Chris Harrison

Chris Harrison

Inside Leadership
Temple Beth El members and friends participating in a gay pride parade

In Hebrew, nefesh is one of many words that means “soul.” More accurately, it means “breath” and reflects the force that sustains us, empowers us, and drives us not only to survive, but also to thrive.

Belin Award-winning Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, TX, applied this idea of breath and soul to their NEFESH (Neighbors Elevating Faith, Education, Service, and Hope) program, an initiative that offers themed learning opportunities each month. “The idea for NEFESH came from a desire to expose members of Beth-El and the greater San Antonio community to different social justice topics;...

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Two women holding hands under a chuppah as a rabbi officiates over their wedding ceremony

When it comes to being audaciously hospitable, sometimes a congregation doesn’t need a specific initiative or program at all; rather, its commitment to welcoming can be seen in the small, seemingly unnoticeable day-to-day ways that the leadership and community interact with one another.

This was the case with Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley (TEMV) in Lowell, MA, and its LGBTQ+ “Uninitiative,” a series of audaciously hospitable actions to welcome and support the congregation’s LGBTQ+ community. To learn more about the Uninitiative, for which the congregation won a 2019 URJ...

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Group of people wearing synagogue shirts and standing in front of a rainbow welcome banner

In 2015, the Union for Reform Judaism adopted the “Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People,” a declaration of the Reform community’s commitment to the full equality and inclusion of people of all gender identities and gender expressions. Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX, decided to implement this value in its Gender Identity Training program, which won the congregation a 2019 Belin Award.

The Reform Movement’s commitment, along with that of Temple Emanu El, is based in the Jewish value that we are all created in God’s image, and our different gender...

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Rainbow over a body of water

When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories from the Bible was Noah’s Ark. In it, I learned that God had to flood the world because everyone on earth was evil, except for Noah – the most righteous man alive.

I learned about God tasking Noah to build a giant boat and gather two of every animal to survive the flood, after which God promised never to do it again and created a rainbow as a symbol of that promise. I loved drawing pictures of Noah’s ark and the animals and the rainbow.

My connection to the story was admittedly very shallow, as it was for most other children....

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Cluster of balloons with frowning faces and one with a smiley face

The Torah commands us to by joyful on our festivals (Deut. 16:14), which often comes easy for us on festive holidays such as Shabbat, Purim, and especially Simchat Torah – the holiday commemorating the start of our Torah-reading cycle, which we celebrate by singing, dancing, and carrying our Torah scrolls.

This makes sense. We’ve made it through the new year, cleansed ourselves of last year’s missteps, dwelled in our sukkot, and are now ready to start this year’s Torah cycle. We have lots to celebrate!

And yet, every day the world around us proves to us that we also have...

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