This February the CCAR will be convening in Israel. While it’s always a good time to go to Israel, this February offers an especially important and unique opportunity to spend time together in Israel as colleagues, as students and as hovevei Tzion. In case you are still deliberating the costs and benefits of participating in this seminal sabbatical experience, I would like to offer three specific reasons why I think you should join us in Israel this February.
1. You need it. Being a one-in-seven year experience, this convention provides you with a unique opportunity to be exposed to cutting edge learning, leadership and the program being offered allows you as a rabbi to encounter and process complex issues in a collegiate environment in which to process and air feelings, discuss frustrations and digest the daily trials and tribulations facing Israel and the Jewish people. These days in Israel will doubtless afford us a high level of professional development and enrichment to last the whole year.
2. Your community needs you to have these experiences. I don’t have to tell you that for many in our movement, Israel is the source of great debate, controversy and even despair. I also don’t have to remind you that for many congregants, you are the source, authority and expert on all things Jewish – including Israel. Which is why coming now will give you the opportunity to report back and share the rich and important encounters, meetings, briefings, study sessions and experiences with your congregants, boards, staffs and community members. They are in desperate need of first hand, beyond-the-headlines accounts of the exciting changes that are happening in the Israeli Reform movement, innovative ways of learning Torah, governmental and parliamentary deliberations and all that we are doing to combat the worrisome trends that are oft-mentioned in the media. Your congregations, organizations, Hillels, and staffs need you to be their emissaries and bring back a real and meaningful account of experiences that are only available to this sort of a convention.
3. Israel needs you. This past year we worked very hard (with much gratitude to all of our rabbis for supporting, pushing and campaigning) to ensure that ours was the largest delegation to the World Zionist Congress. We wanted the Government of Israel and the rest of the world to see that the Reform movement cares deeply and passionately about Israel and has come out in droves during this difficult time. We did that, and let me assure you that our presence is felt. In a world where headlines fade quickly, we need to do all that we can to demonstrate to both the Government and people of Israel that we are committed and invested in the future of Israel and in our movement’s relationship with her. Only a strong showing of our rabbinic leadership will demonstrate that commitment and will send the message that we are strong, dedicated and will not pass up the opportunity to stand as a collective body of rabbis to hear and be heard.
I look forward to spending time, learning and experiencing with all of you in just a few short months!
Rabbi Josh Weinberg is the President of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America