From Friday, February 20 through Sunday, February 22, 25 Jewish leaders in their communities met at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) for the Sh’liach Kehilah Winter Retreat, which was sponsored by HUC-JIR, the Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as UAHC), and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. This Kehilat Chessed, or Caring Community, attended lectures and workshops, became reacquainted over lunches and dinners, and engaged in worship together.
The Sh’liach Kehilah Program is designed to help participants feel more comfortable partaking in active leadership roles at their own temples. Individuals taking part in the program come from large and small congregations across the country and Canada. Many participants belong to congregations where there is not a full time rabbi, and the temple members take on much of the daily responsibilities as well as assisting with basic life cycle events. Others belong to larger temples and are interested in acquiring the skills and comfort level needed to assist and actively participate in temple activities. Some of the topics for lectures and activities at this year’s program included “The Theology of a Caring Community,” “Sacred Aging,” “Medical Technology and Sacred Decision Making,” “Songs of Healing,” “Healing Rituals,” “Mental Health,” and “Self Destructive Behaviors.”
Mitch Cohen of Alpharetta, Georgia, whose congregation has a rabbi, remarked of the event, “Being a Jew involves a life-long developmental process. This group functions as a support network in which we are constantly learning from one another. Judaism is not a spectator sport. You can’t be on the field playing if you don’t know the sport.” Jenny Laing, from British Columbia, Canada, whose congregation has no rabbi said, “As director of religious education for Reform Judaism on my island, I am here to bring knowledge home to my fellow educators.” Irene Seff of Mamaroneck, New York, a member of a Chavurah, stated, “I am attending this conference to learn, to grow as a Jew, and to bring back to my congregation ideas, programs, and energy.”