David Scott ‘17
Executive Director & Director of Lifelong Learning
Congregation Beth Israel
What is your first memory of being at HUC-JIR?
My wife, Rabbi Adrienne Scott, was ordained at HUC’s Cincinnati campus in 2004, so I’ve felt connected to HUC-JIR for many years as a rabbinical spouse. However, it wasn’t until my formal participation in Cohort 5 of the Executive Master’s (EMA) program and my attendance at the Orientation in Cincinnati where I felt like I actually belonged on the campus. Suddenly, professors of my wife became my teachers too, and the mentorship and learning grew from there.
How has HUC-JIR prepared you for the jobs you have now?
While I expected to learn about educational theory, trends in the field of Jewish Education, the benefits and methods of text study, and ways that HUC-JIR’s School of Education could continue to be a resource for me, I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of my cohort experience. Even now, over six years has passed since we started in the program, and we continue to text, e-mail, and call each other for both personal and professional guidance. I’ve become colleagues with my professors and mentors, and we regularly engage on issues that impact HUC-JIR as well as the Association of Reform Jewish Education (ARJE), an organization I’m grateful to be supporting as a board member. In addition to the content-rich curriculum and the cohort experience, the EMA program provides one-on-one mentors who help each person navigate through the entire process. This gift of maintaining and building a relationship with an educational professional committed to my success in the program was invaluable. I cherish the time I spent with my mentor, and I continue to be grateful for everything she taught me.
The final capstone project helped me appreciate the nuance of Jewish organizational life as we explored enduring dilemmas, values that are in tension with each other. Conflicts surround us all the time, and the ways in which the EMA program has helped me respond to and work on resolving conflicts has been particularly helpful. In addition, learning to ask the right questions and to frame issues in specific ways has helped me become a better educator both inside and outside the classroom.
The High Holy Days are almost here, how will your congregation be conducting programming this year? What are you looking forward to?
The High Holy Days give us all a moment to pause, reflect, and renew our commitments for another year. At Congregation Beth Israel’s Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center in Houston, Texas, our planning has been ongoing for months as we prepare to welcome our community back to Temple. As a large congregation with over 1,600 families – and with our Texas temperatures – outdoor learning opportunities for hundreds of children are logistically a challenge. But over this past year, the ability to engage our community with hybrid-learning has become a huge asset. As we continue to pivot and think outside of the box, we are grateful for the opportunity to provide a meaningful Jewish experience that is relevant, modern, and joyful. May this season of hope and renewal inspire each of us as we reconnect with our communities and look forward to a year filled with good health, joyful ways of learning, and peace.
Our families’ High Holy Day experience will also look different. Gathering thousands together for children’s services won’t be possible, nor will we be able to provide babysitting services this year. However, our Children’s Services will move to a Zoom format that will be enhanced by engaging worship experiences in addition to pre-recorded content. The Shofar blasts will certainly be heard as we always do, but they will look and feel very different! This past year has opened the door to creating innovative and exciting ways to celebrate our festive occasions. In the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, we will be distributing gift bags to all our families with young children complete with children’s activities to occupy them during services, machzorim, booklets filled with questions to reflect on with their families, their own shofars, dissolving paper for Tashlich, and other items to enjoy.
While many families will choose to experience Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur online this year, we will be providing teen-focused and alternative services as we typically do. Our religious school program, the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center, will welcome back hundreds of children to our Opening Day celebration in the coming days, and this year it will feature a musical program led by our guest Artist-in-Residence for the weekend, the wonderful Chava Mirel. Cantor Richard Cohn, Director of HUC-JIR’s Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music, will be our High Holy Day Cantor who will join our Clergy Team led by Senior Rabbi David Lyon, to lead wonderful and moving services for all our families and members, young and old.
As we continue to pivot and think outside of the box at Congregation Beth Israel, we are grateful for the opportunity to provide a meaningful Jewish experience that is relevant, modern, and joyful. May this season of hope and renewal inspire each of us as we reconnect with our communities and look forward to a year filled with good health, joyful ways of learning, and peace. L’Shanah Tovah!