The Central Conference of American Rabbis Responds to the Shooting in Toulouse, France

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Tragic News Reaches 500 Reform Rabbis Gathered in Boston
At the Start of Morning Prayer Service of the
Annual Convention of the CCAR

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Shira Dicker
shira.dicker@sd-media.com  917.403.3989

March 19, 2012 (New York, NY) –  The 500 Reform rabbis gathered in Boston for the annual conference  of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) received news of the shooting in Toulouse, France while going into the Schacharit morning prayer service in the Grand Ballroom of the Boston Sheraton.

“We pray for a speedy recovery for those who are wounded and take a moment of silence for four people killed in shooting…three students and their rabbi. Yehi zichronam baruch (may their memory be for a blessing),” said Rabbi Michael Weinberg of Chicago at the conclusion of the Torah reading service.

Responding to the attack, Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR, stated “The unspeakable tragedy of students and a teacher gunned down outside of their school must be condemned from all quarters,” he said. “The fact that this terrible deed appears to have been fueled by hatred makes it all the most heinous.”  Rabbi Jonathan Stein, CCAR’s elected President and Senior Rabbi to Shaaray Tefiah Congregation in New York City, added that “The entire 2,000 member CCAR stands together with our Jewish sisters and brothers in France in this dark hour and affirm our commitment to standing strong against acts of hatred. ”

These comments were made at the landmark gathering of over 500 Reform rabbis – constituting the spiritual leadership of over 1.5 million North American Jews and several hundred thousand Jews around the world – which is being held at the Boston Sheraton now through Thursday.

The Convention schedule is available online at http://boston.ccarnet.org/.

The 2,000 members of the CCAR constitute a Who’s Who of contemporary Jewish life, both inside and outside of the Reform Jewish community. The CCAR and its rabbinic members are noted for their innovation in areas of ritual, liturgy and communal life, their doctrine of inclusivity, their vanguard position on issues of social justice and their cutting-edge theology and scholarship. The group is the oldest and largest professional rabbinical group in the world. Though the majority of rabbis at this year’s Convention practice in North America, colleagues from Israel, Europe and other countries will also be in attendance.

The 2012 annual gathering is an opportunity for CCAR rabbis to convene, connect and recharge. Over the course of four days, members of the Reform rabbinate will learn and pray together, hear from world-class scholars, government and industry leaders, undergo professional development and discuss the pressing issues of the day, which include the roiling debate on church/state separation, growing economic inequality, the challenge of building an inclusive, democratic Israeli society, civil rights – including marriage rights — for gays and lesbians, as well as other matters of great concern.

Reexamination of traditional Jewish practice is always on the CCAR’s agenda and this year’s Convention will address such topics as mikveh (ritual bath), theological diversity in liturgy, reducing the emotional pain of gittin (Jewish divorce), social and digital media in Jewish life, the spiritual power of Jewish humor and the challenge of believing in an invisible God.

Some boldface names at the Convention include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick; revered teacher Dr. Arthur Green; Harvard Law School dean and professor Martha Minow; bestselling author and teacher Anita Diamant; Israeli economist Dr. Manuel Trajtenberg; Harvard political scientist Dr. Robert Putnam; Rabbi Sally Priesand, who became the world’s first woman rabbi when she was ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972; American Jewish historian Dr. Jonathan Sarna; and the president of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Barry Schrage, among others.

Engaging with Reform Movement leaders is also central to the gathering including Rabbi Steven Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President-Elect of the URJ, and Rabbi David Ellenson, President of the HUC-JIR. Rabbis Fox and Jacobs both grew up in Orange County, CA, an area at that time with few Jewish families and both acknowledge the important role of the Reform Movement in forming their Jewish identity through the influence of Reform Rabbis, the Reform Youth Movement and Reform Camps.

Rabbi Fox, who has guided the CCAR’s transformation into a mission-driven organization over the past six years, will deliver his Annual Report on Monday, focused on Reform rabbis leading Reform Judaism today, including an engagement based conversation on “Transforming Challenges to the Integrity of the Rabbinate into K’vod HaRav.” During the Monday morning service, the elected president of the CCAR, Rabbi Jonathan Stein of Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City, will deliver the Annual CCAR Presidential sermon.

While some of the Reform rabbis will pray from physical copies of the CCAR’s newest prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah, others will access the liturgy courtesy of iPads, utilizing the Miskkan T’filah app, newly available at http://ccarnet.org/ccar-press/itfilah/. Selections from the forthcoming CCAR machzor, or High Holiday prayerbook, will also be unveiled for discussion and study at the Boston Convention.

This year’s gathering, the largest of its kind in over two decades, also marks an historical anniversary — the 40th anniversary of women’s ordination. The first woman in the world to receive the designation of rabbi, Sally Priesand will read Torah for the March 19th Monday morning prayer service and be honored at a special reception later that evening.

“Our robust attendance at this year’s Convention is affirmation from our colleagues that a powerful synergy happens when hundreds of Reform rabbis come together to learn, to connect, to be informed and to celebrate,” said Rabbi Fox. “The issues forced to the public square by the upcoming presidential election galvanize us to become better informed and to respond. The critical issues on the world stage are catalysts for us to act, to lead and to educate our communities. I anticipate that this year’s CCAR Convention will be outstanding in every way; nothing short of game changing.”

The four-day gathering is rich in lectures, study sessions, workshops and meetings. The tech-savvy rabbis will also blog and tweet from the convention floor. Blog posts from the 2012 CCAR Convention can be read at http://boston.ccarnet.org. Tweets can be read at @ReformRabbis. Look for the #CCAR12 hashtag.

Ever at the helm of progressive engagement and group dynamics, several sessions, including one by Rabbi Fox, will be held in an interactive, non-hierarchical format., utilizing Open Space and World Café approaches to group-wide conversation.

The 2012 CCAR Convention is an opportunity to showcase an especially vibrant department of the organization, which is its Press. CCAR Press produces stellar publications that relate to Jewish practice, as well as the Reform Jewish Quarterly: The CCAR Journal, and a wide-range of electronic resources including e-books, apps, and Visual T’filah. At the Convention, the bold and brand-new Haggadah, Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family written by Alan S. Yoffie, with artwork by renowned artist Mark Podwal, will be presented alongside the groundbreaking book on mindful food consumption, The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic, edited by Rabbi Mary Zamore and a finalist for the 2011 National Jewish Book Award.

The evenings of the CCAR convention allow the rabbis to relax, compare notes and avail themselves of special entertainment. The program will feature a musical performance by Josh Nelson and Yoshi Zweiback and an innovative presentation called The Mikveh Monologues.

For further information about the 123rd CCAR Convention in Boston, March 18-22, 2012, to arrange interviews or request permission to attend sessions, please contact Shira Dicker at shira.dicker@sd-media.com or call 917.403.3989.

Please visit www.ccarnet.org for more information about the CCAR. To view the complete 2012 schedule visit http://boston.ccarnet.org/.

ABOUT THE CCAR

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. The CCAR represents 2,000 Reform rabbis around the world, who lead over 1.5 million Jews in North America alone, and project a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities.  The CCAR’s unique contribution to a continued vibrant Jewish community and Reform Movement lies in its work fostering excellence in Reform Rabbis; enhancing unity and connectedness among Reform Jews; applying Jewish values to a contemporary life; and, creating a compelling and accessible Judaism for today and the future.

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