Initial planning and brainstorming for a CCAR convention begins 18 months prior to a convention, when the convention committee gathers in the city where the convention is set to take place. When members of the 2019 CCAR Convention Committee gathered in the Queen City and the home of Graeter’s Ice Cream in the fall of 2017, we gathered with excitement because of the prospect of celebrating two significant milestones – Isaac Mayer Wise’s 200th birthday and the 130th anniversary of the CCAR.
A Convention site visit is filled with opportunities to meet with local colleagues and local community leaders as we work to brainstorm the high level learning experiences that we all expect from our annual rabbinic gathering. What would make 2019 in Cincinnati unique? Learning at HUC, prayer at Plum St. and a celebration of our founder, Isaac Mayer Wise, would be memorable moments, but what would the enduring impact be of our learning together? To help us frame our thinking and planning, we reached our to our colleagues, Gary Zola and Jonathan Cohen (former Dean of the HUC’s Cincinnati campus) to teach us about Isaac Mayer Wise and his legacies. Not only did we discover that few of us knew much about his life, aside from founding the major institutions of our movement and his work on Minhag America, but thanks to the wisdom of our wonderful teaches we uncovered Wise’s legacies that we would use as a starting point for our learning goals that helps guide our planning for convention.
Rabbis Zola and Cohen taught us that among Wise’s many contributions to Jewish life in America, four significant legacies include: liturgical innovation, educational expansion, equality of women, and the Americanization of Judaism.
Using these lessons as a guide we created the following five goals:
- Build upon the legacy of Isaac Mayer Wise: Where were we? Where are we? Where are we going?: We will explore the following aspects – integration of Judaism into America, the training and education of rabbis, modern understandings of Jewish text and literature and how they apply to contemporary issues, liturgical innovation, Jewish education of adults and children, equality of women and social justice issues.
- We will reflect on Mission Driven Transformation:
Isaac Mayer Wise wanted to create an American Rabbinate to lead and serve the emerging Jewish community and to teach Jews who knew how to be Jewish to also be Americans. Today we are in the midst of unique opportunities to engage with Jews who know how to be American but need rabbinic leadership to help them create and live a meaningful Jewish life.
- To discover how Cincinnati is a microcosm for some of the challenges we are facing in the rest of the country and its approaches to meet those challenges.
- To think deeply about the role Reform Judaism plays in Jewish life in North America and the world.
- To mark sacred transitions within the CCAR.
Using these goals as our guide, we will have opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations about innovation. We will engage in study with our esteemed HUC faculty who will respond to key questions and challenges we face in our rabbinate. We will learn to lift up our moral voice and enhance moral leadership as we frame our social justice efforts in Jewish teachings and values. Finally, we will have a special opportunity to have an update from the Task Force on the Women’s Experience in the Rabbinate.
We hope that you will plan to join with colleagues as we reconnect with friends, broaden our rabbinic skills, enhance our rabbinates and celebrate the leadership of Steve Fox and Hara Person. We look forward to seeing you in Cincinnati and enjoying a cup of Graeter’s Black Raspberry chip together. Please register for CCAR Convention at https://www.ccarnet.org/member-services/convention/
Rabbi Rick Kellner serves Congregation Beth Tikvah in Columbus, Ohio. He is also the Chair of the 2019 CCAR Convention Committee.