A Rabbinical Student's Blog

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kehillot Kedoshot: Day 1

Drew at JFJ conferenceThe conference started off with a two-hour welcome and keynote speeches, followed by some little discussion groups, helping us to get to meet people. With these speeches, one question that was on my mind was how does this Jewish justice/social action stuff figure into a synagogue’s schedule/activities/functioning? What does it do to the energies of the shul. I’m still not sure about this. Following this, came dinner. Yeah, Jews and food. However, whenever Jews and food come up, one cannot help but think of kashrus – that is kosher food. I’ve been to previous Jewish conferences and usually there is kosher food served – that is, everybody hYCT students at JFJ conferenceas the same food. Not so here. Although those of us who had requested kosher food received special, separate kosher food, I still felt it was unfortunate. Yes, most of the people here do not adhere to the Jewish dietary laws, so I could understand why the conference organizers didn’t want to get that for everybody if the kosher food cost more than the non-hekhshered food (food that is certified as kosher). If the cost was prohibitive, then I can understand. But if it wasn’t, then I don’t, especially since one of the buzz-terms is unity. If unity is supposed to be so important, then we should break bread together (even the bread put out on tables wasn’t hekhshered, though the bread in our special kosher meals was). This seems to be the exception and not the rule in my experience at Jewish conferences, but it’s certainly interesting, nevertheless. Following dinner (and birkat hamazon (the post-meal blessing)), we davened ma’ariv. Although the Orthodox among us all moved to the YCT represents at JFJ conferenceside (it actually to the eastern side) and davened on our own, it was still weird to see a vast room of people davening ma’ariv around dinner tables. I had never seen davening immediately in a space of eating with the food (people were still eating dessert) and furniture not moved out of the way. I’m not sure I would schedule that sort of set-up. After dinner, I went to the first of our three training sessions. I went to the one I had been selected to attend [according to the assignments sheet]. It was entitled “What is Broad Based Organizing?” It was fine, but it seemed like חזרה (a review) of what I had learned last semester in our social organizing class, but in a brief, pretty compact time block. Also, I was exhausted by this point. Even when it started around eight, it was still eleven o’clock EST for me, plus I hadn’t slept on the plane, nor much the night before (the flight left before nine). Following this, there was a late-night debriefing session amongst the rabbinical students with some of the leadership wherein we discussed some of the things we had encountered. Of interest was a little bit of discussion regarding the training sessions – that some of us were randomly put in to the various sessions and that if we were not finding any given session to go to one where we would find it important. The first afternoon and evening of the program thus concluded.

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