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I have been fortunate to spend time in recent weeks with an array of Reform leaders, including nearly 100 congregational presidents at our annual Schiedt Seminar and many of the newest and soon-to-be HUC ordinees and graduates – clergy, educators, and Jewish professionals who are eager and exceedingly well qualified to help reshape the Reform Jewish future.
Two days ago, as I confirmed the ordinations of my newest colleagues, I urged them to resist being caretakers of the status quo, and to love our people, especially those who pray, vote, believe, and think differently than they do. I charged them to bind our communities to each other and to Israel, to cast a wide net in defining “pro-Israel” and “Jewishness,” and, perhaps most important as they step up to lead, to have the courage of their convictions, but never to hesitate to let go of outdated ideas or practices.
I am confident that this year’s class will bring new levels of creativity, imagination and holiness to the task, and I look forward to the exceptional changes that will flow from their endeavors. Indeed, my charge and my certainty in their commitment and abilities apply, too, to our Movement’s other leaders with whom I have met in recent days.
The temple presidents I met at this year’s Scheidt Seminar are similarly poised to instigate change within their communities. I was incredibly moved, as I always am, by the the new presidents’ commitment and passion. Combined with the knowledge, tools, and resources the URJ provides, their ongoing support for each other, and the powerful, sacred partnerships they’re building with their clergy, these Reform leaders, too, are undertaking holy work that is sure to strengthen and enhance all aspects of synagogue life.
Finally, at the recently concluded Consultation on Conscience, the Reform Movement, once again, demonstrated its leadership, in providing members – professional and lay – with strategies and tactics to apply the insights of our tradition to the real problems in today’s world. By honing their voices on topics as diverse as race relations, economic justice, civil rights, and humanitarian aid, attendees returned home with newfound skills that make them particularly well-suited to galvanize others in the essential work of tikkun olam.
In each of these inspiring encounters with Reform leaders, I was reminded of just how proud I am – and we all can be – of the outstanding training, expertise, and guidance offered by our Union and our Movement. As we welcome the newest cohort of leaders into our midst at this season, I am – and I hope you are, too – increasingly hopeful, optimistic, and energized about the future of Reform Jewish life in North America.