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CCAR 2015: From Selma to Philadelphia

On the Sunday before the CCAR Convention, I joined an amazing gathering at Temple Mishkan Israel in Selma, Alabama. The list of incredibly impressive speakers included dignitaries associated with the Civil Rights Movement of 50 years ago and current activists and leaders. A woman who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 was in the congregation with us. Peter Yarrow made a surprise appearance to recount all the places in which he sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” during the 1960’s in support of Civil Rights and then led us in singing it back to him. Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, raised the roof with his fiery call to rededicate our efforts to pursue the Civil Rights we still lack.

Yesterday, the Monday program at the CCAR brought us Rev. Barber’s inspirational and insightful keynote presentation, a blessing to hear him twice in the space of nine days. I am thrilled to re-energize my commitment to using my rabbinate to help facilitate social progress, and honored that I got to reflect on the ways we use our rabbinical presences to pursue and implement tzedek. All of this on the same day as our Reform rabbinic colleagues gathered to assemble 10,000 meals to feed malnourished children – something we accomplished in our mere two hours allotted!

Selma, Philadelphia, Charlotte, where I serve Temple Beth El (there’s one in almost every town) – wherever we go we bring with us the wisdom of our ancestors which we apply to imagine, and then create, a better society for all. We mobilize each other and the people around us – congregants, staff, colleagues, interfaith partners – so that we may go forth and achieve that which Rev. Barber demanded of us: a prophetic voice and righteous action in the public square.

I continue to be heartened by our time here at the CCAR Convention. I love finding intellectual resources deepened by learning from and conversing with colleagues from multiple generations. My prayer life gets enriched by participating instead of leading, and by being led so capably and creatively.

May we all go from strength to strength in our rabbinates – I continue to by honored and filled with joy to be part of the Conference.

Rabbi Jonathan Freirich is associate rabbi of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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A Day For Rejoicing: Human Rights at the CCAR Convention

The Psalmist wrote, “this is the day the Eternal has made, let us rejoice in it” (Ps. 118:24).

Last Monday at the CCAR convention was dedicated to human rights. As part of raising awareness, there was a panel to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the CCAR’s move to accept gay and lesbian rabbis. 25 years is both a long and short time. Rabbi Yoel Kahn opened a program called, “Celebrating change on the 25th anniversary of CCAR’s resolution on homosexuality and the rabbinate” with a history and a sharing of some of his own story while teaching Torah, his Torah. I hope that Rabbi Kahn’s words were completely inspiring, informative, and emotional to everyone gathered there.

Later in the afternoon, Rev. Dr. William Barber II addressed the conference about a myriad of issues, voting rights, health care, mass incarceration, poverty, and the erosion of equal protection under the law. If you do not yet know about the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina, time to do some research.

The day also included a transition in leadership of the conference. The new board was installed and Rabbi Denise L. Eger took on the mantle of the presidency of the conference. Rabbi Eger is a talented rabbi, a passionate preacher, and works tirelessly for human rights for all. To say that I am proud is an understatement. המבין יבין – those who know, know.

This was a day of much rejoicing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Rabbi Eleanor Steinman