I will always remember my very first CCAR convention. I was a first year rabbinic student at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem, and the 1995 convention was held there. The students were included in many of the programs and the learning and the camaraderie were very special.
I certainly cherish the memory of meeting Prime Minister Rabin and other important Israeli officials and scholars. However, what stood out for me in that moment was the experience of having so many of my teachers and mentors in one room…and then being introduced to their teachers and mentors!
I have been blessed with wonderful role models, rabbis who nurtured me formally and informally, in congregations and in classrooms. I remember the first rabbi I ever saw in blue jeans, the first rabbi who invited me for a meal, and the first rabbi who opened my eyes to the wonders of Mishnah. I remember the rabbis who held my children as newborns in their Brit ceremonies and the rabbis who held me close over these last months as I became a mourner. I believe our Conference is stronger because we are a multi-generational web of teachers who lift one another up through all of life’s challenges and joys.
At our conventions, there are extraordinary opportunities to connect with those who are already or can become our personal rabbis. In Orange County, we will have the chance to study with several of HUC-JIR’s finest professors. Every time I attend convention, I always seek out these opportunities, to study text with great scholars, simply for the joy of learning.
Our conventions give us the chance to learn face to face with great teachers and side by side with old classmates and new friends. This face to face experience is precious. As much as we can try and stay connected over the phone and through the computer, I believe there is always something limiting about those interactions. Come to Orange County, and sit in our very own Beit Midrash, able to learn both from the texts and the people.
As we learn in Pirke Avot 1:6, “Get yourself a teacher, find someone to study with, and judge everyone favorably.”
We are blessed to be part of a conference of colleagues, each one of us eager to study and to teach. When we gather at convention, our experiences together will help us to see the good and the hopeful in the world all around us. Join me in Orange County!
Rabbi Peter W. Stein serves Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, NY. He is a member of the CCAR Convention Committee and also serves as CCAR Dues Chairperson.