I just returned from the Biennial Convention of the URJ (our “parent” organization, unifying all Reform congregations) in Orlando, Florida. The convention was only a few days after my return from two weeks in Israel. There were many highlights from both experiences that I want to share with you, but I haven’t yet had time to organize my thoughts (or many notes!). But there are three themes from the convention that stand out:
The first is the theme of the convention, Audacious Hospitality. Almost every speaker and program included this theme in some way. This is the world in which Congregation Emeth lives, but nonetheless I learned much about audacious hospitality and ways that we can incorporate it even more than we already do. And how proud I was to be part of the landmark vote that stated our support and welcome for all transgendered people.
The second is the theme of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. This is an area that our congregation is primed to explore, in my opinion. Kathy and Rick Coencas are considering projects and Curt Palm has volunteered to coordinate this year’s efforts for the Lord’s Table Christmas meal and donations. I believe there are many of you who would like to get involved in a variety of ways and hope you will let Kathy, Rick and Curt, as well as our President Becky Neto know your social justice priorities so that we can frame a significant tikkun olam agenda. We are part of a community of caring, contributing, active, socially conscientious members of our greater society, and there is so much “repairing” that awaits us. Let us begin.
The third area is in Ritual practice, particularly our Shabbat observances. I’ve been told that one of the highlights of any Biennial is the Shabbat experience and this year did not disappoint. Singing prayers with 5000 other souls was spiritually transformational. Dancing around the large “sanctuary” of the convention hall was uplifting. Being exposed to new melodies for prayers raised my consciousness and alertness, while I took comfort in the melodies which were familiar. And yet, there is something comforting and assuring about prayer in our own Emeth sanctuary. In our small group our voices can be heard and our spirits can find a natural resting place. The Biennial inspired me to think of ideas which I hope will attract more of you to attend our services. We have significant participation for a congregation our size, but I want to bring the beauty of Shabbat rest and joy into more of your lives. I will be speaking with the Ritual Committee about this, and I am also eager for YOUR ideas and feedback about what would enhance your Shabbat experiences at Emeth. And now, I am home! I missed all of you and look forward to seeing you this Friday night at our community dinner and Shabbat Short N Sweet, and next week at our Shabbat of Gratitude services.
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel