CCAR Convention

Rabbinic Growth: Learning Modern, Diverse Rabbinic Skills at CCAR Convention 2020

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff discusses the importance of learning from rabbis and experts at the forefront of the experience of the modern rabbinate at CCAR Convention 2020.

We are so excited to be offering a number of learning opportunities this year at CCAR Convention in Baltimore to help each of us grow in our rabbinates. On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy spending time with colleagues and friends, in study with some of our fantastic teachers and scholars, and hearing from prominent figures who are doing the important work we are all engaged in. However, one area I always look forward to is to learning from those who are at the forefront of the experience of the modern rabbinate.

For example, a few years ago, when I had just taken on the role of senior rabbi at a previous congregation, I chose to attend Larry Dressler’s presentation on Rabbi as Supervisor. I was struggling with a staff of wonderful people, but who were not necessarily the right people for their particular roles within the congregation. Larry explained that every dollar a congregation spends is part of a sacred trust with the congregants. He challenged the idea of keeping people in their roles because they have been part of the congregational family rather than because they are doing the good work of the congregation. This insight helped my community make some very tough but important choices. I have used this guiding insight ever since, especially because supervision has been a major part of my rabbinate for the past ten plus years. We are excited to welcome back Larry Dressler, who will be presenting to us Rabbi as Supervisor: The Art of One-on-One.

This is but one example of the many learning opportunities offered at Convention. We will have a number of presentations, including many that are not specific to the congregational rabbinate. For example:

  • Eric Abbott, who works at the Hillel at Johns Hopkins University, will be bringing some of his students to talk with us about Reform Judaism on college campuses.
  • Shira Koch Epstein will be speaking about Entrepreneurial Community Building: The Life Cycle of a Start-Up Project.
  • Jo Hirschmann will be presenting on Providing Spiritual Care to People Who Are Transgender and/or Non-binary: Lessons from Healthcare Settings.
  • We will also be focusing on issues relating to ethics, antisemitism, fundraising, radical reinvention, and so many more. These are just a few examples of the many offerings we will be providing during the Convention in Baltimore.

Our rabbinates are increasingly diverse. The skill sets we must have are beyond the scope of what many of us learned in our seminaries. I feel CCAR Convention is one of the greatest opportunities to learn how we can broaden our approaches to our various rabbinates. With this in mind, we have been listening to HUCAlum, Ravkav, and our various Facebook rabbinic groups to see where you are and the areas you are concerned about.

While we’re not able to cover every topic, our hope is that we offer enough learning opportunities that you will find of value. I am still grateful to Larry’s presentation at our Boston Convention so many years ago as well as to the variety of presentations before and since. Many of them have and continue to help shape my rabbinate, and I hope we are able to offer the same opportunities to you as well.

If you haven’t, please consider registering and joining us at our Convention in Baltimore. Aside from being at an incredible location in a vibrant and dynamic city, it will also be a great chance to broaden your rabbinate in profound ways.

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff is the senior rabbi of The Reform Temple of Rockland in Nyack, New York and a member of the 2020 CCAR Convention Committee. Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020.

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