Rabbi Jill Maderer wrote this article for the December Bulletin.
I can picture, as a young child, sitting at my family’s Shabbat table on an evening when our Rabbi was there as our guest. I remember he and my parents were engaged in a conversation about the importance of the Reform Movement. Rabbi Kroloff spoke about the Movement’s thought leadership and resources such as the youth movement and summer camps. He spoke about the social justice voice of about 1,000 North American congregations and the network of leaders who support each other. He spoke about responsibility to the whole— to think not only of our own Jewish lives and synagogues but about the Jewish people. And most of all, Rabbi Kroloff spoke about how powerful it is to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
The Reform Movement shaped me— summer programs such as Mitzvah Corps, National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) in Israel, and Camp Kutz; youth groups, NFTY, and the Religious Action Center conferences; Reform Judaism on campus, Hebrew Union College, the new Reform prayer books, and social justice leadership; voices throughout the movement who teach me Torah, Mussar, Jewish values— all have taught me how to bring progressive Jewish values to the most complex questions of our time.
Today, still, I am moved by these experiences of Reform Judaism. My theology and my approach to Jewish community is grounded in the same idea: we are a part of something greater than ourselves. For me, this is the power of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial conference of 5,000 leaders. It is helpful to network with congregational
leaders all over the continent, and most of all, it is inspiring to learn and celebrate with people who do what we do— who build intentional, visionary congregational communities.
The URJ Biennial takes place this month and I am grateful to have been invited to co-lead (with a cantor from another congregation, Central Synagogue) the Friday evening Shabbat service. I will be at Biennial with (as of the time I write this) 22 of our Rodeph Shalom leaders who will be in attendance! If you won’t be there at the conference, you can access the service livestream at urjbiennial.org.
For the majority of our congregation, who of course can’t be there in Chicago at the Biennial in person, I’d like to take you in spirit! Please view this video and then, in order to help me prepare, email me or comment on the Facebook post with your responses to the questions posed:
1) What gives you strength?
2) How do we uncover the songs that are hidden in our lives?
3) What helps you feel a sense of liberation?