How does a congregation recognize and celebrate the contributions of two clergy members who have spent the past two decades enriching the community? At Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, the community opted for a celebration that showcased the talents of the members!
The weekend of June 4-5, Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation honored its clergy, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, ’97, and Hazzan Rachel Ann Hersh, with a gala celebration for their 20 years of service to the congregation, which was attended by more than 350 people.
The congregation’s founding rabbi, Rabbi Sid Schwarz, ’80, wrote—as is the Reconstructionist fashion—special blessings to commemorate the occasion.
But it was the music that stole the show.
Kicking off the night was a special rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" in Hebrew and English, performed by the congregation’s youngsters. Also chiming in was the congregation’s very own klezmer band, "Mrs. Torestsky's Nightmare." The teen chorus, "Chords of Glory," surprised Rabbi Dobb—a huge fan of the hit Broadway show Hamilton—with a parody of the show’s opening number, dubbed the "Dobbilton.”
The celebration didn’t end on Saturday night. On Sunday, the festivities continued with a special event for children of all ages, with more music, storytelling by Noa Baum, and a rousing drum circle.
The joyful mood of the weekend's festivities marking the milestone of service by Adat Shalom's clergy reflected the congregation's deep affection and esteem for them.
“It was so clear to me how much the community loves and respects both Rabbi Fred and Hazzan Rachel,” said Jackie Land, Education and Program Specialist at RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, who attended the gala. “They both emulate Reconstructionist values in every way and have been role models, teachers, facilitators, counselors, friends, leaders and so much more to the community. They’ve been instrumental in building a loving, caring, spiritual, green and cohesive community.”
This year's Cultivating Character Retreat participants (Photo provided by RRC)
.What Does It Mean To Be A Person Of Character: A Multifaith Dialogue
For two days, 30 Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders gathered at a Catholic retreat center in Northeast Philadelphia. They didn’t engage in discussions of theology, scripture, or religious history. Nor did they focus on organizing around a political issue or social action. Instead, the religious leaders spent the time teaching and sharing spiritual practices from their respective traditions.
This happened at the third annual “Cultivating Character” retreat that took place in early June. The program was organized and sponsored by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College thanks to the generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The program has grown from having only ten female participants in its first year to having 30 male and female religious leaders at various stages of their careers.
“We grow spiritually, we learn about the other, and we cultivate trusting connections across communities,” explains Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, RRC ‘82, Ph.D., director of RRC’s Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives.
Rabbi Kreimer—who has four decades of involvement in multifaith activism—has pioneered this experiential approach to multifaith engagement.
“We invented this,” she said of RRC. “This is our special unique contribution to the field.”
Sharing religious practices does not replace more traditional dialogue, but it can serve as a supplement.
Participants learn how other religious leaders build spiritual sustenance and work toward becoming more compassionate, mindful people. The program can also serve as a model to the leaders to spur their respective communities toward authentic multifaith engagement.
The idea isn’t that leaders will adopt others’ practices whole cloth, but aspects may inform their own religiosity. For example, Rabbi Kreimer explained she has been deeply moved by the Catholic practice of Lectio Divina, or divine reading, in which New Testament texts are read aloud in an intentional, meditative chant. She has tried to emulate the practice with a group of Jews who study Mussar texts.
Rabbi Kreimer told the assembled religious leaders that “very often in interfaith dialogue, we want to explain ourselves to others so that they will think better of our religion. Rid them of their mistaken notions of it. Teach their children to like us and our tribe. But this encounter is not about defending ‘our team’ and more about owning up to what we lack, as individuals and as communities.”
Rabbi Kreimer’s goals are to grow the program and adapt it for campus chaplains, who are yearning for genuine multifaith exchanges to inspire and educate the chaplains to lead campus communities in meaningful multifaith interactions.
.Have You Ever Wanted To Be A Hebrew School Educator?
