Annually, members of our Capital District Board of Rabbis and Cantors spend a day learning together. On Wednesday, for this year’s gathering, my colleagues Jane Ginsburg of Jewish Family Services and Mark Koblenz of Daughters of Sarah and I were privileged to be invited to join them.
We studied two texts with Rabbi Micha’el Rosenberg of Hadar:
1. Lifnei Iver—Do not put a stumbling block before the blind.
2. Who, when, and under what circumstances can food prepared on Shabbat be eaten?
The first text is straightforward and was unanimously accepted by our group, until we started using it as a metaphor. Then we enjoyed a good discussion about it.
The second text, even though on the surface, is not practical/applicable for all members of our group, prompted a stimulating conversation when viewed through the lens of our pluralistic community.
I often marvel at the collegiality of our clergy and the beautifully pluralistic community that they lead. Learning with them as a group only strengthened my view of their leadership.
For those of us who grew up in the Capital District, this behavior is all we have ever known. But, believe me when I tell you that it is not the norm.
A few years ago in Jerusalem for a conference, I roomed with the rabbi of the Conservative synagogue in Nashville. After telling him about how well our denominations get along here, he responded that his community is exactly the same way, and he had never seen anything like it before arriving in Nashville. “Of course,” I retorted, “it’s because your Orthodox rabbi grew up in Schenectady. He learned this behavior from us.” (Shout out to Rabbi Saul Strosberg.)