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Movement Update from Rabbi Deborah Waxman

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This month marks the beginning of my fifth year as president of this extraordinary movement full of amazing people and supportive communities. Over these past four years, I have visited with leaders or congregants at 48 affiliated communities (with three more planned for this spring), and, through regional programming, have encountered members from 22 additional communities. It is my hope that I will meet again and anew individuals from every community at our upcoming convention November 15-18, 2018, and that my travels will ultimately bring me to every community. I feel well-qualified to affirm that individuals who join Reconstructionist synagogues are interesting and, even more, interested — interested in seeking meaning, in building community, in asking questions, in offering support and in finding joy. A hallmark of our intimate, passionate movement is the quality of our relationships, and it is a great blessing to me that I am in relationship with so many people across our movement.

When I started as president, I would say that the work of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities was three-fold:

  1. We train moral leaders from a progressive perspective;
  2. We offer support and services for communities affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement; and
  3. We represent Reconstructionist Judaism in the public square, through public representation, policy and social justice work, and through modeling innovation.

Over this last year, I have added a fourth: We offer Jewish resources for cultivating resilience. I am increasingly convinced that much of Jewish wisdom and practice is oriented toward giving us structure and insight into withstanding life’s vicissitudes and finding meaning and connection. It has been sustaining to me to explore Jewish teachings from this lens and exciting to share these findings with others. Hashivenu, a podcast dedicated to this topic, is the widest and most regular forum for sharing these ideas. I’m gratified to announce that we recently received a joint grant from Lippmann Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah and the Nathan Cummings Foundation for a year-long pilot project on cultivating resilience among activists. We look forward to sharing our findings with you.

In Reconstructionism Today and in our associated websites, especially ReconstructingJudaism.org (our newly refreshed and renamed Jewishrecon.org), we aim to communicate the broad range of what we are doing, especially around #2. We are working on communicating more clearly to you the public representation we are doing on your behalf (#3), through these digital communications and other means. It’s my honor to represent the Reconstructionist movement at various national and North American gatherings, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and more. In addition, we sign onto a variety of petitions, letters, statements and amicus briefs on behalf of the movement. In these ways, your voice is amplified far beyond your own community. You can read about Reconstructionist participation in the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable’s recent Networking Assembly elsewhere in this issue. Look in future months for some of what I learned through my participation in the Ruderman Summit on Inclusion for people with disabilities and in the JLens Impact Investment Summit.

2018 will be a banner year for our movement. Soon, we will share with you the new name for our organization. Let me thank in advance the more than 1,000 people who gave us input throughout this process—through surveys, town halls, conference calls and conversation. This has been a rich and authentic Reconstructionist process and we hope its results will help us claim a greater place in the public square. This summer, with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Avi Chai Foundation and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, we will open Havaya Arts, our second Reconstructionist camp. In the fall, we will roll out Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations. And in November, we will gather together in Philadelphia to sing, learn, teach, eat, shmooze, pray and play at Convention. I could not be more excited to share all of this with you.

President, Reconstructing Judaism; Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Presidential Professor, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

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