This article is an update from our Visioning Team, co-chaired by Aaron Weiss and Hank Bernstein, since the initial October meeting. Working with synagogue expert Rabbi Larry Hoffman, we are embarked on what we hope will usher in a brilliant new chapter in the history of Rodeph Shalom.
The Team held its second meeting in November and, inspired by Rabbi Hoffman, we followed his meeting sequence (or protocol), which includes welcoming the group; giving each team member the opportunity to express a thought or experience that has occurred since our last meeting; sharing a meal; studying a text; engaging in group work; distilling what we have learned; and ending in grateful prayer.
In expressing our reactions to the recent killing of eleven Jews at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we spoke of a feeling of numbness and vulnerability, and then moved to a spirit of hope and positive action that is possible in the wake of the horrific event.
Our study was centered around a contemporary midrashic monologue by our biblical matriarch Sarah, in which Sarah fills in the blanks of the story of The Binding of Isaac told only from Abraham’s perspective in the Torah. Our reflections on the midrash included that each of us may be at times “unsung” and each person has stories that if told, could be important in informing the understanding of others; and that we need to act with intention, as if the very survival of the Jewish people depends on us and our actions.
Our exercise was centered around discussion in small groups designed to elicit reflections about our personal relations with our sacred community in order to develop powerful language and statements that describe Rodeph Shalom’s vision. By articulating our own experiences, perceptions, and feelings, we sought to identify a set of unifying words and themes that might resonate with our stakeholders as part of the statement we’re developing to communicate “who we are, or who we want to be” and a corresponding statement to express “how we show it, or how we would show it,” as described by Rabbi Hoffman.
Within the small groups each team member responded to these three questions:
• Why did you begin coming to Rodeph Shalom?
• What is the current impact of Rodeph Shalom on your life?
• What is one aspiration that you’d love to see or grow at Rodeph Shalom in the future?
Given our diversity, it was no surprise how many unique accounts of RS were shared. Yet, across those reflections, a number of familiar themes emerged including: feeling welcomed, guiding life cycles, offering meaning and inspiring clergy.
If you would like to help underwrite this important Visioning Task Force with Rabbi Larry Hoffman, please contact Catherine Fischer. Thank you to Carol and Horace Barsh for making the first gift towards underwriting this vital project.