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The monthly newsletter for Reconstructionist Leaders
May 2016
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In This Newsletter
What You Need to Know:
          Tell Us What Is Happening in Your Community
          Can We Receive Your Newsletter?
          Synagogue Connect
          2016-2017 Affiliation Benefits Package
Rabbi Deborah Waxman: Why Reconstructionism?
Reconstructionist Plenum Met in May: Wondering What Happened?
Our Yavneh Challenge
Welcoming the Stranger During the Refugee Crisis
Recon Communities in the News
RRC in the News
What We're Reading
How to Reach Us
What You Need to Know

Tell Us What Is Happening In Your Community
Is your congregation or havurah doing something unique that you want to share with the entire Reconstructionist community? Please let us know!
 
Stories help us stay connected as a movement and we would like to share stories about your recent projects, initiatives, events and people in our monthly newsletters, Reconstructionism Today (which goes to our entire movement) and Leadership Brief (which goes to our congregational leaders). If there’s something going on that you would like us to share, please let us know on this form, email Rachael Burgess at rburgess@rrc.edu or call 215.576.0800, ext. 141.

Can We Receive Your Newsletter?
We know there are many things going on in your community and we’d love to hear all about them. Can you please add news@rrc.edu to your email distribution list so members of our Community Engagement department can receive and read your newsletter?
 
Thank you for helping us stay in touch!

Synagogue Connect
We wanted to share information with you about Synagogue Connect, a project designed to reach out to American college students with the goal of connecting them with congregations for the High Holidays and beyond. Rabbis Ronald N. Brown and Charles Klein, the initiative’s founders, are working together with AEPi, the international Jewish fraternity, to create a list of participating congregations in the U.S. So far, 1,000 Reform congregations and 800 Conservative congregations have signed up. Seventeen Reconstructionist congregations have joined so far; we’d love to add yours to the list as well! 
 
If you would like more information about participating, please contact Tresa Grauer at tgrauer@rrc.edu.

2016-2017 Affiliation Benefits Package
We mailed next year's Affiliation Benefits Package to congregational presidents and executive directors earlier this spring. Please start sending us your updated leadership rosters and budgets so that we can stay connected to your current and future congregational leaders.

To view the entire Affiliation Benefits package, download a copy here.
Important Dates
 
June 2
New Year/New Mode: Creative Leadership for the High Holidays Workshop
A workshop at RRC for anyone who leads High Holiday prayer services—rabbis, lay leaders, educators, rabbinical students.

June 5
RRC Class of 5776 / 2016 Graduation

June 11-13
Shavuot
(Our office will be closed 6/13)
 
June 15
Spirituality and Mental Health Workshop
A training session for mental health professionals. 

July 4
Independence Day (U.S.)
(Our office will be closed.)
 
July 20-24
Hevreh (Adult Learning Retreat)
A retreat for adults who seek study, prayer, spiritual renewal and growth with leading Jewish scholars.
Resources

Latest Reconstructionist News to Share

Latest Reconstructionism Today

Living Jewish Learning (blog)

RENA (website)

CEDAR (website)

The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities' Marketing Resource Kit (pdf)

Compassion Fatigue Among Rabbis (pdf)
 
Rabbi Deborah Waxman: Why Reconstructionism?

Below are remarks that Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., delivered to the fifth convening of the Reconstructionist plenum on May 1, 2016.

Reconstructionism is an approach to Judaism that balances reverence for tradition with embrace of the future mediated through community. We Reconstructionists venerate our past. We draw deeply upon the rich and various historical expressions of Jewish life, yet we don’t idealize them. We understand the present moment not as something less; rather, we recognize the times we are living in as full of potential. We know, for example, that democracy has enlivened the Jewish community. The implications of democracy—its embrace of women and LGBT Jews, for example—strengthens the Jewish community. And it is our commitment to diversity, a very modern attribute, that may be the greatest hallmark of the Reconstructionist movement. Because we strive to balance the needs and mandates of the community with the needs of every individual, Reconstructionist Judaism looks different in every community. And this diverse expression is a very good thing because each community can grow and flourish in the manner most suited to the local environment and the needs of its members. But it also makes it more difficult for all of us to concisely describe the Reconstructionist movement, to capture the incredible diversity succinctly, except by pointing to all the various instances and variety of Jewish expression, each of them authentically Reconstructionist.

