13 June 2012 | 23 Sivan 5772
How often do you consult with others regarding your work or a project? Many of us work within environments that require or encourage collaboration. We relish the opportunity to work with others and bounce our ideas off of them. Under the best of circumstances we come to recognize that “the whole (really) is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Over the course of many years in the rabbinate, I have often found such a truth to reflect reality. At meetings of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association, both formally and especially informally, I speak with colleagues. I learn about how they do it, whatever “it” is. They offer suggestions, and I share my thoughts with them. In our community, the Conservative rabbis not only meet regularly, but also periodically plan joint programs like our annual Selichot service. At these times I am reinforced in my impression that such cooperation benefits our entire community.
However, as frequently as I find such opportunities for consultation and cooperation, I also find that my colleagues and I live in silos. Maybe it is ego and exaggerated self - pride that cause a loss of perspective. Whatever the reason, rabbis often don’t want to share too much with each other. They may fear the “competition” or that their colleagues will think less of them. At times, I have felt that way. As I have matured in the rabbinate I have found that much of my self-consciousness has dissipated. To be honest, sometimes that is the case because I no longer really care what my colleagues think…”This is how I see it and, as a result, this is how I am going to do it.” More often, it is because I have come to increasingly value the perspectives of my colleagues and know that I can learn much from them.
That is one of the lasting impressions I have of the time I spent in New York last week with approximately fifty of my colleagues at the Jewish Federations of North America Rabbinic Cabinet Annual Meeting. Last week in this space I wrote about our visit to the 9/11 Memorial and the thoughts I shared with my colleagues at that time. On Shabbat evening, I amplified on that experience. Then, between Mincha and Ma’ariv on Saturday evening, I summarized the 2-day gathering.
Now, I simply wish to reflect on the significance of “chevraschaft,” of spending quality time with colleagues across all Jewish religious movements. I have been a member of the JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet for a number of years. Periodically, I have participated in its programs. However this is the first time that I have participated in two Cabinet programs, the February Budapest – Israel mission and last week’s Annual Meeting, within months of each other. In retrospect, I can see how for me these two programs converged in a most meaningful way. I now have relationships with chevra among Orthodox, Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis that are potentially more profound than just a quick “Hello” when we bump into each other. We can sit, talk and share.
The JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet is not the only venue in which rabbis across all movements can get to know each other and meaningfully interact with each other. But it was one of the first national Jewish organizations to afford rabbis that opportunity and, still, one of the most effective. Our Federations across North America do fine work in many ways. With a single annual contribution, we can provide needed resources to people of whom we may have been unaware. We can support multiple important institutions of our own Jewish community. Among the fine works of our Federation is the manner that they, via the Rabbinic Cabinet, bring rabbis of every movement together to share in important ways.
For that commitment, I am grateful.