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Some Reflections from the Rabbinical Assembly Convention

Some Reflections from the Rabbinical Assembly Convention Dear friends, Last week both Rabbi Pressman and I spent four days with rabbinic colleagues from around the world at the Rabbinical Assembly convention in Atlanta. We were inspired by the Torah-learning that took place and valued the opportunity to speak openly with colleagues about the most important questions facing American Judaism today. Among the most pressing issues we addressed were outreach, inclusivity, conversion, and intermarriage. Here were some of the other highlights of the week, many of which I live-tweeted @rebohriner and posted to Facebook: Israeli actor, journalist, news anchor, politician, and founder of the Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, spoke about the necessity of furthering religious pluralism in Israel and the importance of Conservative/Masorti Judaism to Israeli Judaism. He also thanked Conservative/Masorti rabbis for “keeping Jewish identity alive”. Vice President Joseph Biden gave a heart-felt speech in which he stated, “I am a Zionist, you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist!” He spoke of the Obama administration’s strong commitment to Israel and its unwillingness to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. I must say that I was personally moved by the Vice President’s address. He is a tremendous ally to the Jewish community, as well as a staunch supporter of the State of Israel. A highlight for me, personally, was the unveiling of a new publication entitled, The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews. This work, which explores what it means to live a Jewish life both in terms of ritual and social responsibility is monumental in its scope and depth. It was ten years in the making and was brought to fruition by my dear friend and mentor, Rabbi Martin Cohen, who served as senior editor. I have no doubt that The Observant Life will become a “classic” work of American Judaism. I have one copy and will be receiving more. Stop by my office and take a look! In between all of these addresses, workshops, and learning sessions, I also participated in a cutting-edge program sponsored by JTS entitled: “Making Torah Relevant to “NextGen”: You’re the App for That!” Led by JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen, Rabbi Hayim Herring, and Jane Shapiro, a small handful of colleagues and I discussed the following questions: How can we most effectively reach the generation of Millennials (20s and 30s) in the ever-lengthening phase of life known as “emerging adulthood?” How can we provide Millenials with compelling experiences of Jewish community and Jewish tradition? Many of the rabbis attending this four-day program were already familiar with the social networking tools available to us in spreading Torah and building stronger communal connections. However, we found that we all use these tools differently in our rabbinate. It was amazing to learn from colleagues about the Youtube vlogs they send to congregants, or the way in which class conversations can continue in a Facebook group. Needless to say, I came back with many ideas that I hope to implement over the course of the coming year so stay tuned! This year, the RA convention was completely “plugged in”. You can watch many of the plenary sessions and addresses on the RA YouTube channel: Here is a great blog post by Chancellor Arnold Eisen on engaging American Jews, (particularly Millenials) in Torah learning and community engagement through social networking platforms: L’shalom,