How’s retirement?  Keeping busy?  What are you doing?

It happens at the Temple and at the Giant, at the movies and at restaurants.  It happens downtown and at beach.   I meet congregants who all have the same questions for me:   How’s retirement?  Keeping busy?  What are you doing?    I really enjoy these conversations.  They keep me connected with members of the congregation and remind me that, though my role in the congregation has changed, my relationships with Temple members continue.  And for that, I am pleased - and grateful.

In the nearly two years since I stepped aside as Senior Rabbi, and became Rabbi Emeritus, I have been busy.   On one hand, events in my own family, some happy, others sorrowful, have taken up significant   time and attention.  What helped Barbara and me was the support of the congregation, a constant which we appreciate now just as much as during the 35 years of my rabbinate at Beth Ami.  On the other hand, I have had the time to pursue longtime interests but in new ways.

For example, many congregants know that I have long been associated with the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington.  I served on the Board and as an Officer, including a term as President.  Dealing with the public policy issues that affect the Jewish community and helping to frame our community’s response to various challenges – local, national and international – was very interesting and exciting.   Now, based on that experience, I have been invited to sit on the national board of the JCPA – the Jewish Council for Public Affairs – which is the “hub” for all the Jewish Community Relations organizations in the country.  In the current political and social environment, it is of great importance to carefully consider the interests and plan the response of the Jewish community.  I have had the opportunity to participate in these conversations and to interact with leaders of not only the Jewish community, but with those from a variety of religious, cultural, social and ethnic communities with whom we act in concert on the issues around which we have common interests.

Similarly, my interest and involvement with Israel and Israel related organizations are well known to the congregation.  It always pleased me that this interest was shared by so many of our members and resulted in a proud history of congregational trips to Israel and a high level of Israel related programming and projects.  I have always been a big fan of the Jewish National Fund.  Like many of us, I grew up with the blue and white tzedakah box in my family’s home in which we saved money to plant trees in Israel.  But as Israel changed, JNF changed and so has my involvement.  Today, JNF addresses a wide array of needs, from community development to resource management and on to a variety of social needs in all sectors of Israeli society.  One of those areas is providing support and opportunity to differently-abled persons.  A project dear to me is called Special in Uniform, which brings differently-abled young adults into the social and educational experience of the Israeli Defense Forces.  It would take too much space here for me to explain it fully, but I encourage you to look on U-Tube.  Just search “Special in Uniform” and, after watching a video or two, you will understand why I am involved, working with others in the Washington Jewish community to fund a unit of Special in Uniform.

Finally, my involvement with our Reform Movement has morphed from national to international.  After being involved with different aspects of the Union for Reform Judaism, including a long stint as a Board member and Executive Officer of ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists in America), the Israel engagement affiliate of our movement, I have moved over to become an Executive Officer of ARZENU, which is the Israel engagement affiliate of the World Union for Progressive Judaism – the international Reform Movement.  In this role, I am working with Reform and Progressive Jewish communities around the world, helping them develop Israel related programming and supporting their involvement in the World Zionist Organization.  This involvement will be taking Barbara and me to Prague at the end of April where I will be presenting and participating in the WUPJ’s European Conference.

In fact, Barbara and I have been doing a bit more traveling than we previously were able to do, but we always enjoy traveling with friends.  That is why I want to share with the congregation one more project I am working on.  Following up on our very successful congregational trip to Central Europe in the spring of 2015, I am planning another Jewish Heritage travel experience for the spring of 2019 (which is really only 14 months away!).  This time I will be leading a congregational trip to Morocco, March 31-April 8, 2019 (see page XX for more information). It will be a wonderful experience to explore the past and present of a rich Jewish culture different from our own, yet similar in those ways that connect our people across time and space.  I appreciate that Rabbi Pokras has encouraged me, as Rabbi Emeritus, to continue to plan and provide these travel experiences for the congregation as a complement to our Israel travel program which he now leads.

So, all in all, a long answer to a few short questions.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to pursue these interests at a significant level and in a personally satisfying way.  Even more important to me is the chance to remain connected to our congregation and its members in a meaningful way.  I look forward to sharing much more with the congregation as we all go from strength to strength.