As I am writing this letter, in the final week of December, I am reflecting on three fantastic events I attended this past week.
First, our community hosted Rabbi Josh Warshawsky as our musician in residence for an evening of Singing as a Spiritual Practice. We had over 50 people gather to learn about the ways we connect to music, and experience the way new melodies “taste” in our mouths. It is amazing how music invokes such meaningful memories, or sets the mood for special occasions like Shabbat. as Rabbi Warshawsky said, there are times when we have something inside of us and music is just the only way to let it out. For me, one of the most moving takeaways was learning about the “mishmar,” the night watch on Thursday evenings when we sing to prepare ourselves to welcome shabbat. We also learned six of his original pieces, and are so excited to bring new spiritual music to our liturgy. I look forward to bringing these pieces to musical kabbalat shabbat services throughout the year, and encourage you to listen to them on Spotify, YouTube, etc.
Next, I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at the Conservative Movement’s Conference, Judaism 20/20. I was so inspired by the energy of the hundreds of clergy, educators, and lay leaders who came together to discuss our future as a movement. As you have heard by now, I was especially inspired by the remarks of USY President Noa Kligfeld and I encourage you to watch the YouTube video of her speech if you have not already done so. She spoke beautifully about how Judaism needs to be “caught” and “taught.” Judaism is a religion we feel in our hearts (and our stomachs!), full of emotional attachment to our rich heritage. It is also a religion that requires intellectual curiosity and rigor, challenging us to engage with our texts, laws, and rituals throughout our entire lives. As we learn from the words of v’ahavta, Judaism demands the attention of our bodies and our souls. Noa reminded us that as leaders, we need to live our lives this way to demonstrate our spiritual and bodily commitment to ourselves, to our children, and to God.
Finally, I also spent Sunday evening celebrating our friends at MWJDS. I was so impressed by the love, care, and passion their teachers bring to every moment of interacting with their students. This school is a truly wonderful place for children to experience unique, tailored learning experiences. I see how this approach empowers MWJDS students to learn, inspires their curiosity, and leads to a lifetime of exploration.
As we begin a new secular year, I look forward to many more inspiring events and ongoing exploration with all of you.