On being a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow
October 25, 2012
Early next week, I'll be blessed to take a two-day trip to New York City for the first meeting of my cohort of Rabbis Without Borders rabbinic fellows.
Rabbis Without Borders does a variety of things "to nurture and develop a network of rabbis who share a common vision: to make Jewish wisdom accessible in order to enrich people’s lives across religious and cultural borders in America." RWB is a program of CLAL, a leadership training institute, think tank, and resource center founded in 1974 which has done a lot of good work around religious pluralism and inclusivity.
One of the things RWB does is a Fellowship program for rabbis:
The RWB Fellowship helps rabbis develop and communicate a Judaism that can compete in a globalized, networked world in which identities and communal boundaries are increasingly permeable. By participating in the RWB Fellowship, rabbis learn how to use Jewish wisdom to speak to contemporary American issues, how to use language that is open and inclusive to reach a larger audience, and how to use Jewish wisdom to add meaning to people’s lives.
For more, I recommend their FAQ: What is a Rabbi Without Borders? A rabbi without borders is "deeply pluralistic and always aware of the partial truth in a view with which we deeply disagree," "doesn’t worry, at least not very much, about dilution or work from a narrative of erosion," "is personally evolving and experiences that evolution as a coherent process, not as a betrayal of past conclusions." (Among other things.) I'd like to think that those add up to a reasonable description of who I try to be.
Jewish Renewal is explicitly transdenominational. My classmates in ALEPH, and my teachers as well, came from backgrounds including Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Hasidic. It's one of the things I love about learning in ALEPH and being part of the ALEPH community. When I went to my first PANIM inter-denominational rabbinic student retreat (a program which is now run by Clal/RWB), I loved having the chance to learn and daven and connect with students from across all of the different streams of our tradition. This fellowship offers a similar opportunity.
I'm looking really forward to meeting the rabbis in my cohort and to seeing what we can learn from and with each other -- and what I can bring back, over time, to my congregation; to Velveteen Rabbi readers and commentors; and to all of the interconnected communities I aim to serve.