The Week at the Shalom Hartman Institute

When I applied to the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative (RLI) of the Shalom Hartman Institute, I had very simple goals. I wanted to be in a program that had serious learning and I wanted to be in Jerusalem. Study and Zionism are hallmarks of my rabbinate and this three-year program seemed to fit the bill.
However, now that half of the program is nearly over, I found that RLI is much more. We are 27 rabbis from all denominations of Judaism who care for and respect one another. Many rabbinic conventions focus on personal achievement and highlight the personal successes. Though some may find that format useful, especially those who are successful, others may find it superficial. RLI gets much deeper into who we are as rabbis, why we are rabbis, what are our personal goals, and where we might need support. The mutual respect for each other came quickly, and trust in one another soon followed.
We have also learned that denominations are just labels. We all really have the same goals – we want to share our passion for Judaism with others and we want to help Jews grow in their Jewish, religious and spiritual life. No matter our training and no matter our gender we quickly realized that we are all doing God’s work.
A great achievement this week is that we learned that we can pray together too. Mutual support and career goals are easy to share; issues related to Jewish law – such as prayer – involve more complicated issues. Yet, we had the desire to pray together as a community and we found a way for Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist to work within Halacha (Jewish law) and create a powerful experience. The fact that we accomplished that only helped our group reach a higher level of community.
Within this blessed community we have been able to learn from one another. Because of our different denominational backgrounds we add different things to our learning. We also share different approaches to synagogue programming and religious life. All of us have been amazed at the incredible creativity among us. So much has been shared that can be brought back to all of our synagogue communities.
Being a part of RLI is one of the blessings of my rabbinate. It has enhanced my professional development and has enabled me to learn new things to share with the Shaare Tefila community. I thank my congregation for granting me the sabbatical time and I pray that I continue to learn from my colleagues and to share with my congregation.