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Reconstructionist Judaism, June 2016
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In this Issue:
Prayer is a Song: Bet Haverim in Atlanta Releases Newest CD
CD release parties might be a rare occurrence at most congregations, but not at Congregation Beit Haverim (CBH) in Atlanta. CBH—which happens to be marking its 30th anniversary—just released its sixth professionally recorded CD, “Chant: Beyond the Veil.” It’s the fourth part of the Merkavah Project, the CBH Music Program’s expansive endeavor to connect to the most mystical text of the Bible: Ezekiel’s Vision.
 
“Music has become something that CBH is ‘known for,’” explained Gayanne Geurin, CBH’s music director. “We have wanted to create recorded experiences that in some ways makes a soundtrack for our synagogue life, reflecting who we are and what we strive to be.”
 
The goal behind the latest CD was to highlight the spiritual practice of chanting and capture its musical beauty.
 
At CBH, music is woven into the fabric of the community. Participation is high: the synagogue has 300 households, and the chorus, led by Will Robertson, boasts more than 45 members. CBH also has a band, a string ensemble and a tradition of participatory singing.
 
“We really do let the music guide us into new experiences of connection with each other. The music itself is connecting us, lifting us and teaching us,” she said. “One of the messages is, ‘If there is a creative impulse, let’s makes something happen.'”
 
CBH works to ensure that its music facilitates prayer and contemplation and doesn’t veer into the realm of performance. Geurin says the way to make sure music connects people and is contextually appropriate is to ask many questions: What is the intention behind a particular piece of interpretation of liturgy? What aesthetic tone is it trying to evoke? How does it empower a worshiper to connect with the prayer experience and with one another?
 
“Abraham Joshua Heschel says that the primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests,” she said. “The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song and man cannot live without a song.”
 
Visit Congregation Bet Haverim’s website to check out the entire CD collection.
(L-R: Rabbi Shelley Goldman,Rabbi Nathan Weiner, Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, Rabbi Matan Peled, Rabbi Marisa Elana James and Rabbi Greg Hersh )
.Celebrating Our 2016 / 5776 RRC Graduates
On June 5, we celebrated the ordination and graduation of Rabbis Shelley Goldman, Greg Hersh, Marisa Elana James, Ora Nitkin-Kaner, Matan Peled and Nathan Weiner from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
 
During the ceremony, we recognized exemplary people in the Reconstructionist movement and wider Jewish world. We awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees to Rabbis David Gedzelman, David Mivasair, Reena Spicehandler, David E.S. Stein, Michael Strassfeld and Avi Winokur. These rabbis have served for 25 years and have acted to better the Reconstructionist movement in keeping with its ideals.
 
This year, we inaugurated the first Presidential Recognition Award. This was presented to Aaron Ziegelman, who has devoted his life to advancing Reconstructionist Judaism in both institution and practice, while sowing the seeds that nurture rabbinical training and movement leadership.
 
We were pleased to bestow the College’s highest award, the Keter Shem Tov Award, to Stephen P. Cohen, Ph.D., a person of academic and communal distinction for his service in pursuit of Reconstructionist ideals.
 
John S. Ruskay, Ph.D., was our recipient for Doctor of Humane Letters, which we annually award to scholars and organizational leaders who have distinguished themselves in the pursuit of strong Reconstructionist values. These leaders make outstanding contributions to the Jewish community or to religious life in North America or Israel.
 
We congratulate all of our graduates and honorary degree recipients.

Learn more about our graduates and see a video clip from the ceremony, or view the 2016 / 5776 graduation program.
.Our Yavneh Challenge
Are you passionate about Reconstructionist Judaism? Connected to your rabbi? Committed to your congregation? Consider deepening your commitment to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and joining Our Yavneh Challenge. Please join with others from across North America in supporting OUR Reconstructionist 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, at 215.576.0800, ext. 155 or blissy@rrc.edu.
.Pluralistic Israel
On May 24, RRC was honored by a visit from Michal Berman, the director of Panim.
 
If you’re not familiar with Panim, it’s a Jerusalem-based organization that looks to bring together the secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel. Panim represents a federation of 55 other nongovernmental organizations and their tens of thousands of supporters who are working to advance an inclusive Jewish, Zionist and pluralistic worldview. Panim’s mission is to strengthen Jewish-Israeli identity and culture across Israel while advancing the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and pluralistic society.
 
The organizations represented and served by Panim are very diverse, and their activities are varied. However, all believe in pluralism in Israeli society and in Jewish life.
 
This structure is quite similar to the structure of the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities in that we too are an organization comprised of communities of varying sizes, foci and philosophies across North America. Like Panim, Reconstructionist communities are also committed to egalitarianism, inclusion and the dedication required to help Jewish communities flourish.
 
During Michal’s visit, we explored some of the similarities between Panim and the Reconstructionist movement, including the issues stemming from serving member organizations while holding major goals of inclusivity, diversity and growth. We also discussed ways in which RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and Panim believe in the same future of engagement with religious pluralism and democracy for Israel. We are happy to collaborate and maintain a relationship with Panim, an organization that reflects our values and works in many ways to accomplish our same goals.
 
Please visit Panim's website to learn more about the organization. And if you are in Israel, pay a visit!
 
