As I write this column, Beth Tzedec is preparing to host Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. His topic for his address to the Congregation on Shabbat, April 25 is The Next Great Jewish Paradigm Shift: Creating Intentional Communities. In my inaugural Bulletin column, written at the time we rejoined USCJ last summer and very much informed by our re-affiliation, I wrote: “I want Beth Tzedec to transform the way our members experience their lives Jewishly. I want to foster engagement, spiritual fulfillment and camaraderie in our congregation. I want us to deepen our connection to Judaism and our People and be among the leading Conservative shuls not just in Toronto, but in the Conservative movement.” Let me share with you how this aligns with our membership in USCJ.
This is USCJ’s stated vision, the cornerstone of its strategy: “The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is a community of kehillot—sacred communities—committed to a dynamic Judaism that is learned and passionate, authentic and pluralistic, joyful and accessible, egalitarian and traditional. Our kehillot create the conditions for a powerful and vibrant Jewish life, empowering Jews in North America to seek the presence of God, to seek meaning and purpose in Torah and mitzvot, to fully engage with Israel, and to be inspired by Judaism to improve the world and the Jewish people. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism creates the spiritual, intellectual and managerial network that enables each of our kehillot to fulfill its sacred mission and connects all our kehillot with a common sense of community, shared mission and purpose. Together with other centers of energy identified with Conservative Judaism, we articulate and disseminate our approach to Judaism.”
It is through our membership in USCJ that we can not only join in this common sense of community, shared mission and purpose, but also be counted among the leaders in Conservative Judaism. By lending our voice to its mission, we participate in the transformation and strengthening of kehillot, including our own, in efforts to inspire meaningful prayer, sustain a culture of lifelong Jewish learning, nurture religious and spiritual growth and promote excellence in kehillah leadership.
Are we there yet? No. What are we doing to get there? In short, the answer is devoting our energy and resources towards this transformation as quickly as we can. In the March 2015 Bulletin I informed you of the renovations we are embarking upon. These changes are necessary if we are to be a vibrant part of the next generation’s Jewish life. At the same time, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl’s exemplary service to our Congregation will be nearing the quarter-century mark and he will be transitioning to Rabbi Emeritus when he retires July 31, 2017. We will be seeking a new spiritual leader to guide us through the next quarter century. We are currently well underway in producing a new strategic plan. We expect it to be completed later this year. Carolyn Kolers and Larry Wallach, co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Committee, have an article appearing on page 21 in this Bulletin and I invite you to provide them with your input. Our search for new rabbinic leadership will be guided by this strategic plan.
All of which begs a key question: why is there a need for transformation? My answer: so we may create a Beth Tzedec for the next generation that builds and improves upon the Beth Tzedec our parents and grandparents bequeathed to us. It’s what the leaders in the 1950s did for their children and it’s what we owe to them and to our children.