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High Holy Days News

Rabbi Hara Person’s High Holy Day Message to CCAR Members

As CCAR members prepare to celebrate the High Holy Days and lead services safely distanced but spiritually connected to their communities during the coronavirus pandemic, Rabbi Hara Person shares her gratitude for their deep commitment to strengthening the Reform community.


As these really strange High Holy Days approach, I keep thinking about that Baal Shem Tov story about going into the forest, finding just the right place, and the right prayer, and lighting the fire, and saving the people from danger. And how every subsequent generation loses a little bit of original ritual but it’s still enough.

Together, we are writing the next chapter of that story, in which, many, many years later, our people once again face incredible danger.

In this new story, it wasn’t clear what to do at first. The elders recalled bits and pieces of old stories, but there were many conflicting versions and no concrete direction. The rabbi didn’t know what to do and so she had to figure it out as best she could. There was no longer a forest—it had long ago been turned into a suburban development and a sprawling mall. As for the special prayers, those hadn’t been part of the rabbinic school curriculum when she was a student. And she couldn’t light a fire, as no one wanted to risk starting another wildfire. So the rabbi wove together the bits of the different stories she had heard, and talked to her wise colleagues who offered ideas and suggestions, and brought together the community.

Because of the great danger, they were spread out in many different places, each person participating in the service remotely through a computer. She told them the story of the past as best she could, and offered up prayers. The community participated with open hearts, and their fervent hopes for a better future reached right from their souls up to the heavens. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t way things had been done in the past. But it was enough.

What we’re doing this year, no matter how different it is from the past, is enough. All the planning you’re doing, all the incredibly hard work you’re doing to make these holidays happen, to keep your community connected, and to take care of them, is enough. Everything you’re doing to take care of yourself, and to take care of those you love, is enough. 

These High Holy Days are going to be different than ever before. They definitely won’t look like the Holy Days of yesterday. But that’s okay. We’re adapting to the present. Despite the strangeness of this experience, you’re still opening up your heart and creating space for others to open theirs. You’re enabling people to gather in creative and virtual ways. You’re helping them speak the yearnings of their souls. Yes, it will be different, but because of your careful work, it will still feel familiar and comforting.

It’s a lot. It’s really a lot. If you’re feeling exhausted and wrung out from all of this, you’re not alone.

Thank you for facing this moment with courage, creativity, and hope.

Thank you for pouring the best of yourself into making these upcoming Holy Days the best they can be under the circumstances.

Thank you for what you are doing to strengthen our community and our people at this difficult time, in all the many ways you are doing so.

Thank you for caring for our college students, our elderly, our sick, our youngest, our newest, our noisiest, our quietest, our bravest, and our most afraid.

Thank you to those just starting your rabbinic careers in a way that no one could have predicted, thank you to those for whom this will be the last time leading High Holy Day services, and thank you for those in retirement for being role models, mentors, and cheerleaders as we navigate unfamiliar terrain. 

Thank you for being part of our rabbinic community, for supporting each other throughout this time, for sharing your ideas and your concerns, your resources and your love.

And thank you for doing all this while balancing your own families and loved ones, perhaps schooling and playing with your children, caring for your parents and other family members, maybe dealing with the loneliness and isolation of distancing, trying to take care of your own health and wellbeing, dealing with fears and anxiety about your financial security and livelihood, perhaps mourning those you’ve lost, the tremendous turmoil of postponed or radically different life cycle events, no summer camp, cancelled plans, and that doesn’t even cover it.

I’m going to end, therefore, with a plea—once the holidays are behind us, please make time to recover. Take time to replenish your souls and nurture yourself. Please take care not only of those you serve and those you love, but also of yourself.

The forest, the fire, the prayers are all being reinvented this year, and how lucky we are to have your leadership in doing so in such a myriad of ways. And it is indeed enough.

L’Shanah Tovah.

Rabbi Hara Person is the Chief Executive of the CCAR.

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General CCAR Rabbis Reform Judaism

A New Year’s Message From CCAR Chief Executive, Hara Person: Looking Ahead Into 2020

Rabbi Hara Person, Chief Executive of the CCAR, reflects on her first six months as Chief Executive, her vision for the organization as 2020 begins, and her gratitude for the community of Reform rabbis.


Dear Rabbis,

Six months ago, I stepped in my new role as CCAR Chief Executive. It’s been quite a ride so far. I’ve had to transition from a specialist in Jewish publications, organizational strategy, and communications into a generalist in all things Reform rabbi. This has meant learning to stretch in new ways. Many of you have generously shared your wisdom and experience with me as I undertake this process of learning, and I am so grateful.

I am spending a good part of this first year in my role traveling with the intention of connecting with as many of you as possible. It is both a joy and a privilege to learn about your triumphs and your challenges, and to hear what brings you the greatest meaning in your rabbinate. I thank you for sharing yourselves with me—both the good and the sometimes painful.  I look forward to meeting and connecting with even more of you as I continue traveling.

As we step into 2020, I’m excited to see the third and last year of the Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate reach its conclusion, and to then embed those findings, recommendations, and suggestions in the ongoing work of the CCAR in meaningful ways. We will also begin to implement the work of another important task force, that on Retirees and Successors. We have also begun a process of thinking about how the CCAR can evolve as our membership continues to diversify, with an ever greater percentage of our members serving in a wide range of roles throughout the Jewish world. And all of this is just a small part of what we’re busy with at CCAR; there are webinars and in-person meetings in development, new publications, other committees, task forces and commissions, trips being planned, and, of course, CCAR Convention 2020 in Baltimore, March 22–25.