Adina Newberg, Ph.D., is Director of Israel Engagement at RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. Read more about the Israeli-Jewish Renaissance on our blog, Pluralistic Judaism in Israel, or on the Gateways to Israeli-Jewish Renaissance Facebook page
.Experience Israel
We’re happy to announce a new partnership with Israel Experts, which has designed unique travel experiences for more than 16 years. Whether you are planning b’nai mitzvah trips, congregational tour, or even an educational program in your community, Israel Experts goes beyond the obvious and into the depths of Israeli culture, history, politics and ethnic diversity.
 
Plan your trip now and visit our website.
 
If you’re 21-26 years old, you can travel to Israel on the first Reconstructionist Birthright Israel trip! Find out more information at www.campjrf.org/birthright.
.Reconstructionist Ritualwell
.Graduations and Transitions
All of those years filled with anxiety, homework, papers, group projects, all-nighters and final exams have led you to this moment…graduation! During this time of celebration, check out these rituals for Graduation on Ritualwell.org. Whether from high school, college, graduate school, vocational program or any other educational milestone, take time to commemorate your accomplishment.
 
Are you a parent with an empty nest? You’re not alone! Loren Amdursky describes her experiences transitioning after her kids left home. She came up with a ritual to comfort her and mark this new phase of her life.
 
During times of endings and beginnings, find prayers, rituals and blogs at Ritualwell.org, the Reconstructionist movement's creative ritual website.
.Coming Up

Camp JRF Summer 2016!
June 26-August 14, 2016
South Sterling, PA
A few spaces are still available for this summer at Camp JRF, the camp that brings together Reconstructionist children. Experience our new Camp JRF video
 
Midsummer Shabbaton at Hevreh Summer Adult Learning
July 20-24, 2016
Waynesboro, PA
A retreat for adults who seek study, prayer, spiritual renewal and growth with leading Jewish scholars, Hevreh returns for a second summer. Register now.
 
Hazon Bike Ride
September 3-5, 2016
New York City, NY
Take hold of your handlebars for Hazon’s annual Ride and Retreat, a Shabbaton and supported bike ride through the Berkshires, Hudson Valley, and New York City. Join this year’s Reconstructionist team, “Recon Riders.” All cycling levels welcome! To get involved, contact team co-captain Becca Richman at becca.ilana@gmail.com or click here for more information.
 
Reconstructionist Birthright Israel
Planned Dates, December 18-29, 2016
Israel
Camp JRF, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College are teaming up with Israel Experts to lead a uniquely Reconstructionist Israel trip for young adults ages 21 to 26. Our participants will see major sites and visit out-of-the-way places to learn about Israeli culture. For first-time travelers and previous visitors alike, this will be an incredible experience!
 
Click here for more information or email us at reconbirthright@campjrf.org.
 
.Reconstructionists in the News
Mazal Tov to Rabbis Elizabeth Bolton, ’96; Jon Cutler, ’87; Seth Goldstein, ’03; Darby Jared Leigh, ’08; and Joey Wolf who were recognized among the Forward’s America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis of 2016.
 
RRC not only provides a thorough academic rabbinical program, the institution also supports a space for rabbinic students to be entrepreneurs and changemakers in the community. This year, RRC created the Auerbach Entrepreneurial Grant Program, encouraging students to pursue groundbreaking initiatives. This year, we awarded five students with the grant. Read more about the grant and the five entrepreneurial endeavors here.
 
On May 22, Rabbi Gary Gans, ’79, was honored for his 35 years of service at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Marlton, NJ. He will transition to the congregation’s Rabbi Emeritus, and Rabbi Nathan Weiner, ’16, will take over as full time rabbi.
 
Yasher Koach to Rabbi Megan Doherty, ’07, on her new position as the new Jewish campus life and Hillel director at Oberlin College!
 
As congregations look for ways to finance their operations, Columbia Jewish Congregation has voted on implementing a pay-as-you-wish dues structure. They are one of only 30 synagogues in the country to have adopted this model.
 
In a piece by the Recorder, Rabbi Benjamin Weiner, ’08, describes his life as a sustainable farmer when he’s not leading the Jewish Community of Amherst and the growing Jewish farming movement. 
Inspiration and Connection

Celebrate Pride Month this June with essays, prayers and rituals from Ritualwell.org.

Join members of other Reconstructionist congregations on our Facebook page, where we post daily wisdom and special announcements.
 
Study Torah on your time with Kehillat Israel’s Podcast! While at home or on the go, you can listen to this free podcast from our Pacific Palisades Reconstructionist synagogue with weekly Torah study led by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, '97, and other master classes led by Rabbis Steven Carr Reuben and Nick Renner, ’14.
 
Ideas, info, inspiration and recipes, all day, all the time on our Twitter feed.
 
Keep up to date with the democratic trends in Israel on our Gateways to the Israeli-Jewish Renaissance Facebook page, curated by RRC’s director of Israel Engagement, Adina Newberg, Ph.D.
 
Need a ritual boost? Browse Ritualwell.org, Reconstructionism’s home for experimental ritual. 


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The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities in association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) provides 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 / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities make up a unique kind of entity in the contemporary Jewish landscape.
 
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