The Blessings of Life-Long Learning
This summer marks the culmination of my first twenty-five years with Holy Blossom Temple. This summer also marks the conclusion of my four years of study with the Shalom Hartman Institute and my “graduation” from the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative. I am honoured to now be among the Senior Rabbinic Fellows of the Shalom Hartman Institute.
The program included a total of fifteen weeks in Israel and more than one hundred hours of online learning with an extraordinary collection of twenty-five rabbis from across the streams of Jewish life in North America and Israel. The mandate of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative is to “significantly impact the quality of contemporary Jewish life in North America by training exceptional rabbis of all denominations to serve as profound spiritual and intellectual leaders.” The Hartman faculty of thought leaders offered us “the highest levels of Jewish learning, designed to ready us to meet today’s challenges with ever-increasing intellectual and moral sophistication.”
In a world of increasing extremism and polarization, we explored the classic, Rabbinic commitment to embracing complexity and listening to those with whom we disagree. In a world of growing neo-fascism and anti-Zionism, we wrestled lovingly with the tensions inherent within Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In a world in which religious traditions are too often replaced by radical individualism, we explored ancient texts and contemporary writings about God, Jewish Peoplehood, and ethics. In a world locked in a frightful pandemic, we studied historic Jewish models of adaptative leadership and evolving cultures. In a world that knows simultaneous Jewish achievement and vulnerability, we studied the history of Jewish power and powerlessness. I’ve enjoyed sharing these themes with you and will continue to do so over the coming months.
Perhaps most important of all, the Hartman experience gave me the gift of a circle of rabbis, who are now friends and partners in leading the Jewish people forward with galvanizing ideas and courageous kindnesses.
I will always be grateful to The Hartman Institute for inviting me to join this study fellowship. I am grateful for the many congregants who provided financial support for my participation. I am grateful for Holy Blossom Temple leadership, who encouraged me to devote this time for learning and to my Holy Blossom rabbinic colleagues who enabled me to travel to Jerusalem for ten days each January and for three weeks each July. And of course, I am grateful for my family – for Adam, who took care of the homefront when I was away, and for my parents who came to Jerusalem to celebrate my graduation day. The experience has, no doubt, strengthened my rabbinate and nourished my neshamah.
I encourage you to tap into your own opportunities to learn with the Hartman faculty and their guest teachers. https://www.hartman.org.il They continue to bring some of the finest thought leadership to the demanding questions of the day. You may only have time for one article or one podcast, but one gem of an insight may very well lead to another. You may be ready to take a deeper dive and explore the two-year Hartman curriculum brought to Holy Blossom congregants by our own Rabbi Kaye. And if you’d like to learn about a ten-day study opportunity on Hartman’s beautiful Jerusalem campus next summer, our own Karen Kollins, Director of Hartman in Canada, would be happy to meet with you.
May we each be blessed with enriching opportunities for life-long learning and growth. Shabbat Shalom!