“All My Life’s A Circle” Sang Harry Chapin – And He Was Right…
This is Samantha Shabman. She is a first year rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s campus here in Jerusalem. I mentioned her briefly in my post about the evening honoring Debbie Freidman. She was kind enough to not only offer me some water, but a reassuring shoulder squeeze when the memories of Debbie got me all “emo” (the latest lingo for “choked up”).
I was fortunate to not only meet her and so many of her classmates, and we formed a wonderful bond over the last few weeks. I prayed shacharit (morning service) with them, I accompanied them on a fantastic visit to a liberal yeshiva run by super-scholar Micha Goodman and I hosted a lunch for more than 20 of the class where we shared ideas about serving the Jewish people in an anxious age back in America. They wanted to hear part of one of my sermons, and, as you know, I only have more than 1,000 pages of them with me! It was gratifying to serve as a mentor to this talented, dedicated class of future rabbis, cantors and educators.
And this is Rabbi Na’ama Kelman, one of the early graduates of the HUC-JIR rabbinic program exclusively for Israeli students. She is the Dean of HUC-JIR here in Jerusalem, overseeing all of its programs. Na’ama (or Na’ami, as I and her friends call her…) has been a friend for more than 20 years, ever since we served on the faculty of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Camp Harlam back in 1990.
As she told me this evening, there are many Reform rabbis who visit campus from the States, but usually, it’s a one time visit. But because of the close relationship I have developed with the students over the last month and a half, Na’ami and Shelly Donnell, who serves as the Rabbi of the campus, invited me to give a brief sermon during Thursday morning Shacharit. I was deeply honored, as this is a rare honor. And I was gratified that through my words, we as a community connected deeply once again, this last visit to campus before I return home.
To my left are two of the camp directors for the Reform movement. They were in town at HUC-JIR to interview Israelis for staff positions for the coming summer. The one on the left is Aaron Selkow, in his second year as director of Camp Harlam. This is where Rabbi Symons, Jackie Braslawsce and I serve on faculty, and several of our kids attend. The man on the right is Jerry Kaye, the longtime director of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (and yes, we send kids there, too!). Jerry has been my friend for more than 40 years and I served on faculty at OSRUI, as the camp is known by its initials.
To be in Jerusalem is to be in the center of this incredible circle of Reform Judaism. It goes round and round and expands outward from here. All of those pictured in the blog are making priceless contributions to liberal Judaism and they are each precious individuals in their own rights.
There are between 500 and 1,000 synagogues here in this holy city. I could visit many buildings, I’m sure. But what makes our prayer and learning and our spiritual lives so rich is the people with whom we share our journey. And for me, the majority of these are found in the circle of our movement, Reform Judaism.
Whether they are leaders of tomorrow or today, or slightly grizzled veterans (like Jerry and me), our intersecting circles create sacred encounters, even more special because they occur here in Jerusalem.
And why do we do this? Why do we work, study, struggle and strive to make our movement the bubbling cauldron of the Jewish world that it is?
Just look to the right. Here are all of our kids from Temple Sinai and Temple David who attended Camp Harlam 2nd session last summer. If Samantha (pictured at the top) represents the near future of our movement, these kids, who may not realize how they are connected to everyone on this page, are going to be our synagogue leaders, rabbis, cantors and educators long after the adults in these pictures have fulfilled their tasks.
May all of them know that they are blessings, connected beyond any distance of miles or span of years.
All our life’s a circle, sang Harry Chapin. And he was right…What a circle of life, love and spirit we are blessed to live in!