One of the things about the CCAR that makes me so proud is the ways in which you are there for each other. For some of you, that means serving on committees or task forces or commissions that make the CCAR a stronger organization, for some that means contributing to our publications and helping us be the teachers and leaders of Reform Judaism, for some that is helping us find the resources we need to best support our mission, and for some that means being each other’s rabbis in moments of crisis. For so many of you, sadly for too many of you, this means finding meaningful ways to come together at this time of increased antisemitism. However it is that you participate in helping the CCAR achieve our highest aspirations, I am moved by your commitment, and I thank you for your gift of self.

I hope that I will see you in Baltimore as we gather to enter the next era of the CCAR. It will be a time for us to come together to learn, to study, and to teach. But even more, it will be a time for us to draw succor from being with other Reform rabbis, no matter the type of rabbinate, to celebrate together, to share together, and to gain strength from one another as we face the challenges of today.  

Sincerely,

Hara E. Person

Chief Executive, CCAR

Categories
Books

Nu, Did You Know? What’s New For You from CCAR Press

There is so much going on around us that it is easy to let information slip through the cracks. As we head toward Convention, our annual opportunity to come together as a community face-to-face, we want to take a moment and bring you up to date on some of the resources now available to you from CCAR Press.

The CCAR Press has been providing essential resources for the Jewish community for over a century. With the recent addition of our new imprint, Reform Jewish Publishing (RJP), as well as our ongoing development of a wide-range of electronic products, we find ourselves in an exciting new position. Now we are able to extend our support to rabbis worldwide, whether through eBook versions of classic texts, our growing collection of Visual T’filah, or any one of our liturgical publications. And by providing such support, we are blessed with the opportunity to support our Jewish community at large. As the primary publisher of the Reform Movement, we see it as our responsibility to not only provide the highest standards of support to our members, colleagues, and friends, but that we are able to directly connect with and strengthen the many communities of which we are lucky enough to be a part.

In an effort to better serve you and every one of your unique communities, we have launched several new Press initiatives. The first, our CCAR Press Resources initiative, provides material and event planning services to lay leaders, gift shop professionals, and congregants. Whether seeking educational resources for Temple programming, customized material for upcoming events, or a message of inspiration to share with the community, CCAR Press is here to help! Coupled with our 2015 Gift Shop Initiative, which provides resources for gift shop professionals at significantly discounted rates, our new Resources initiative makes it as easy as possible for you to introduce and utilize the most current and essential Jewish resources to your friends, family, and congregants. Please contact info@ccarpress.org for questions and tailor-made materials.

This is a time for learning and conversation, and we believe that in fostering community-wide conversations with accessible Jewish resources, we can aid in restoring and sustaining the unity and strength of our community worldwide. To that end, we’ve also introduced our Host an Event Program, created to help you organize and host community events in your congregations, schools, libraries, and Jewish Community Centers. Here at the CCAR, we know that no community is the same, and we’re excited to work together to determine how we can best meet your distinct needs.

Launched in 2016, The Sacred Calling Event Program continues to connect and inform congregants throughout the nation, and we are excited to announce that this program remains available for communities through 2017. Meant to facilitate an ongoing conversation about the impactful reality of women in the rabbinate, this program uses the narratives provided in the award-winning CCAR Press publication, The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, as a launch-pad from which communities may begin to add their own voice to the continuing narrative of equality in the Jewish world. In celebrating the accomplishments of the past, we encourage you to consider the future, and to discuss the actions you can take against prevailing inequalities in your own communities.

New in 2017, we also offer a Grateful Heart Event Program, which features our new publication from poet and liturgist Alden Solovy. This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day provides a uniquely original anthology of modern day psalms and prayers to lift us up, inspire our days, and mark our milestones, spanning topics from the simple delights of daily living to the complexities of grief and sorrow. We offer this program not only with the conviction that Solovy’s words will speak to our own personal moments of grief and joy, gratitude and struggle, but with the hope that these prayers will speak to your collective hearts, giving you the opportunity to bring your community together with the simple yet formidable power of prayer. For more information about these programs, please see the links above. For a full list of upcoming events, visit events.ccarpress.org.

Finally, and in response to requests, we have launched Your Jewish Library, a one-stop-shop for the home libraries of anyone who hopes to further immerse themselves in the rich heritage of our tradition. From CCAR Press classics to critically acclaimed Torah commentaries from RJP, we offer essential Jewish resources to enhance your Jewish life and learning. All titles included in Your Jewish Library are offered at a discount, providing the perfect opportunity for congregants to  stock their shelves with important Reform resources.

As always, we continue to develop new publications, resources, promotional material for your bulletins and mailings, and programs that will help us to help you in strengthening your communities and, ultimately, in strengthening our Movement. Please contact us to learn how you can work with your local libraries, gift shops, and JCC’s to better introduce Jewish resources to your communities, continue important conversations pertaining to our Movement, and to come together in empowerment and gratitude over our shared heritage, traditions, and faith.

Please plan to visit the CCAR Press area at Convention. Meet our staff, and find out what we can do for you. See you in Atlanta!

Rabbi Hara Person is Publisher of CCAR Press and Director of Strategic Communications for the Central Conference of American Rabbis