If you’re an 11th or 12th grade student and are thinking about teaching at a Jewish school, Gratz College is offering a new online program for Reconstructionist teens called the Mordecai Kaplan Reconstructionist Teaching Certificate.
Learn the history of the liberal Jewish movements
Explore key components of the Reconstructionist movement's educational philosophy
Earn college credit while still in high school
Acquire basic teaching skills as a supervised intern in a religious school classroom
Become employable in a religious school during college
Build a professional portfolio before even graduating from high school
If you’re already getting sick of political ads and bantering between political candidates, we hear you. Take consolation from our 2015 Camp JRF campers, who sought holiness in the secular democratic process. Alex Rubin shares how these campers connected secular holidays with Jewish ritual.
The campers also wrote a prayer you can keep in mind as you cast your vote:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God who gives us freedom, justice, and the power to choose our leaders.
We pray that those who cannot vote can still be represented fairly in our democracy. We pray that those around the world who do not have the same freedoms will one day be able to share our freedom to vote.
Though miscarriages are extremely common, the topic still feels taboo to discuss in our society. And in cases where it is discussed, the focus is often on the one who physically experienced the miscarriage and their grieving process. But the truth is, miscarriage is a tragedy that affects an entire family. To express the sadness and pain a partner can feel after a miscarriage and begin a healing process, Alexander Massey submitted a Blessing by a Man After a Miscarriage, which can be adapted to be said by a male or female identified person or a couple.
During times of joy and sorrow, find prayers, rituals and blogs at Ritualwell.org, the Reconstructionist movement's website for creative ritual.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for more information.
Making camp an inclusive and safe place for kids is no easy task. But few do this better than our very own Camp JRF. As Rabbi Isaac Saposnik, RRC ’08, told the Jewish Daily Forward, “We want this to be a place where people can say ‘I feel comfortable being fully myself, which includes being Jewish and potentially being GLBT or potentially being from an interfaith family or potentially being of color.’”
Congregants at Congregation Shir Hadash in Milwaukee, WI, joined the local Muslim community for a multifaith discussion and participated in an iftar — the nightly breaking of the fast during Ramadan.
In a thoughtful and inspiring interview with the Jewish Journal, Claire Rawson-Dannenbaum from Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, CA shares her experiences growing up with two mothers, her involvement at Camp JRF and No’ar Hadash, her love of Israel, and her passion for tikkun olam.
We often wonder why bad things happen to good people or why tragedy comes into our lives. While spirituality cannot change these things, Rabbi Jacob Staub, RRC ’77, Ph.D., explains that spirituality can help us find acceptance in the things we cannot control. He wrote about the role of spirituality in the mental health field in the Philadelphia Inquirer, prior to teaching a one-day workshop on the topic to mental health professionals.
In the wake of the California End of Life Options Act, Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., joins the discussion about the ethical implications of physician-assisted suicide.
Inspiration and Connection
Every day, we hope that our children see the inspiration and miraculous nature of our world. Rabbi Jason Bonder, RRC ’15, has written a new children’s book entitled “Miracles Like You and Me” which loosely uses biblical narratives to show children the significance of humanity and the greater world.
From his summer internship based in the southern Italian city of Serrastretta, RRC student Michael Pollack, is sharing his experiences at a small local synagogue in an area tourists rarely see. Check out his new blog, “Reconstructing Calabria.”
Wherever your summer travels take you, you can still study Torah with Kehillat Israel’s Podcast. From our Pacific Palisades, CA, synagogue, you can listen in to the congregation’s weekly Torah study led by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, RRC ’97, as well as other master classes led by Rabbis Steven Carr Reuben and Nick Renner, RRC ’14.
Need a ritual boost? Whether you are looking for special prayers for Jewish holidays, everyday moments, lifecycle events or remembering recent events, browse Ritualwell.org, Reconstructionism’s home for innovative rituals. Find out what’s new on Ritualwell by signing up for the monthly newsletter.
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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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