Reflections on my weekend with new synagogue presidents


Jay Jacobs, BCC President

I am still buzzing from the Union for Reform Judaism’s Scheidt Seminar in La Jolla from Feb 6-9 for new and incoming synagogue presidents from all over North America.  47 leaders attended with the smallest congregation of 55 families and the larger congregations of 700+.  The long weekend started with an icebreaker where everyone placed a flag on the map. Over the next few days we learned about each other and our synagogues and met with URJ leadership.

Part of the seminar was an opportunity to reflect on leadership with daily quotes. On Friday, the quote was, “A community is too heavy to carry alone.” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 1:10) This reminded me of BCC volunteers and all the upcoming events you are planning. From the rituals of Purim and Passover to more personal events like “Tell Me A Story” and our Palm Springs travel adventure. 

After a brief Friday morning service, I was grouped with small congregations and participated in workshops on philanthropy, mobilization, audacious hospitality, and appreciative inquiry. Shabbat services were wonderfully uplifting and it felt like a group twice the size.    Even chanting the birkat ha’mazon, grace after meals, was a chance to bond as a group. 

On Saturday, we had a Shabbat torah service. Presidents had the opportunity to meet with URJ staff, share stories, and learn together. We all chose leadership values. Mine were inspired by our word clouds: Betzelem Elohim (in the image of G-d), Empathy, and Joyfulness. These are qualities that are important to me and that I try to bring to all my meetings at BCC. To end this workshop, we were all given miniature Torah scrolls made of cinnamon sticks and crowns of cloves as we moved into havdalah.

On Sunday, I was given an opportunity to offer my reflections on the weekend, which I want to share with you. Part of the Shabbat torah service included Dan Nichols’ setting and translation of asher yatzar. Cantor Juval taught this to the choir a few years ago. Two of the lines really stuck with me, so my reflection was a mashup of the lyrics and the qualities I learned. 

“I am perfect as I am”

  1. Be yourself
  2. Be brave
  3. Learn from others’ experiences

“And a little broken, too”

  1. Be vulnerable 
  2. We are not alone and stronger together
  3. Failures have value, too, when we learn from them

“But most of all it’s the connections and friendships I made here that will last.“ This is also what I treasure most about BCC —connecting with all of you and the many strengths you bring to our House of New Life.