Annual Gathering 2022 Recap!
Annual Gathering Presidential Address
February 28, 2022
My middle son Benjamin loves playing baseball. He took the last year and half off to play soccer but was adamant to come back for his “Majors year.” But since the season began, he has been in a rut. He hasn’t hit the ball and keeps striking out. Wednesday, it happened. His first time up at bat, he made contact, hit a pop fly and the catcher caught it. But he made contact. Step 1! The next time up at bat, he had 2 strikes, a few balls and fouled a couple, but finally on the last pitch, he hit the ball, not far, but he hit it and he made it to first, clapping for himself in excitement. Step 2! And finally, he last time up at bat, he had the perfect hit over the left fielders’ head and it was just what he needed!
After the game, he came up to me and said, “Daddy can never come to a game of his again, and we have to go to Wendy’s before each game from now on!” Ben is a creature of habit and all about the rituals. He is superstitious in the worst possible way. This past weekend, when I took him to Wendy’s before his next game, he even directed me to enter on the 2nd driveway. I told him that is now crossing the line! But it is those details and those little rituals that matter the most to Ben and have allowed him to confidently transition back to baseball.
This week we reach the end of the book of Exodus with Parashat Pikudei. Pikudei, which literally means “accountings of,” is all about the details. It clearly describes everything in the Mishkan, detail by detail, as well as how to complete its construction. Moses and all of the Israelites finish the Mishkan and place everything inside in the right place. The tables, the garments, the altar, the lamps,. It is these details and these rituals that eventually allowed for God’s presence to fill up this beautiful tabernacle.
One of the items placed was the priestly breast piece. In Exodus 28 God explained how the breast piece should be designed:
“…Make it of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen.”
…” four rows of stones.”
“The first row: carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald;”
“the second row: a turquoise, a sapphire, and an amethyst;”
And so on…And God ends saying that:
“…The stones shall correspond to the names of the children of Israel…They shall be engraved…each with its name, for the twelve tribes.”
Such precise detail and clear ritual
In The Social Justice Torah Commentary, our friend and teacher Rabbi Craig Lewis writes:
"The evenness, the balance, and the inclusiveness of the gemstones, at first glance, make a statement: all are equal before God. However, the Torah does not always treat the Children of Israel or their tribal descendants as equals. Land is not apportioned in equal amounts, and favor is shown in the tribes' placement around the Tent of Meeting, as well as in their marching order through the wilderness.”
He shared that the stones on the breast piece could not be equal in value. They would be different sizes, making even rows impossible. But, he continues, "… each gem is considered beautiful, worthy to shine alongside other gems…each gem demands its own unique treatment before being displayed…If all gems were handled uniformly, with the exact same resources in equal quantities, some would shine brightly while others would be dimmed into oblivion. The gems need to be treated with equity rather than equality…"
He concludes that "every student deserves to shine brightly...equity begins…, by envisioning the end goal: a shining array of precious individuals, their needs provided for in a way that allows each to be brilliant."
I love that - a way that allows EACH to be brilliant!
The ARJE has been on a journey just like the children of Israel. Stan Schickler became our first full time Executive Director 23 years ago. Under his leadership, he has served as our humble Moses, guiding the work to professionalize our profession and spending the time on the details and resources needed to advocate and advance the role of the Jewish educator.
Stan helped NATE to become the ARJE, opening our tent to all types of reform Jewish educators, understanding that each is its own type of jewel, and combined, make up our entire community. Stan fought for equality, he worked to ensure that educators received the respect and value they deserved. We are seen as the Voice of Reform Jewish education because of the work Stan did behind the scenes to ensure everyone saw educators on equal footing.
In preparation for Stan’s retirement, our leadership transitioned to a new governance structure. We have aligned our leadership to better meet our mission and to support the next Executive Director. And we now welcome Stacy Rigler as our new Executive Director. Stacy will be guiding the ARJE into our next chapter supporting this kehillah kedoshah and inspire excellence throughout the field. Regardless of our changing structure or staff, one thing remains constant. The ARJE will continue to be here for you, to support you, to encourage personal self-care and well-being, to nourish your professional skills and growth, and to amplify the impact reform Jewish educators are making across the field.
This is a transitional time. These past 2 years have been challenging for all of us. And it has challenged Jewish education which has already been evolving for years. But COVID accelerated that process, forcing us to adapt to the changing needs of our learners and our communities. We have learned that equality is not enough, we have seen our learners in new ways and for us, as ARJE we see our leaders in new ways.
