One of the aspects of CCAR Convention that I have come to love is the opportunity to engage with some of the best scholars of our movement. A challenging aspect of my rabbinate is the fact that I go against what the sages advise us in Pirke Avot in that I do not always set time for study. The primary concern for the sages is that if we do not make time for study, we might never have the time to do so.
For me, CCAR Convention has become time to engage in a higher level of learning, an experience that escapes me throughout much of the year, but one that I recall fondly from my days at HUC-JIR. Convention always provides me with a diverse set of options for study from important themes of social justice, professional development or Torah Lishma.
Additionally, I often look forward to learning from former teachers at Hebrew Union College and those who teach on other campuses. We know that HUC-JIR offers us some of the highest opportunities for learning and the faculty represents a wide range of wisdom and expertise. With the convention returning to the West Coast in Orange County, CA we have easy access to the wonderful faculty of the Los Angeles campus. The 2018 CCAR convention will certainly give me, along with the many others who studied in Los Angeles, a nostalgic opportunity to learn with the teachers who started us on our journey. For those who studied in Cincinnati, New York, or Jerusalem, you will have the opportunity to experience what we experienced while the sun was shining bright outside the campus walls.
A new experience at convention this year will be a Beit Midrash on Wednesday afternoon. There will be three sessions, each being offered twice, thus giving us the opportunity to choose two of the three sessions. I must say I am overwhelmed by the challenge presented by these choices of learning. The three sessions will include:
- Tamara Cohn-Eskenazi, Andrea Weiss, and Hara Person will teach Torah as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publishing of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. This significant publication brought to the forefront the power of women’s voices furthering our learning. It is a resource that is studied regularly in my synagogue and one that I turn to frequently for tremendous insight and commentary. I recall during my time at HUC-JIR in LA, I had the opportunity to take an intensive course on the book of Leviticus with Tamara Cohn-Eskenazi. To enhance our reading, Tamara shared with us many of the essays that would appear in the forthcoming The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, which deeply enriched our learning.
- Dvora Weisberg, a masterful teacher of Rabbinic Literature will enlighten us with through an engaging study of Midrash focusing on the experiences of ordinary Israelites and Egyptians during the Exodus. With her love of Rabbinic Wisdom and brilliant sense of humor and wit, I recall the many classes in which we brought Rabbinic wisdom to life and applied their sacred teachings to our experiences as rabbinic students and future rabbis.
- Learning with Richard Levy was always a spiritual experience as well as a pursuit of wisdom. Richard’s unique way of reaching the soul was an instrumental part of my learning at HUC-JIR. With the recent publication of Songs Ascending: The Book of Psalms in a New Translation with Textual and Spiritual Commentary, we have a new translation and commentary that offers spiritual insight, along with traditional analysis and poetic interpretation that will bring us all deep meaning as we engage with the Psalms. At Convention, we will have an opportunity to study with Richard Levy, author of this wonderful text as he brings us into the spiritual world of the Psalms.
We look forward to seeing you in Orange County from March 18-21. Register now! I am looking forward to these and many other exciting learning opportunities. Hopefully they will launch my Torah study to becoming more of a habit.
Rabbi Rick Kellner serves Congregation Beth Tikvah in Columbus, Ohio and is the co-chair of the 2018 CCAR Convention in Orange County.