Finding the 2019 CCAR Board of Trustees

In 1890, in his message to the first convention of the CCAR, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise shared the following:

“Whatever advances the spirit of Judaism in its true character …  it is the right and duty of the united rabbis in conference assembled to do, and do it well., in the name of God and Israel, for the sake of our country and our people, for the triumph of truth, humanity, and righteousness.”

Here we are, almost 130 years later.  This charge continues to inspire us, lifting our souls, grounding our mission, and igniting our values.

Andrea Goldstein and I were honored to co-chair the nominating committee for the next generation of the CCAR Board.  Our committee took very seriously the sacred task of finding those in our Conference who would not only perpetuate the vision inspired by Wise, but also those whose can propel us into the future.

What does that include:

  1. It was important that the board maintain a sense of continuity so that the new board felt they were able to hit the ground running right away (especially with the retirement of Steve Fox)
  2.  Diversity– specifically we were looking to create a more diverse board when it came to gender, LGBTQ colleagues and non-pulpit rabbis.  We were less concerned, this year, with geographic diversity or in looking at the size of the congregations or organizations that our colleagues served.
  3.  Dynamic Initiative– we were looking for colleagues whom we believed would not just fulfill the expectations of being a CCAR board members, but who would go above and beyond in working to improve our conference.
  4.  Finally, we were looking at an intangible quality that we referred to as “rabbis who make us want to be better rabbis” – rabbis who inspire us and continue to remind us of why our jobs are meaningful.

When the Conference unanimously affirmed our new slate, the Lamp that we are eternally lighting grew brighter, and the dream of Rabbi Wise transformed into the prophetic promise of our leadership.  MAZAL TOV to our new leaders, and THANK YOU to all who have served on this past board.

It was so meaningful being a part of this process.  Each and every member of the CCAR is a descendant of incredible vision.  We are also ancestors to those who will transform goodness.

Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba of Culver City, California.


The Jew of Whitehorse

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel up to Whitehorse, Canada, a city of some 30,000 people in Yukon Territory. Why did I go to Whitehorse? Should I give you the Facebook answer or the real one?

I went to Whitehorse because I would have the opportunity to fly on Air North, a small Canadian Carrier. This airline was on my bucket list of airlines to try. Yes, I love flying, and I go out of my way to be in the air. My husband says I’m normal in every other way.

While researching what to do with my one-day visit to Whitehorse, I learned that Rick Karp, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, was Jewish. He was one of a handful of Jews in the city. I began to think of him as “The Jew of Whitehorse,” as he was the carrier of the Torch for the city. I reached out to Rick right away, and he offered to show me around upon arrival.

It was then that I remembered a story my Grandpa Bert, of blessed memory, once shared.

Grandpa Bert was born in Russia and moved to Montreal when he was an infant. As a young adult, he worked for the Canadian Railroad and headed west. Grandpa disembarked the train and asked the local station manager if there were any Jews in town.

The manager held up one finger and said, “There is just one family.”

One family….. That’s all it took. Grandpa found that family and they took him in for the night.

Now, it would be really nice if this story unfolded with a romantic ending. (No, the family did not have a child that Grandpa eventually married). It’s just a simple story grandpa used to share to illustrate how important it was to be part of the Jewish community.

So while my trip to Whitehorse began as a flying adventure, it transformed into an opportunity to walk in the path of grandpa (though the town he went to was not Whitehorse).

Rick Karp is an incredible soul. He shared with me how he and his wife (zl) arrived in Yukon. He told me about the Israeli community who landed there as well. And he showed me incredible documents about the history of Judaism in Yukon Territory, going back to the times of the Gold Rush. Rick introduced me to the tiny Jewish cemetery in the town of Dawson, and how it had been rediscovered in the middle of the woods after nearly a century of abandonment. And Rick showed me photos and videos of Jewish celebrations that had taken place in the area of over the years. There were tears in my soul.

My entire thinking shifted while there. I approached my visit with an attitude of, “Perhaps I can help bring a taste of Judaism to the area.” But I left realizing, “The Jew of Whitehorse gave me more than I could possibly ever have brought to him.”

My gosh…. the entire world is a living Torah! And I feel deepened through Parashat Whitehorse, stumbled upon by complete accident, but giving me a renewed sense of purpose!

Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA.


Reflecting at CCAR Convention

Dear colleagues,

Having spent the weekend with our 10th graders at the L’taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, I was overcome with emotion joining the Reform Rabbinate.  As we are “Confronting the Future,” our children – our greatest treasures, are reshaping it.  While we have a sacred duty to guide them, we also need to remember that we can learn from them.

I took lots of photos today, and I put them together to try to capture just a little of the breadth of our experience.  (One photo is of our kids in DC – got to get the dramatic juxtaposition in there!)

I also have quite a few selfies.  But the purpose is not self-serving.  I think it’s important that we all take stock of  just how many people have made a difference in our lives.

We have made each other better rabbis.  We have made each other better people.  We have all helped to create souls.

So take some to time reflect.  Who are the people in your rabbinate who have made that difference?  And how did you make that difference for others?

With love and shalom,


Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA.



B’dibur Echad

 I tried to leave the room without making any noise at 6:40 this morning. Nevertheless, my husband called out, “Where are you going so early?”

“To the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Alumni Breakfast” I responded.

“Why so early?” “Do you really need to be there?”

While I had no good answer to the first question, the second was easy.

Yes, I need to be there! The Alumni breakfast is my favorite part of the CCAR Conference. It’s not because of the scholarship (which was great – thank you Aaron Panken).

No, it’s the roll call. It always strikes a chord that reverberates in my soul.

Rabbi Walter Jacob, Class of 1955

As colleagues Chuck Briskin and Jim Prosnit called out each class year, starting with current students and then transitioning to the most recent ordinees, my heart filled with anticipation. 2016. 2015, 2014…. Every class has its own character. When my year (1997) came, we stood up and cheered.

Then I sat back and watched. As each class ascended, I thought of the legacies created and the lives moved. I reflected on our shared experiences as well as the unique visions. I was mindful of the journeys we had endured. And I was thankful for the scholars that inspired us.

The roll call ended with Walter Jacob, Class of 1955. As he stood (to a rousing ovation), I wondered …. When Walter attended his first CCAR conference, what luminaries stood at roll call whose careers spanned over 60 years? Were there rabbis ordained by Isaac Mayer Wise?

We are a living bridge to both yesterday and tomorrow. That’s why I got up at 6am to attend this breakfast. I take my place with such honor as part of this chain. It’s a sacred and shared, somewhat ironic responsibility. After all, we transform the world while keeping it stable – b’dibur echad.

Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA.
Convention Israel

Just a Taste of Our Journey

There’s something about Israel that imbues each moment with layers of depth.  Our days unfold into conversations that will last forever.  The photos and clips in the attached video share just a taste of our journey.  Our spirits continue to hover between heaven and earth, as we hold on to ancient traditions, aspire to future growth, and nurture ourselves through collegiality.
Endless thanks to Janet Liss and Scott Sperling for heading such an outstanding conference.  And thank you to Denise Eger, Steve Fox, and the many CCAR leaders for their incredible work.

Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba in Culver City, California.