Visioning Initiative Weekend: Continue the Conversation

Our Visioning Initiative Weekend with Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman (click here for Friday’s sermon) provided a meaningful and scholarly foundation for our community to immerse in profound conversations that will transform and deepen the relationships we share.  

To engage in the Visioning Initiative, comment on what you experienced this weekend (thoughts to jog your memory, below), or contact Catherine Fischer ( to participate in a “Face to Face” conversation, or to sign up to be trained to initiate a Face to Face.  Choose 1 of 2 training sessions:  Wed., March 23, 12:30-2:00 pm (bring your own lunch) OR Thurs., March 24, 5:30-7:00 pm (snacks served).

Our experience with Rabbi Hoffman revealed that Judaism is about conversations.  Reflect and comment on these moments (or others) from this weekend:

FRIDAY NIGHT: Rabbi Hoffman’s sermon (click here to listen) explored the voices that have contributed to American Jewish life.  He focused on the impact of women in leadership, non-Jews and the next generation of young adults.  For non-Jews in a Jewish orbit and for young adults, passion for Judaism will not revolve around ethnic customs such as food or jokes, but spiritual meaning and profound conversation.

SATURDAY MORNING: At Torah Study, Rabbi Hoffman used The Book of Exodus’ concept of the tabernacle and sacrificial ritual as a springboard to discuss today’s ritual: prayer.  He examined the cognitive and mystical components of our prayers and suggested that even the law-centered rabbis were mystical; a story of the Talmudic Rabbi Akiba describes him reciting the Amidah prayer (which requires one to keep one’s feet stationary during the recitation) and ending up on the other side of the room!  Even Rabbi Akiba was swept up not only by the laws and intellect, but also by a mystical, heartfelt experience of prayer!  Rabbi Hoffman also explored the cultural backdrops that made Classical Reform meaningful in its day and Contemporary Reform meaningful in our own time. 

SUNDAY MORNING: Rabbi Hoffman described a medieval Judaism that fosuced on limits, an enlightened Judaism that focused on truth and a contemporary Judaism that focuses on meaning.  Reform Judaism, he said, works in the trenches of of modernity as it changes.  The trench used to be science.  Today, the trench is lonliness, separateness, and running through our appointments as if they own us.  The new trench and conversation is about meaning.

2 Responses to Visioning Initiative Weekend: Continue the Conversation

  1. Cy Swartz says:

    Rabbi Hoffman made another significant point in his Sunday AM presentation: more programs do not create richer experience or conversation. I hope that others in the congregation heard this and are thinking about ways to respond to this. RS has a varied and rich assortment of ‘programs.’ Shabbat Torah study gives us an opportunity to interact with sacred text; to become familiar with the wide range of Jewish sources that reflect the times and places where Jews have lived; and there are frequent moments of profound personal sharing that occur in the course of these discussions. The synagogue as a Beit Midrash ( House of Study) has much potential to enrich our experiences. Hope that our options for study expand to include a greater range of topics: eg rabbinic,medieval, enlightenment, and contemporary Jewish thought; the Siddur – its variations in content and format; prayer and meditation; et al………..

  2. Matthew Wander says:

    A couple of weeks ago Rabbi Maderer asked me a question. She said she wanted to figure out how to find a different way to have a conversation in the synagogue. This seemed like a really important goal, but then it wasn’t clear either what that conversation was or how one finds it. I had a number of conversations in the temple since then, but none rose to the level of new or seemed in any way to fulfill that idea until last Friday. Last Friday at the visioning initiative, I had the best conversation at the temple I have had period, and probably better than I have had at any other temple either. It was around the dinner table with a group of people who I knew, but not necessarily the ones that I would be inclined to have this type of conversation with unbidden. We were far from agreement on many basic issues, but the conversation was constructive. Even in the short time we had, we were able to find agreement on many general principles and were able to recognize areas for future understanding. My only complaint is that it was far too short. Even still I don’t have an answer to her question, only a hint of a direction.

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