Rabbi Gordon Tucker Stirs Rabbis at High Holy Days
What does one have when 140 Rabbis from all the streams of Judaism gather together? Not the start of a joke, but a day of learning and discussion that marks the start of preparations for the upcoming High Holy Days. The 2014 High Holy Days Conference, presented by the Board of Rabbis of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and chaired this year by Rabbi Jason Weiner, is an annual event that offers rabbis from across the denominational spectrum an opportunity to listen to ideas, discuss texts and debate complex concepts with one another – all while absorbing ideas for their High Holy Days sermons.
The Conference was held at Steven Wise Temple with stimulating workshops, much food for both body and mind, and two keynote addresses from Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, NY and professor at Jewish Theological Seminary. Rabbi Tucker stirred his colleagues with two distinct presentations, Rosh Hashanah as Communal and Moral Journey and Yom Kippur as Spiritual and Existential Journey, echoing the different experiences of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and raising critical and prominent issues for the period.
The breakout sessions included a presentation of “Unscrolled,” a project of Reboot, presented by Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Lisa Grissom of Reboot. Featuring reinterpretations of the Torah by 54 leading Jewish writers and artists, “Unscrolled” encourages the inclusion of other art forms in finding meaning in tradition.
The Professional Writers Workshop, brainchild of Rabbi Jon Hanish, brought in eight accomplished writers of shows such as Mad Men, The Simpsons and New Girl, who worked one-on-one with rabbis to bring principles of storytelling to their sermons. Also on hand were Rabbi Ahud Sela teaching on Rav Kook and teshuvah, Rabbis Laura Geller and Dara Frimmer on dealing with end of life conversations, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld discussing the challenges of holiness in a rabbi’s relationships with congregants, Rabbi Zalman Kravitz examining lessons for Rosh Hashanah from a first-century conversation between Yochanan ben Zakkai and the Roman Emperor, and Dr. Tamar Frankiel on what it means to celebrate the birthday of the world in difficult times.
For many rabbis present it was an opportunity to renew their connection with Rabbi Tucker, who as the former dean of JTS, had been one of the most formative influences in their rabbinic training; for others, it was a chance to learn with one of the major intellects in the Conservative movement.
Consul General of Israel David Siegel addressed the attendees for his third straight year, presenting views on current affairs in Israel and an outlook for what’s ahead. As the son of a rabbi himself, Siegel has a great affinity for the members of the Board of Rabbis and their responsibilities. Jay Sanderson, President and CEO of The Jewish Federation in his greetings spoke of the work that our Federation is doing in Israel during these very challenging times.
In all these ways, it was a conference that addressed our people’s traditions and texts and the aspirations we have for a hopeful future.