Our generation of rabbis has been blessed to have served during one of the most transitional times in American Jewish history. From the moment we walked off the bimah in June of 1972, we were witness to and part of great changes. We helped shepherd the feminist revolution, the revolution in synagogue music and worship styles, the LGBTQ revolution, and numerous social justice causes. It is safe to say that in many ways, the Reform Judaism that welcomed us in 1972 is not the same as it is in 2022. This is all for the good. We have lived the reality of innovation and flexibility, even up to the present as so many of us still teach and preach electronically.
As I reflect on these 50 years, I also reflect on the friends from our years who have died, friends with whom I still hold sacred memories. Our rabbinate has changed in so many ways, yet, as we move into our own futures, we can also take pride in the lives we have touched, the moments of meaning we helped shape, and the relationships that, in so many ways, helped shape us.
I think, as I look back on these years, that one of the great lessons has been the mystery of personal encounters. We can never know what impact a class, or a word, or a call, or a visit may have made with someone. If we are lucky, some of these people will remind us, often years after the event. I think that these “quiet victories” are the real payback for all of us. They reinforce what I call the theology of relationships; that as we age we come to understand that the relationships we have really are what gives us meaning. Our rabbinate has given us so many of the moments. Maybe we do not celebrate them enough.
Let us also keep in mind that, as long as we are blessed with health, we can continue to help, each of us in our own way, to continue to create these relationships and shape a unique Jewish future. We have been blessed to have been called to be of service, so may we continue.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, DMin, is the Founder and Director of Jewish Sacred Aging, and he hosts the weekly podcast Seekers of Meaning. He is adjunct faculty at HUC-JIR in New York City and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. He served for over three decades on the staff of the Union for Reform Judaism and was the founding director of URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns. He is celebrating 50 years as a Reform rabbi.
We look forward to celebrating 50-year rabbis when we come together at CCAR Convention 2022 in San Diego, March 27-30, 2022. CCAR rabbis can register here.