Saturday, December 16, 2017

9 Things I Loved About Biennial 2017

I recently attended my eighth URJ Biennial and in many ways, it was a positive experience. Here are nine things I enjoyed while in Boston:
  1. Spending two long days answering questions – mostly about being a voting delegate – at the Solutions Center. The best collateral of this assignment was watching the crowds pass by, waving to people I know and getting up from behind the counter to hug others.
  2. Meeting Cooper Boyar, the young man representing J Street at the organization’s table in the exhibit hall. A winner among small Jewish world stories, his mother was my genetic counselor when she worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and I needed a genetic counselor; today, she is my friend.
  3. Breakfasting at a table for two in Dunkin’ Donuts, only to have George Markley, a longtime, long-ago URJ trustee, join me for some catching-up and a few laughs over coffee.
  4. Entering Thursday night’s plenary just in time to hear Rabbi David Stern, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, deliver his exquisitely crafted speech, “We Have Company.” If he didn’t get an A in homiletics in rabbinical school, he should have! 
  5. Chatting with Melissa Rosen, national outreach director for Sharsheret, at the group’s table in the exhibit hall about the possibility of doing some joint education programming with FORCE in the fall…and yes, a bit later winning an Amazon Echo Dot in a random drawing. Thanks, Sharsheret!
  6. Having a picture of me and a few folks from my home congregation, Temple Emanu-El in Edison, NJ, land on the Jumbotron during erev Shabbat services. Thanks, Debbi Sager, for taking the photo!
  7. Playing hooky on Shabbat morning for a first-time visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s a gem! 
  8. Returning to the Hynes Convention Center in time to hear Rabbis Sally Priesand, Rebecca Einstein Schorr, and Leah Berkowitz talk about their varied experiences in the rabbinate, an outgrowth of the CCAR Press book, The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate.
  9. Enjoying several meals with friends and colleagues. The first was a delicious seafood dinner at Atlantic Seafood on Boylston Street with Deborah and Steve Rood Goldman. The second was a late Shabbat dinner at California Pizza Kitchen during which Elena Paull, Dan Lange, and I – all URJ colleagues – got to know each other better as individuals. (Shabbat dinner with my congregation, didn't pan out as I expected it would, but, thankfully, I get to see those folks more often than from one Biennial to the next!) Finally, on Saturday night, I had dinner with my mom’s longtime friends Debbie Stone and Sally Winter. For sure, The Mums was with us in spirit in every way.
I’m glad another Biennial is in the books, even as I am hopeful that the Biennial in Chicago in 2019 will bring me as many – if not more – wonderful encounters with friends and colleagues from all parts of my Jewish life.