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By Jeremy Gimbel
That is how a leader begins the Birkat HaMazon, the blessing recited after a meal. When I think about the process that led to the publication of Birkon Mikdash M'at: NFTY's Bencher, this proclamation resonates like the beautiful walls of sound created by NFTYites and campers as they sing this blessing.
N'vareich! Let's praise NCSY (the youth movement of the Orthodox Union) and USY (the youth movement of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism). Let's praise these youth groups who led their respective Movements in the creation of their benchers (Yiddish: small booklet containing Birkat HaMazon). Had it not been for their leadership and their benchers, I might never have been inspired to create a resource to better reflect Reform custom and ideology. In fact, before the Birkon Mikdash M'at: NFTY's bencher was created, the Reform movement did not have its own bencher. This became the first book that provided a portable package of not only the Birkat Hamazon, but of songs and blessings that authentically reflect Reform practice.
N'vareich! Let's praise the NFTY Boards that came before me. Let's praise their wise vision to establish a fund specifically designed for a NFTY Board member's project. Had it not been for that special projects fund, this bencher would just have been a nice idea. Instead, NFTY had the resources to pilot the first edition at the 2005 NFTY Convention in Los Angeles.
N'vareich! Let's praise the leadership of NFTY, the URJ, the CCAR Press, and the URJ Press. Let's praise Rabbi Matt Soffer, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Hope Chernak, Rabbi Eve Rudin Kleinman, Rabbi Michael Friedman, Rabbi Andrew Davids, and Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman for putting the proper pieces in place for the Reform Movement to reap the benefits of a joint project. Had it not been for their teamwork, our Bencher may never have seen the light of day.
N'vareich! Let's praise the fact that the Birkon Mikdash M'at: NFTY's Bencher was printed in time to be released at the 2005 URJ Biennial in Houston.
N'vareich! Let's praise the camps, NFTY regions, synagogues, and other groups who use our Bencher in their communities to facilitate and enhance the joy of singing in groups, the ritual moments of holiday observance, and the spiritual experience of Shabbat.
N'vareich! Let's praise the future. Let's praise the teen leaders who have held up our Bencher as a model for creating meaningful change in our Movement. We do not yet know exactly how they will impact the future of Reform Judaism. But we do know what we will say as we celebrate their accomplishments:
"Please turn to page 25... Chaveirai, n'vareich! Friends, let's praise!"
Jeremy Gimbel is a Rabbinic Education student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. He edited Birkon Mikdash M'at: NFTY's Bencher during his tenure as NFTY's Religious & Cultural VP. He is a proud alum of BITY (Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA) and NFTY-SoCal.