I stood as I’ve done thousands of times before with my eyes closed concentrating on the words, Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad! Except this time it was different. I was leading my congregation on a recent Friday night and for the first time during this moment of introspection a terrifying thought emerged, “what if? What if a perpetrator at this exact moment decides to enter like at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh because at this moment I am vulnerable, I am not paying attention to my surroundings?” This thought was quickly followed, “what is this world coming to?”
This is a question that I know I am not alone in considering. At the upcoming Convention in Cincinnati, we will take the time to delve deep into the issues of our day like antisemitism, security protocols, Torah learning, professional development, and so much more. It will also be the first time for many of us that we will share the stories and learn best practices from others as we debrief our communities response to the Pittsburgh Massacre. There will be sessions like, “Recovering from Moral Injury: Textual and Ritual Resources for Care,” “Lessons from Parkland and Northern California,” and “The Realities of Hate Online,” where we will be able to learn from experts and take new insights and practices back to our own communities.
In particular, I am looking forward to hearing from Attorney Roberta Kaplan. While known for her work on United States v. Windsor, the case that led to the end of the Defense of Marriage Act, Kaplan has a new case. Sines v. Kessler accuses the organizers of the Charlottesville’s march of conspiring to bring a campaign of violence under a pretext of a peaceful exercise of free speech. As Kaplan says “DOMA ‘was about the equal dignity of gay people…The Charlottesville case is also about equal dignity. It’s just about different groups of people.’” There will surely be information and experiences to glean from Kaplan that will help those of us fortunate to attend to convention to consider and to share with our colleagues, institutions, and communities.
Most importantly, there will be opportunities, as abundant as one wishes to make them, for sharing stories, connecting with others, and hopefully, healing. In today’s world, we need to be together. While just a few days time, the annual Convention is a time to recharge one’s rabbinic batteries. We will take the opportunities, both formal and informal, to listen to one another, to ask the hard questions, share our fears, and make plans to move forward together. I hope that you will join me. Register now.
 Chernikoff, Helen. “Madam Precedent.” The Forward Magazine. (July 13, 2018): 26-31.
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman serves Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, California.