I continue to be inspired by this community as you support one another, learn from and with one another, connect to one another and lead your institutions with excellence. And you have all done this with the one goal of meeting the needs of each child, each teen, each teacher and each person in your communities. You noticed the different stones and helped weave colorful tapestries.
The recent weeks have not only been impacted by Covid, Our eyes have been opened with the release of the three ethics reports released by our movement. Each of us is impacted by them in different ways. We know this information will impact our work as educators, and we are unsure what that will look like. The ARJE is committed and frankly we are obligated to ensure that all Jewish organizations where we work are safe, respectful and equitable work environments. As reform Jewish educators we must ensure that our youth, teens and young adults are nurtured in safe Jewish environments with clear reporting structures and ethics codes. We are working to ensure that each individual is able to shine brightly, that no person, no story, must hide in the shadows.
What a journey, from evolving Jewish education guided by excellence, to ensuring equity for our entire community, to lighting our path out of the darkness. We are all on this journey, each one of us beautiful stones. May the coming days strengthen your core and leave you polished so that each of you may continue to be brilliant.
Ken Y’hi Ratzon. May it be God’s will.
Marisa Kaiser, RJE
In Case You Missed It
ARJE Annual Gathering 2022 Virtual Ad Journal
Thank you for all your beautiful words and sentiments!
With deep appreciation to all the 2022 Annual Gathering Ad Journal donors:
Rabbi Andrew M. Paley
Congregation Schaarai Zedek
Lucy, Stan and Ari Schickler
The Clergy of Westchester Reform Temple
Dan Bridge and Simcha Shtull
Congregation Schaarai Zedek
Temple Or Elohim, A Community Reform Congregation
Congregation Beth Israel
Reform Pension Board
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
Rabbi Judith Siegel
The Temple Isaiah Community
Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
David Scott, RJE (Chair) and the members of the ARJE Executive Search Committee: Marisa Kaiser, RJE, Rabbi Joe Eiduson, RJE, Dr. Lesley Litman, RJE, Brad Cohen, RJE, Laura Siegel Perpinyal, RJE, Lisa Lieberman Barzilai, RJE, Saul Kaiserman, Rabbi Melissa Simon, Ellie Tepper Schulman
Rabbi Michael A. White
Todd, Jacob, Jed and Rachel Chizner, Dorey Kevin, Lanie and Mason Kappel, Ellen and Lewis Krinsky
Andrew S. Effron and Seth A. Effron
Rabbi Tom Weiner
Rabbi Joshua "Josh" Davidson
Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, Department of Lifelong Learning
Sponsors (*indicates conference sponsor)
Rabbis Joe and Lisa Eiduson
Rabbi Joe Eiduson, RJE
Iris and Conrad Koller and Natalie Stein
Rachel Margolis and Lisa Langer
URJ Camp Harlam
Sharon Amster Brown
Lisa Lieberman Barzilai
Laura Novak Winer
Stephen Weitzman for LITE
Temple Beth Sholom
Ari, Laila, Adaya, Eliora and Kenobi Margolis
RHSOE class of 1994
Temple Beth-El staff
The Community Synagogue and the Board of Trustees
Kathy, Missy, Jay & Rachel Rapoport, Laura & Avi Perpinyal
URJ Crane Lake Camp
Kathy Schwartz, Lesley Litman, Julie Vanek, Tamara Gropper, Sue Huntting, Anna Hartman, Joy Wasserman
Congregation Or Shalom Board of Directors
Dan, Jacob, and Ben Siegel
Rabbis Dan & Lydia Bloom Medwin, Rabbi Rachel Larkin Wiesenberg, Rabbi Sara & Josh Mason-Barkin, Rabbi Melissa Simon, Rena Fraade, Julia Witkow Levine, Rabbi Ari & Rachel Margolis, Rabbi Kevin Kleinman, Rabbi Amy Rossel
Lori Daitch, Vanessa Ehrlich, Joan Carr
Lev Children's Museum*
Rabbi Arnie Gluck, Ellie Gluck, Rabbi Shira Gluck, Sandie Rabinowitz, Rachel Rabinowitz, Elissa Diamond, Elizabeth Gluck Jack
Miriam Heller Stern
Temple Israel Omaha
Rabbi Beth A. Klafter
Paul, Judi, Adrienne, Beryt, and Ezra Scott
Rabbi Julia Weisz and Rabbi Paul Kipnes, RJE
Michelle Shapiro Abraham
Marcia and Michael Leibson
Congregation Or Shalom