Report from the United Synagogue Kallah
On the weekend of December 2nd-4th, I attended the United Synagogue Kallah (conference), along with Joanne Cornbleet, Margie Pomerantz, and a special guest appearance by Howard Gannes. This was not a convention, with plenary sessions, elections, or resolutions. Rather, it was a chance for United Synagogue leaders to gather to study and worship together, to reflect on Conservative Judaism and where it is going, and to honor programs and leaders leaders. For now, a few brief impressions.
First, the caliber of the people I met was quite impressive. They were dedicated, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about Conservative Judaism. Worship with these lay people from across North America was spirited and inspiring. That was, in fact, one of the themes of the event: Jewish worship and how to enrich it. There were various options for each service: traditional, meditation, musical. I went to the musical one, which was led by two remarkable Hazzanim (cantors) and heard some wonderful new melodies. There were two Torah services on Shabbat, one with the full Torah reading and the other with the Triennial reading. I was given the honor of teaching Torah at the Triennial service.
Second, the level of the learning was high. There were many Torah study sessions, and every one that I attended was excellent.
Third, the awarding of the Solomon Schechter awards was very well done. It is always impressive to learn about the creativity in our movement’s synagogues. This was emphasized this year by the decision of the awards committee to single out ten congregation programs for a presentation with slides and narrative. Our Sugihara dedication was one of them. Special thanks to Abe Bromberg who championed this idea.
Our other award was for our wonderful Hazak group, the second time they have received gold level recognition. Howard Gannes made a special effort to travel to San Diego to be there. Many thanks to him and the Hazak steering committee for all they provide for our 55+ members and for the congregation as a whole.
Saturday night USCJ honored Jackie Saltz, who I knew as a wonderful USY youth director fifty years ago (!). She has continued to be dedicated to our youth, and is a vivid, dynamic personality to this day. I enjoyed seeing some of the people who came down from LA to honor her, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades.
Lastly, on Sunday there was an amazing program: a performance of “Freedom Song,” an original musical from Beit T’Shuvah, a unique is both a residential treatment center for those suffering addiction and a full-service congregation. “Freedom Song” started as a Passover program, and has become a powerful musical play that speaks to anyone struggling to find freedom from addiction. It was a moving close to the weekend.
I stayed for the national board meeting, where new by-laws were adopted, part of the remarkable makeover and renewal that the USCJ is undergoing. I will have more to say about that in my upcoming D’var article. For now, let me conclude by stating how proud I am of Beth David for its two Solomon Schechter awards, and for its many exemplary qualities (something I am reminded of when I speak to people from other places). Yashar Koach (well done!) to us all!
Take a look at the USCJ web site, newly refreshed and full of information: uscj.org
Look in particular for the details of the new strategic plan: http://uscj.org/Aboutus/StrategicPlanning/default.aspx
Read about “Freedom Song” and Beit T’shuvah: http://www.beittshuvah.org/Freedom-Song