Navigating the Midbar of our transition year


Jay Jacobs, President

Happy Secular New Year! I’m writing this from the midbar of Henderson, Nevada (midbar is Hebrew for wilderness or desert, as in Bamidbar, the fourth book of Torah, Numbers in English). It is good to be with my family here, but I do miss my BCC family, too. This interim year of our rabbinic transition is a midbar in time, a wilderness of change for everyone. Sometimes it is a desert but it can also be a time for reimagining, reinvention and replenishment of our spirits.

I felt the same a few weeks ago braving the Midwestern cold to attend the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial conference for the first time. BCC Executive Vice President Elizabeth Savage and I had a chance to meet other synagogue leaders, pray, and attend learning sessions on 20/30s engagement, philanthropy, diversity, rabbinic searches and transitions, addressing today’s financial challenges in congregations, and implicit bias. We met new friends and reunited with old ones. The shacharit (morning) services started each of the days with a sacred tone. At the URJ Biennial evening plenary session on Thursday, December 12, Rabbi Rick Jacobs talked about widening the tent. As he mentioned interfaith families, LGBTQ Jews, and Jews of Color, the tent behind him expanded and grew larger and larger.

This is how the URJ plans to meet the future. Our BCC sukkah (tent) is already wide, but we should always strive to make it wider. A longtime friend of BCC reminded me of our pluralism. We all come to BCC with different experiences, customs, and practices. We weave them into something new, like our pioneering queer liturgy. Our well-spent three days in Chicago came on the heels of a very productive BCC Board of Directors retreat. At that retreat, the Board used the Rabbinic Search Committee survey question of “where do you see BCC in 3 to 5 years?” Building on your answers, your voices, we reviewed why BCC matters. What are our highest priorities based on our sacred work and values?

Then, the Board looked at four areas: building our Jewish souls, diversity and identity, financial stability, and exploration of a Jewish think tank or collaboration. As we follow up on this work, I’m looking forward to the renewed thinking that we can bring to all of our activities in 2020 and beyond. Keep an eye out for details on our own trip to the Palm Springs midbar just after Passover. And save the date of Sunday, June 7, for our Vision 2020 Awards Brunch. The Brunch Committee is already working hard on this – expect some surprises!

How do we responsibly prepare for the sacred, wide tent of the future, as Rabbi Rick Jacobs framed it at the Biennial? I’m looking forward to doing this with all of you, our BCC members and our dedicated Board, clergy, and staff.