitaries associated with the Civil Rights Movement of 50 years ago and current activists and leaders. A woman who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 was in the congregation with us. Peter Yarrow made a surprise appearance to recount all the places in which he sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” during the 1960’s in support of Civil Rights and then led us in singing it back to him. Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, raised the roof with his fiery call to rededicate our efforts to pursue the Civil Rights we still lack.
Yesterday, the Monday program at the CCAR brought us Rev. Barber’s inspirational and insightful keynote presentation, a blessing to hear him twice in the space of nine days. I am thrilled to re-energize my commitment to using my rabbinate to help facilitate social progress, and honored that I got to reflect on the ways we use our rabbinical presences to pursue and implement tzedek. All of this on the same day as our Reform rabbinic colleagues gathered to assemble 10,000 meals to feed malnourished children – something we accomplished in our mere two hours allotted!
Selma, Philadelphia, Charlotte, where I serve Temple Beth El (there’s one in almost every town) – wherever we go we bring with us the wisdom of our ancestors which we apply to imagine, and then create, a better society for all. We mobilize each other and the people around us – congregants, staff, colleagues, interfaith partners – so that we may go forth and achieve that which Rev. Barber demanded of us: a prophetic voice and righteous action in the public square.
I continue to be heartened by our time here at the CCAR Convention. I love finding intellectual resources deepened by learning from and conversing with colleagues from multiple generations. My prayer life gets enriched by participating instead of leading, and by being led so capably and creatively.
May we all go from strength to strength in our rabbinates – I continue to by honored and filled with joy to be part of the Conference.
Rabbi Jonathan Freirich is associate rabbi of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina.