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A High Holy Days Tradition Kicks Off the Season

What happens when 140 Rabbis from all the streams of Judaism gather together in one place? It’s not the beginning of a joke, but a day of learning and discussion that marks the start of preparations for the upcoming High Holy Days!

The High Holy Days Conference, put on by the Board of Rabbis of Jewish Federation Los Angeles, annually offers rabbis an opportunity to listen to ideas, discuss texts and debate complex concepts with one another. This year’s conference was held last week at Stephen S. Wise Temple and featured interesting workshops, food for both body and soul, and two keynote addresses from Rabbi Gordon Tucker.

The offerings included Unscrolled – a project of Reboot – which was presented by Rabbi Susan Goldberg of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Lee Grissom of Reboot. Unscrolled is the reinterpretation and reimagining of the Torah by 54 leading Jewish writers and artists. It presents an opportunity for a different conversation about our texts, and the inclusion of various art forms in understanding and giving meaning to tradition.

As in past High Holy Days Conferences, we were privileged to be joined by screenwriters from TV and movies who participated in a workshop led by Rabbi Jon Hanish of Temple Kol Tikvah called Structuring, Punching Up or Polishing Your Holy Days Sermons – always a well-received session. Other workshops included Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook’s Thoughts on Teshuvah led by Rabbi Ahud Sela; The Sacred Conversation: How Synagogues and Rabbis Can Facilitate End of Life Conversations and Directives led by Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel Beverly Hills and Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah; discussing the rabbi’s relationships with congregants in Aspiring to Holiness in Relationships with the Flock led by Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am; and Celebrating the Birthday of the World in a Difficult World by Dr. Tamar Frankiel of the Academy of Jewish Religion. Rabbi Jason Weiner, Senior Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center served as the Chair of this year’s High Holy Days Conference, and we commend him for the wide range of topics covered in the workshops.

Jay Sanderson, President & CEO of The Jewish Federation spoke of the work that our Federation is doing in Israel for the most vulnerable during these very challenging times. Israeli Consul General David Siegel joined us to address the attendees. As the son of a rabbi, he has a great affinity for the issues and challenges of the assembled participants.

Rabbi Gordon Tucker, our keynote speaker, provided both the initial presentation and the final one of the day – each of which raised critical issues that are prominent over the holidays. Rabbi Tucker is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York and has served on the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). For many of the rabbis who joined us, the day was an opportunity to renew their connection with the man who had been one of the most formative influences in their rabbinic training from the time Rabbi Tucker had served as Dean of the JTS Rabbinic School. For others, it was a chance to hear from one of the major voices in the Conservative movement.

This year’s High Holy Days Conference addressed our traditions and texts, as well as the aspirations we have for the future. For more information, contact the Board of Rabbis of Southern California at (323) 761-8600.

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