Friday, February 28, 2014

Giving and Learning...MORE: Reflections on Songleader Boot Camp 2014 (for Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Newsletter for March 2014)

Give 110%!”  
 “Wait…can’t I only possibly give 100%?” 
  Producing/performing at a level higher than our “normal best” (if there is such a thing!) probably falls into that “extra 10%” zone of giving.   The Torah portion Vayakheil refers to a voluntary donation effort that, evidently, reached 110%.   In Exodus Chapter 36, the Israelites were completing their campaign of providing the raw materials for designated artisans to create the holy furnishings for the Tabernacle and  the sacral vestments for the priests.   At one point, the artisans who had been endowed with “skill, ability and knowledge” went to Moses to tell him, “The people are bringing more than is needed!”   Moses sent a message through the camp that the people should not “make further effort” towards the gifts for the sanctuary.   The passage concludes, “Their efforts had been enough for all the tasks to be done…AND MORE.” 
    One of the reasons I attend conventions, conferences and workshops is to be sure that I am doing all I can to develop “skill, ability and knowledge” that will enable me to serve my congregation and community in a way that will inspire and instill growth, confidence, fellowship and optimism. I believe that learning something new at each successive conference enables me to reach some semblance of “AND MORE” in what I hear from teachers and peers. Over my rabbinate, I have attended certain conferences more than 10 times.   However, the last time I was a “newbie” at a convention was in 1999.
Rick Recht leads our opening session!
   On February 16-18, that all changed.   This year, I attended Songleader Boot Camp in St. Louis, Missouri, led by Jewish singer/songwriter/performer Rick Recht (photo above), his wife Elisa Heiligman Recht, and a talented faculty.  This gathering of songleaders, songwriters, educators, rabbis, cantors and cantorial soloists is unique in its focus.   Rick’s approach highlights the components of leadership related to the tone we set with our voices, our bodies, and our development of relationships within our community.   We discussed how we can best prepare ourselves to lead a service, a song session or a class in the right frame of mind and with the tools that will engage congregants, campers or students.  Sessions specifically for clergy encouraged us to discuss how we can prepare ourselves to lead and how we can bring about change when necessary that enables our community members to express themselves as Jews in the 21st Century.  
Rabbi Micah Greenstein and Rabbi Sharon Brous
    These three days were filled with a special spirit and energy, and an opportunity to hear presentations on making the values of Judaism come alive in our communities.  Rabbi Micah Greenstein (see photo) of Temple Israel in Memphis urged us to apply the two levels of the Golden Rule contained in Leviticus, “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love the stranger as yourself.” He said that we should extend our concern to all sectors of our local communities so that we can create effective and significant partnerships across religious, ethnic and cultural lines.   Rabbi Sharon Brous (see photo) of IKAR (meaning “what is central/essential”) in Los Angeles spoke about “the fire within,” where that “fire” motivates us to stretch beyond what we think are our own limitations, to move towards 110% in the goals for our communities, and to achieve the level of “AND MORE” that the Israelites attained in their giving for the creation of the sanctuary.  

Songleader Boot Camp 2014 (I am in first row standing, right of center)
  At our closing session, we were asked to share a word that summarized our experience at Songleader Boot Camp as we held onto a long strand of yarn that would form a web around our circle.  I was asked to be the first to share as I held one end of the yarn.  I said, instinctively, “growth,” before others offered responses including “inspiration,” “confidence,” “courage,” and “community.”  The yarn came all the way around, and I was holding both ends, which felt like a big responsibility, one that was overwhelming, in the “AND MORE” category.  I realized that what I was doing at that moment was a lot like what I have always done along with professional and lay leaders and with Temple members. We hold both ends of the yarn together to sustain and nurture the web of congregational and Jewish life.   
     Over these three days in St. Louis (see the group photo below), we learned more than once about being grateful for the opportunity to lead and to serve, and to approach such responsibility with confidence and humility.   After attending Songleader Boot Camp, I know that I will continue to strive to do just that….and more.

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