Dear WJC Family,
Almost every year for the last fifteen years I have attended a special Torah learning retreat organized by the Jewish Theological Seminary known as the Rabbinic Training Institute or RTI. RTI is an opportunity for Conservative rabbis to gather at a retreat center near Baltimore and learn like we did in Seminary. We take four intensive classes, in four sessions, over four days—some classes are text study, some are professional development and some are personal/spiritual growth. All classes are taught by the Seminary faculty or other experts in their fields. Last year, RTI was canceled—we just couldn’t find a safe way to make it happen.
This week, however, with the help of a stringent testing regime before and during the retreat, universal N95 and KN95 masking, and a willingness to eat food on one’s lap, sometimes outside in the bitter cold, RTI took place and I was able to attend! It was worth every one of those taxing precautions. What made it worthwhile? So many things!
There was learning with world-renowned faculty. For example, I had the opportunity to learn with the Seminary’s librarian and Talmud professor Dr. David Kraemer, Biblical Archeologist and professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary Dr. Elizabeth Bloch-Smith and Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein Skirball Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics Literature at NYU. And they all taught about their yet unpublished books and the latest research and discoveries. This is probably the best learning I get to do all year.
Then there are the non-class perks: In-depth talks from the CEO of United Synagogue and the Rabbinical Assembly (the congregational and rabbinic arms of the Conservative Movement), Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal and the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Shuly Rubin-Schwartz (our upcoming Scholar in Residence!). These talks help us understand the latest about what’s going on in the movement and at the movement’s flagship Seminary. The prayer services led by my talented colleagues are always moving and spiritually uplifting and the Divrei Torah shared by participants and faculty alike are fascinating, clever and often moving (this week’s Torah talk video features elements of a Dvar Torah by Dr. Kraemer and my sermon on Shabbat was inspired by a Dvar Torah by Chancellor Schwartz. I am looking forward to sharing various elements of the classes I took and Torah I heard on Shabbat and in my Thursday evening classes (Come join us Thursdays at 7:30 on Zoom. All are welcome!)
The bottom line is we held RTI under these most difficult circumstances because Conservative rabbis and the Conservative Movement believe Torah learning matters. Due to the circumstances not everyone who wanted to was able to participate, but over 40 Conservative rabbis managed it including Cantor Goldberg’s brother, Rabbi Ben Goldberg of KTI in Portchester, and wife, Rabbi Shoshi Levin Goldberg, cantor at Temple Israel Center in White Plains. It was great learning with both of them! I am looking forward to sharing and learning much of the material with you too!
I also wanted to highlight two important social action projects that we are inviting you to participate in. First, we are helping those impacted by the terrible apartment house fire in the Bronx that killed at least 17 and left the residents homeless. At this time, it is best to donate money, which will go directly to help the victims. Below are two trusted ways to send direct financial support. All funds collected will go to help the victims.
Second, we have agreed to raise funds to help refurnish the office at First Baptist Church in Mamaroneck. The church building was completely wiped out in the flooding on September 1st of last year. Reverand Taylor and his congregation have been good friends to us and we want to show up for our neighbors when they need us as well. Financial donations towards the church office desks can be made to the WJC Discretionary Fund and please put “FBC” in the memo line.
WJC’s connection to New York City is strong and our connection to FBC is obvious; we can show that connection and our compassion by making donations to help the people so tragically impacted by the fire and the flood. Thank you for your generosity in participating in this mitzvah.
Services this Shabbat are available in-person in the sanctuary for those who are vaccinated and masked and on the Live Stream for everyone. I hope you’ll be with us.
See you in shul or online,