The Reconstructionist approach differs from other movements in that we are less oriented toward the past than the Orthodox and Conservative movements, less individualistic than the Reform movement and less oriented to a halakhic expression of Judaism than Chabad, despite their embrace of modern technology and techniques and their initial welcome to all Jews. We also differ from the Reform movement theologically, aesthetically and in the training we provide for and the expectations we have of our rabbis. We share DNA with the Renewal movement, many of whose leaders trained at RRC, but while Renewal describes itself as heart-centered, Reconstructionism reaches for both the heart and the head, and our head-centeredness—our embrace of rationalism—and rejection of a supernatural theology, also distinguishes us from the Renewal movement.

Read the rest of the remarks below.
Reconstructionist Plenum Met in May: Wondering What Happened?

The Reconstructionist Plenum allows us to share information and it is one of the ways we make decisions as a movement. The Plenum met by phone on Sunday, May 1, to discuss three topics central to the future of the movement: financial support, Israel, and a movement-wide resolution on gender and sexual identities. Plenum representatives from 28 Reconstructionist congregations conferred with 20 additional congregational leaders, RRC board members and staff. The conversation was led by Abe Clott, who serves as chair of the Congregational Services Committee and of the Plenum.

Supporting the Movement
Leaders of the movement have been working on a new dues structure designed to generate sufficient and predictable revenue to support the Reconstructionist movement. The new system will be designed to be fair to all, simple to administer, responsive to congregational circumstances and transparent to participants. The system should also foster good relations between the College and Communities and congregations. Before formulating and presenting a proposal to the Plenum for recommendation to RRC’s Board of Governors, the dues working group will continue gathering reactions from congregational leaders.

Proposed Statement on Reconstructionist Values and Political Activism Regarding Israel
The Plenum began a conversation about Reconstructionist values as they might be expressed or applied in a conversation about Israel. Rabbi Waxman shared a statement prepared by the Israel Task Force that is a starting point for this conversation and is intended to be amplified by commentary from Reconstructionist rabbis and other leaders. Individuals and congregations can send comments about the process or statement to rschonning@rrc.edu. Over the summer, the Israel Task Force and others will be formulating a more detailed process for this conversation and providing additional materials for congregational study and discussion.
 
Resolution on Gender Inclusivity
The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston, IL, recently adopted a resolution advocating the inclusion and welcoming of people of all gender identities and gender expressions in their congregation. The congregation urged the wider movement to consider enacting a similar resolution. The Plenum discussed and recommended a resolution to the RRC Board of Governors for adoption.
 
If you have any questions about these topics or about the Plenum in general, please contact Tresa Grauer at tgrauer@rrc.edu.
 
You can review the materials and minutes or listen to the meeting recording here.
Our Yavneh Challenge

As leaders within your congregations and across the Reconstructionist movement, please join us in spreading the word about Our Yavneh Challenge. This challenge is a donor opportunity for those passionate about Reconstructionist Judaism to deepen involvement with our international movement. We are seeking 100 new donors to make first-time gifts of $1,000 or greater. Like the ancient sages at Yavneh, together we are reimagining Judaism for a new era.

For more information, click on this link or contact Barbara Lissy, assistant vice president for development, for a conversation at 215-576-0800 ext. 155. She can be reached by email, if you prefer, at blissy@rrc.edu.
Welcoming the Stranger During the Refugee Crisis

Throughout our movement, communities are taking action and making a difference in the lives of people displaced from their homes due to war, terrorism or famine. Communities like Congregation Darchei Noam in Toronto and Dorshei Emet in Montreal have sponsored visas allowing several Syrian families to relocate to Canada. In northern New Jersey, B’nai Keshet held a dinner for refugees resettled in the area. Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York City held a large community event on refugees and is planning in-district meetings with members of Congress to effect policy changes.
 
Other Reconstructionist congregations, including Beth Hatikvah and Mishkan Ha’am in New Jersey and West End Synagogue in New York City, have signed on to the HIAS Welcome Campaign. If your congregation is interested in participating, fill out the form here. HIAS will send you resources about how to get involved.
 
