Today is February 21, 2020 -
by Robby Erlich, Engagement Coordinator
Because of Beth El’s commitment to my personal and professional growth, I feel very blessed to have attended the USCJ 2020 Conference in Boston in early December. The days were filled with great plenary sessions, awesome breakout sessions, inspiring music, delicious food, reuniting with old friends and forming new personal connections to last a lifetime.
In my opinion, the best plenary that I attended was a talk from the creator of Israel Story, Mishy Harman. Israel Story is a podcast that started from nothing and became a phenomenal story-telling vehicle in Israel and around the world. It was interesting to hear how he stumbled upon this work, and how he and his team created the series and what they plan on doing next. Mishy and his team have created a very genuine way to connect with other people and other people’s stories through this medium, and the popularity of his podcast has skyrocketed.
One of the most interesting breakout sessions for me was to hear from other synagogues and how they engage their congregants through programming and by finding your purpose. Remember being a Girl Scout or Boy Scout and earning badges for completing tasks or activities? A synagogue in suburban Chicago brings this to life for their congregants through different colored kippot. Another synagogue in upstate New York created “find your purpose” classes where people joined other like-interest people, brainstormed programming, and finally chaired these programs, a real grass-roots effort. It was great to hear top-bottom and bottom-top engagement initiatives that are being delivered successfully.
I have brought back so many awesome items, programs and nuggets to Beth El. I feel very excited with all the awesome things that I have absorbed in my two very short days… but one short phrase that struck me, and will stick with me is: “Judaism is not taught – it is caught”. My hope is that our work will not only continue, but also evolve to catch others and each other, in unique and profound ways for decades to come.