When the planning committee for the upcoming 2020 CCAR Convention met last spring, we asked ourselves, “How could we be in Baltimore and not look to understand the issues that the residents of this city meet each day?”
Like Cincinnati, Orange County, and Atlanta in recent memory, this convening of the Central Conference of American Rabbis will include opportunities to learn from some of the social justice issues endemic to Charm City. When we are together in March, we will explore issues around immigration, the toll of gun violence, climate change, the safety and care of people who are sex workers, and much more.
One workshop I am excited about will be with Baltimore’s Immigrant Outreach Service Center (IOSC). This 501c3 organization is an immigration center which grew out of a social justice campaign at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore, through the help of foreign-born parishioner volunteers. IOSC helps immigrants build successful lives, offering a variety of services as wide as the variety of people they serve. There is a lot for us to learn from this organization that we can apply to our work settings: in advance of Passover, we will hear from people who came to the United States running from terrible circumstances towards a better opportunity for themselves and their families. We can also find inspiration from the experience of St. Matthew; the congregation’s demographics shifted with each passing year and so did the variety of programs they used to meet the needs of this changing population. And we will learn from the IOSC Executive Director and Senior Pastor of St. Matthew about how they created an independent non-profit organization that does essential justice work and has served immigrants from 123 countries.
As the CCAR continues to serve rabbis who serve in a multiplicity of settings, the Convention committee is also working to create learning opportunities that serve us. As we navigate the future of Jewish life in this time of change, I know that the social justice offering at CCAR Convention will inspire us all and supply tangible resources and inspiration to fuel the work we will do at home. I will see you in Baltimore.
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman serves as an associate rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, Texas. CCAR Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020.