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by Cathy Rolland
How fortunate I was to be among a dedicated group of early childhood professionals who gathered last weekend in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains for a dose of spiritual renewal and time together with respected colleagues with whom I could share ideas, resources, and challenges around our sacred work to engage young children and their families in the joys of Jewish life. How blessed I was to attend the 2014 Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism Kallah.
Our adventure began at Congregation Beth HaTephila, where Rabbi Batsheva Meiri and the Kitah Hey class of talented fifth graders led a truly inspiring and meaningful Kabbalat Shabbat service. The next day, we spent time devoted to intentional Jewish practice in North Carolina’s beautiful outdoors. Led by Rabbi Mike Comins and Shira Kline in the spring-like air and sunshine of the Tar Heel State, I felt true kavannah (intention) in my worship, joy in my singing, and that indescribable ruach (spirit) that happens whenever Jews come together.
Indeed, throughout the weekend, I was on a spiritual high, continually amazed and inspired by my colleagues’ dedication to building strong connections with one another and within the greater Reform Movement. This rapport was evident in the links we forged with the community at Congregation Beth HaTephila and, perhaps most important, will be readily visible now that these outstanding professionals have returned home. Refreshed and invigorated by their time away, they are busy in congregations across North America — leading the way in implementing and nurturing early childhood programs that invite the youngest children to celebrate the joys of Jewish life, engage their parents and provide them with tools to build meaningful Jewish lives at home, and connect families to Jewish role models, as well as to the joys of Jewish living and learning.
If you’d like to be part of the exciting conversation around this holy work, join my colleagues and me — and lots of other folks who are having engaging discussions on a wide array of topics — in The Tent, a collaborative workspace for leaders of Reform Judaism. I look forward to seeing you there!
Cathy Rolland is a member of the Expanding Our Reach team at the URJ. As a thought leader in Early Childhood Engagement, she also serves on the URJ Faculty.