Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Rabbi's Do: Mentoring the Next Generation of Jewish Leaders


Graduating Or Ami Interns Sarah Lauing and Lisa Berney

The nachas (joyful pride) was flowing from the Or Ami contingent gathered at Graduation of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. We were kvelling as we reflected on the way a professor introduced me to one of the machers (important people), saying, "This is the rabbi whose congregation has mentored so so many of our best students." I smiled. 

This year seven HUC students are graduating after spending between two and five years teaching at our congregation. They schlepp, most of them, from somewhere far away in Los Angeles for the opportunity to learn how our congregation creatively educates our children and families. They trade away a short drive in return for time with our clergy, seeking mentoring borne of experience and inspiring leadership. 

Two HUC-JIR students earned their MA in Jewish education, two their MA in Jewish Nonprofit Management, and three their MA in Hebrew Letters, halfway along the path to Rabbinic ordination. One former intern was ordained the day before. Two other students are schlepping out to Calabasas for pre-marital counseling; though they are being married back east, they sought me out for pre-marital guidance now. 

Congregation Or Ami has a stellar reputation in our larger Jewish community as a uniquely innovative, inspiring, community-centered, Jewishly spiritual. Having heard about our commitment to building warm, welcoming community, so many future Jewish professionals come to us to witness how our congregation can effectuate henaynu caring, special needs outreach, inclusiveness to multiracial and multiethnic Jews, and openness to gay and lesbian Jews and families, and more. Today's graduation was another example of how much our congregation is influencing the next generation of Jewish leaders. 

Mazel tov to all the graduates. The future of the Jewish community surely looks bright. 

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