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Friday, December 13, 2013

Biennial Day 1

Shalom y'all!

Here are the names of the sessions I attended today:

1) More than Just Preschool!  An Opportunity to Transform Parents of Young Children into Synagogue Leaders.
- I took some great notes and I am excited to bring them back to TKE.  This was an inspiring and educational session!

2) Thinking Outside the Blocks: Why It's Critical for Your Congregation to Focus Beyond Its Early Childhood Center
- This session was held in an extremely LOUD location.  While it was pretty hard to hear a lot of what was being said...I was able to take down some great notes from the Powerpoint presentation.  Some of the ideas seem pretty basic - but we were given some ways to effectively approach and accomplish these ideas.

I started out the day with breakfast with Rabbi Lebow and followed that with a "quick" walk around the convention center.  This is probably the largest convention center I have ever seen.  Although there are over 5,000 participants here...because the center is so big, you really are not able to tell the size of the congregation unless we are all together.

I did attend a third session in the late afternoon.  This session was with Ruth Messinger, the President of AJWS, Rabbi Elyse Frishman of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, NJ, Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, Ca, and Rabbi Lisa Edwards of Beth Chayim Chadashim in LA, California.  This session was exploring the Jewish commitment to LGBT rights worldwide.  As you may or may not know, equality is kind of important to, anytime I get to attend a session on this, I am THERE!  It was really great to hear the stories of these four impressive women.  And, to top the experience off, Ruth invited me up to speak about the rabbinical delegation to Washington, DC.

After my sessions, I attended a cocktail hour with Ruth Messinger and other AJWS supporters.  It was great to hear Ruth address our small group.  From there, I went to have a nice dinner with many of our TKE delegation - good food and conversation!

The evening ended with an inspiring address from Rabbi Rick Jacobs - the President of the URJ.  As with every one of his speeches, Rabbi Jacobs gave a clear message, outlining his vision for the URJ in the upcoming years.  I am excited to be a part of this amazing Union!!!

Ok - it has been a long day and I am exhausted.  Time to get some rest to prepare myself for another great day at the URJ Biennial!!!

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rabbis at the White House...Biennial Day 1

Shalom from Sunny San Diego!!!

It was certainly a shock when I walked out of the airport last night to temps in the 60's as opposed to the 30's.  Once I checked into the hotel, I laid down for a much needed night of sleep.  After a nice morning breakfast with Rabbi Steven Lebow, I am now able to write some of my reflections from the American Jewish World Service Alumni Institute.  Learning with a group of very committed and engaging rabbis from across the spectrum was enlightening, educational and amazing!

Ever since I became involved with AJWS, I have been in awe at the mission not only of Ruth Messinger, the President of AJWS, but also of my many colleagues and friends I have made along the way who share a common passion - that is equality for all humankind.  In my experiences so far as a rabbinical student and rabbi, I have learned that there are a variety of ways that one can define or discuss the word "equality."  As far as I am concerned, and for the purposes of this blog, I am referring to every human being on Earth having the ability to feed their families, have quality drinking water, and to live a life free from strife and violence.

Jewish tradition and Jewish texts are filled with the idea V'ahavtah L'reiacha Camocha, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Justice or equality for all is NOT a politically based agenda.  Justice or equality for all is a Jewish value...after all, part of living Or Lagoyim, "a light unto the nations" means exemplifying what it is to treat others with kindness, love and respect.  It is NOT necessary for any of us to agree with every decision one makes.  It IS necessary, however, for each of us to respect the right that others have to make their own decisions that make sense for them in their lives - even if we do not understand.

When my rabbinical delegation traveled to the Eisenhower Executive Office Branch (EEOB) of the White House, we were able to meet with several important members of the White House Staff.  During these lobbying sessions, we were focusing on the support for LGBT rights worldwide as well as fighting against Gender Based Violence worldwide.  These issues ARE important to our government...and I hope my assumption that these are important issues for all Jews is correct.  I am sure no one would support violence against other human beings, even if they do not understand or agree with a person's lifestyle.

What I learned from our trip to the White House was that these issues are important to our government and I stand side by side many colleagues - men and women - who believe it is of utmost importance to bring these issues to our community.  Although we focused on international problems, this is certainly extremely valuable and important for us in our own individual communities here in the States.

AJWS has now embarked on the "We Believe" Campaign.  I encourage every one of us to visit the website to learn about this new campaign, all of the important pieces and also to support it.  There are a variety of ways to do so...just go to the website and check it out!

I am sitting now, in a session at the Biennial focused on "How to Make our Preschool Parents Leaders in our Congregations."  I have learned quite a bit so far - some great ideas...and I will bring some of these ideas back to Temple Kol Emeth for sure!!!  I hope to blog later this evening - or maybe even a video blog (a vlog as my good friend Adina M. Konikoff says) tonight!