Many of our rabbis are also willing and ready to welcome refugees, including RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities president, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., who has spoken out this issue.
 
Would your community like to get involved? Contact Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the RRC Tikkun Olam Commission, at mliebling@rrc.edu
RRC in the News

Mazal tov to Reconstructionist Rabbis Elizabeth Bolton, ’96; Jon Cutler, ’87; Seth Goldstein, ’03; Darby Jared Leigh, ’08; and Joey Wolf of Havurah Shalom who were recognized among Forward’s America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis of 2016.
Rabbi Deborah Waxman: Why Reconstructionism? (continued)
 
Reconstructionist Judaism values community norms alongside individual needs and wants. This is both horizontal and vertical community-- those people we encounter in the present (horizontal), ancestors from whom we inherited our rich traditions and the descendants to whom we will pass it along (vertical). This commitment to community is both central to Reconstructionism and deeply counter-cultural in our modern secular culture.

We are also intentionally, not naively, optimistic. We understand and take seriously Kaplan’s mandate that every generation is obligated to reconstruct Judaism. And we feel empowered and obligated to reconstruct Judaism, keeping in mind our serious commitment to diversity. We know we have to figure out how to reconstruct Judaism so it works not only for us, but also for others with different preferences, aesthetics and norms, who are part of our community and who share our commitment to the future.

In our modern Jewish community, our combination of optimism, activism, embrace of change and reverence for the past is uniquely relevant to reconstructing Judaism to confront the challenges of our day and our lives. There is so much anxiety now--anxiety around Israel, around rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and around change. We know that most American and Canadian Jewish communities were established following World War II and are not functioning as successfully they had functioned for the last 40, 50 or 60 years and are not serving us well in the 21st century. We can choose between mourning or taking hold and changing for the future. As many others mourn, we accept the challenge of change.

We North American Jews enjoy enormous acceptance and tremendous wealth. We have the opportunity—even the responsibility—to create a vital, non-Orthodox, Jewish response to our open society. Can we do that in a way that responds to secularism and is every bit as substantive as fundamentalism? I believe we can.

The Reconstructionist approach has been nurtured through a set of institutions-- the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, in collaboration with the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and Camp JRF. Collectively, we have been a seat of innovation for the Jewish community. We have created new practices and norms, and others have followed. We have been and can continue to be pathbreakers.

We are continuing to uncover, to hear and to amplify the diverse voices within the Jewish community, we encourage our congregations to explore and to experiment and to welcome these voices, to welcome the participation and the leadership of Jews of all types who partner with us to reconstruct Judaism. Through our multifaith work, through the Guide for Jewish Practice, and through our work nurturing each community and as a network of communities, we are continuing the work of the founders of our movement, the work of previous generations of Jews.

We have the ethic, commitment and smarts to create a vital, non-orthodox approach to Judaism. We have the energy and passion to respond to this age of invitation when each of us can choose our identity(ies) and how to express them. I invite you to join me in continuing and redefining and pursuing the Reconstructionist endeavor.


Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.
President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities 
How to Reach Us:

Tresa GrauerDirector of Affiliate Supporttgrauer@rrc.edu; 215.576.0800, ext. 144
Cyd WeissmanDirector of the Reconstructionist Learning Networks
cweissman@rrc.edu; 215.576.0800, ext. 257
Rabbi Joel AlpertDirector of Rabbinic Placement
jalpert@reconplacement.org; 215.576.0800, ext. 304
Jackie LandEducation and Program Specialist
jland@rrc.edu; 302.500.0863
Rory SchonningCommunity Engagement Assistant
rschonning@rrc.edu; 215.576.0800, ext. 131

Our business hours are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET; Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ET

1299 Church Road, Wyncote, PA 19095
P: 215.576.0800 | F: 215.576.6143


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The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities in association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) provide services for more than 100 congregations and havurot where members help create the Judaism they want to live. RRC is a progressive rabbinical school­­ where people of all backgrounds engage intensively with Jewish texts, thought and practice. As a combined organization, RRC and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities make up a unique kind of entity in the contemporary Jewish landscape.
 
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