How URJ Biennial Taught Me a New Meaning for My Work

Inside Leadership

How URJ Biennial Taught Me a New Meaning for My Work

Women laughing as they hold hands and dance around the plenary room during a URJ Biennial song session

When I was a Hillel Rabbi, one of my students referred to the core of my work as “SABSy,” a millennial term built out of the acronym for “See And Be Seen.” In my current work as director of community building at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, I use this term all the time in conversations about what kind of presence we, as clergy, staff, and lay leaders, want to have.

SABSy describes the way we work the room at an oneg, or the way we can have an effective “pop-in” presence on a lay-led project. SABSy is also a state of mind: It refers to strategic placement of oneself in a community, allowing for visibility and accessibility.

I came to the URJ Biennial this year, for the most part, to be SABSy. For someone with close ties to the Reform Movement, Biennial is like a bizarre dream, where all the people from the most disparate moments in your life – from your eighth grade religious school teacher to your eighth grade campers, to your first kiss, to your closest friends and congregants – are all in one room together. While this scenario has great potential to feel deeply unsettling and disorienting, it instead feels like one’s archetypal home, filled with warmth, comfort, and belonging.

As we encounter each of these people from our past, we also access past exchange and feelings. Biennial reminds us of moments in our lives that we may have forgotten; the small but transformative moments that made us who we are, the moments of connection, inspiration, and sacred agitation, moments of compassion and tenderness and love.

More than anything, URJ Biennial redefined for me what it means to be SABSy: Biennial creates a space where people really see each other and feel truly seen by them, as well. I hope that I can strive to incorporate this new definition and sacred goal in my life and in my work.

Pre-register for the URJ's 2019 Biennial in Chicago, IL, to be held from December 11-15, 2019. The deadline to lock in the 2017 Biennial Early Bird rate and get a $100 credit toward your registration is December 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

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Rabbi Ilana Schachter is the director of community building at Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, N.Y. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she also received a MA in Hebrew Letters. She received her AB With Honors in Comparative Literature and Judaic Studies from Brown University. 

Rabbi Ilana Schachter
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