“Controversial Title: A Panel Discussion on a current important issue, hosted by large LA-area synagogue”
“Last chance to sign up for Awesome Retreat/Colloquium/Conference!”
“Interested in [insert name of Jewish organization that wants rabbis to know about it/be participants/staff members for it]? Come hear more about us during lunch on Tuesday – lunch provided.”
“Employment opportunity with Camp Ishkabibl in Somewhere, USA”
The life of an HUC-JIR student is full of emails with subject titles like those above – opportunities to learn, to grow, to become involved with various institutions, and (most importantly for some) to receive free meals in exchange for said learning! The onslaught of emails could be overwhelming, but the myriad opportunities constantly pouring into my inbox has always seemed like one of the greatest perks of attending HUC-JIR.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I get some crazy fulfillment from reading each and every email in its entirety. But I do love being a part of a community that people consistently reach out to with information and opportunities ranging from the normal (Come work at camp!) to the “only in LA” (Come be an extra in this re-branding video for Synagogue 3000!) I like to take advantage of these events – after all, I will only be in school for so long, and once I am out in the “real world”, how likely is it that these opportunities will present themselves? How likely is it that I will have time and the freedom to attend sessions put on by widely various Jewish organizations?
Way back in October, I received one of these emails, which read:
“Invitation to dialogue with NAORRR”.
The email spoke vaguely of an opportunity to speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Retired Reform Rabbis. Knowing less than nothing about the organization, and very little about what was really being asked of me, I shrugged my shoulders and hit reply. A conference full of rabbis, some of whom have been in the field for upwards of 50 (!) years? I was in.
Three months later, a classmate and I drove down to Manhattan Beach in time to attend Shabbat morning services at the conference. Sharing Shabbat with 200 retired Reform rabbis is an experience all in itself, but the following panel discussion in which we participated, and the lunch conversations afterward, really made the experience a joy.
We had been asked to speak about life as an HUC-JIR student in 2012, to give our impressions of what the future of the Reform Jewish rabbinate looked like. And in turn, joining us on the panel were three wonderful NAORRR members that defied all stereotypes one might assume, based the title of the organization that was hosting us: Rabbi Ann Folb, who first entered the organization as a rabbi’s wife and recently became a rabbi herself, Judy Task, the wife of Rabbi Arnie Task, and Rabbi Steve Foster, who is still at his first pulpit and has been active in that pulpit for 40 (!) years.
Through the questions posed to my classmate and myself, we were given the opportunity to tell the story of an evolving school – one that places an increasing level of importance on pastoral care, and that utilizes technology to share the incredible resource that is that HUC-JIR faculty beyond the boundaries of any single campus. We were privileged with the honor of hearing stories- stories about interfaith outreach and the changing role of the rabbi’s spouse. We listened as each panelist shared his/her favorite teaching text, and smiled when almost everyone had to speak about two different texts.
After the discussion, my classmate and I were lovingly inundated with rabbis – people who had heard parts of their stories in our stories, people who had stories they wanted to share with us, to help us along in our journeys. We were graciously invited to stay for lunch, and so we continued to learn from and learn with these seasoned professionals, rabbis who have spent more time in the field than I have spent alive.
What an honor.
Dusty Klass is a 3rd year rabbinic student on the Los Angeles campus. She is a big fan of rabbis, especially ones that let her share stories and feed her lunch afterwards! She hopes that one day, she too will have the privilege of being a retired reform rabbi.