CCAR Convention Immigration Social Justice

Embedding Ourselves in Baltimore: What Rabbis at CCAR Convention 2020 Can Learn From an Immigration Outreach Center Born Out of a Catholic Church

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. 

CCAR Convention

A Community of Holy Souls—Why Rabbis Urgently Need to Come Together at CCAR Convention 2020

In Ecclesiastes 1:4 we read, Generations come and generations go, but the Earth remains forever. I used to find great comfort in these words, but of late I wonder about the truth behind this statement. Personally I am feeling overwhelmed and a bit helpless with all that is confronting us, asking myself how do I respond to those who seek out my council when I too am deeply concerned for our future?

As religious leaders, many of us find ourselves feeling battered and bruised from the numerous needs and issues that come at us 24/7. Needing to find ways to care for so many may leave us feeling isolated and alone. A Facebook Group can certainly allow for the scream into the night, but it lacks the ability for authentic human contact between individuals who understand our unique responsibilities, our inner realities. We rabbis need holy souls to sit with in real time to share our concerns, to open up our hearts, and share what’s on our minds, and most importantly to dream together.

This is where our annual CCAR Convention can offer each one of us so much.

When you attend a CCAR Convention, you give yourself the gift of time.

Time to recharge your soul and nourish your mind;

Time to experience heart-opening prayer and stimulating Torah Lishmah;

Time to reconnect with colleagues to share ideas, provide council, or just catch up;

Time to refresh, learning from coaches able to mentor us to be our best, to rediscover our gifts.

At this year’s Convention, you will discover a program that highlights the very best thinkers and activists, change agents, and visionaries, dealing with the major issues of our time: antisemitism, the 2020 election, Israel, the environmental crisis, racial bias, women’s experience in the rabbinate, and other critically important topics impacting us and our communities.

By being together in Baltimore, we are able to be connect with members of our rabbinical body and speak with our CCAR leadership to share with them what each of us—from chaplains, to pulpit leaders, educators, and Hillel directors— needs to thrive within our individual rabbinates. Each and every one of us is tasked with the responsibility to respond to the spiritual and social needs of our times, so let us come together at CCAR Convention.

As they say on every airline flight, “Place the mask on yourself before assisting others.”

I hope you will join me March 22–25, 2020 in Baltimore, where together we will confront the issues of our day, and find our way forward to better assure a strong and bright future for ourselves, our rabbinate, our communities, and our world.

Give yourself the gift of renewal, the gift of CCAR Baltimore Convention 2020.

Register today!

Alexandria Shuval-Weiner is the Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia and the chair of the CCAR Convention Committee. CCAR Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020. CCAR members can register here.

CCAR Convention Prayer

‘Elohim nitzav baadat El’—Standing Together In the Divine Assembly at CCAR Convention 2020

One of the things I love most about coming to CCAR Convention each year is the chance to pray with other rabbis. Shared t’filah each morning mean getting to be part of a “congregation” of people who know liturgy intimately and who share a vocabulary about the range of what prayer is “for.” 

Coming together this way, for me, means getting to sink into something so comfortably familiar, with others I may have once davened next to each day at HUC-JIR, or whom I’ve never met before but with whom I nonetheless share so much common, core experience of prayer. It means getting to learn from being led by colleagues, some of whose expertise I may technically share but whose prayer leadership can help me to examine, hone, and play with my own practice. It means getting to be in a minyan as a participant, without needing to be an exemplar for someone else’s spiritual experience, or a wordsmith to figure out just what the multiplicity of people around me need. As a rabbi who is currently regularly on the bimah, it offers me a chance to just … be part of a community and pray.

This year, I find myself particularly longing for and looking forward to being together in our moments of shared rabbis’ t’filah. The Psalmist wrote “Elohim nitzav baadat El—God stands among God’s gathering” (Psalm 82:1).  We are those whose professional work is to gather others in the name of what is holy. When we gather together ourselves, what a way to invite what is holy to stand with us, in us, through us—to give us the healing we need and to empower us to return to our own work more whole. 

I have the honor this year, on the 2020 Convention Committee, of getting to think about and plan with colleagues the t’filah sessions we will hold Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (multiple prayer options each morning, each paired with a beit midrash session so that we can learn together in the same spaces that we pray), as well as our Kaddish gathering moments each night. 

Hinei mah tov—how good it will be when we come together.

Rabbi Jordi Schuster Battis is the Associate Rabbi of Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, Massachusetts and a member of the CCAR Convention committee. CCAR Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020. CCAR members can register here.

CCAR Convention Torah

Baltimore Beit Midrash: Learning From the Greatest Scholars of Our Generation at CCAR Convention 2020

I look forward to the CCAR Convention each year. There are many different facets that I enjoy, including the opportunity to study with colleagues that I’ve known for many years and colleagues that I meet for the first time.  In the rabbinic imagination, there are seventy faces to Torah, and inevitably, I come home from Convention each year having learned a new text or a new insight into a familiar text.

This year, our study at Convention will include a remarkable opportunity. We have assembled some of the greatest scholars of our generation—including Andrea Weiss, David Ellenson, Michael Marmur, Lisa Grant, Elsie Stern, Amy Scheinerman, and Joseph Skloot—to lead us in a beit midrash. The beit midrash, or study hall, will begin our day with a foundation of significant learning. The texts and ideas that will be presented will provide us with a lens for the entire day to come.

So many of us have a commitment to lifelong learning as a foundation of our rabbinic leadership. We create opportunities in our home communities for learning, and in order to sustain this, we need to continue our own learning. Our professors, who will each teach a personal passion with topics ranging from sacred texts of the Second Temple era to understanding Jewish identity in modern times, will provide us with intellectual and spiritual renewal.

I believe that most of us can remember our favorite teachers, from whatever part of our educational career. These teachers cared for us deeply, helped us identify and pursue our potential, and provided us with knowledge and skills that continue to sustain us.

Our beit midrash teachers at Convention have approached this opportunity with exactly these high aspirations. They believe in us as rabbis, they hope to share with us in ways that allow us to flourish, and they are prepared to give us knowledge and scholarly insight that will stay with us when we return home from Convention.

It has been a blessing to work on this particular aspect of our Baltimore program. Without fail, each scholar was filled with excitement, and sought to identify topics that would be inspirational, interesting, and engaging.  I look forward to seeing many of you as we turn the halls of the Renaissance Hotel into a timeless beit midrash!

Rabbi Peter Stein is the senior rabbi of Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York and a member of the 2020 CCAR Convention Committee.

CCAR Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020. CCAR members can register here.