The Synagogue Council's groundbreaking Annual Unity Mission to New York City, just completing the celebration of its CHAI, eighteenth, year, is an intensive two-day program for select Jewish leadership designed to spark personal interaction and increased understanding among Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist participants. The group meets with scholars and denominational leaders from CLAL (the Center for Learning and Leadership), the Jewish Theological Seminary/United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Union for Reform Judaism, Yeshiva University, and the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.
7:30 am Depart from Temple Reyim, Newton via VIP Motorcoach
Continental Breakfast en route to New York
11:30 am Arrive at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS)
11:45 am Lunch and Opening Meeting - Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, Vice President CLAL
1:45 pm Mincha and Brief Tour of JTS
2:40 pm Presentation on Conservative Judaism - Dr. Neil Gillman, Professor of Jewish Philosophy
3:45 pm Small Group Discussions with Rabbinical Students
4:20 pm Rare Book Room Presentation - Rabbi Jerry Schwarzbard
5:30 pm Depart for Radison Hotel, Englewood, NJ
6:00 pm Arrive at Hotel and Group Photo
6:15 pm Freshen Up and Preparation for Dinner
7:30 pm Maariv
7:45 pm Dinner, Ruach and Group meeting
6:00 am Depart for Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR)
6:40 am Early morning Minyan
7:20 am HIR Orientation
8:00 am Breakfast & Discussion with Sharona Halickman, Madricha Ruchanit; Rabbi Avi Weiss & Yeshivat Chovevei Torah students
9:30 am Depart for Hebrew Union College (HUC)
10:15 am Arrival and Welcoming Remarks
10:30 am Worship Service in HUC Chapel
11:30 am Small Group Discussions with Rabbinical Students
12:15 pm Lunch & Presentation on Reform Judaism - Speaker TBA
2:10 pm Board bus for Yeshiva University (YU)
3:00 pm Arrival and Brief Tour of YU
3:30 pm Mincha
4:00 pm Afternoon snack and Presentation on Orthodox Judaism - Rabbi Robert Hirt, Senior Advisor, RIETS
5:00 pm Small Group Discussions with Rabbis
6:15 pm Participants Meeting
7:30 pm Board Bus for Return Trip.
Box dinner en route
11:30 pm Arrive at Temple Reyim, Newton
The Unity Mission is made possible, in part, by generous grants from
For further information, call (617) 244-6506 or e-mail [email protected]
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In an effort to spark better understanding among Jews, the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts recently brought together thirty leaders and representatives of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist synagogues and communities for its 18th annual Unity Mission to New York City, November 21 and 22, 2004.
Adding to the diversity of the group were two Israelis from the Boston-Haifa Connection (a project with Boston's sister city, Haifa, Israel), a Brandeis student, and four teenagers. The trip to New York was made possible, in part, by a generous grant from the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.
This year I joined the diverse group as the sole representative of the Reconstructionist Movement. I was very happy that, prior to the trip, the group had a chance to learn about Reconstructionism from Rabbi Elyse Wechterman from Congregation Agudas Achim, Attleboro, and Congregation Dorshei Tzedek's Chayim Hertzig-Marx.
In New York, we visited the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox seminaries for a series of meetings and classes with religious leaders, celebrated scholars and rabbinic students. The first presention was by Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, Vice President of CLAL (the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership). Rabbi Hirschfield inspired everyone by describing the need to search for common ground and foster mutual respect.
He emphasized the urgent need to change the paradigm that different choices meant one person was right and the other wrong. He suggested accepting each person's choices as right for himself or herself and that different forms of Jewish expression was a vibrant tapestry or mosaic of positive Jewish identities.
From early in the morning until late into the evening, we joined in daily worship services, study sessions, and formal and informal discussions exploring the religious beliefs and practices of each community as well as the challenges facing each Movement.
We heard talks from Rabbi Aaron Panken of Hebrew Union College; Rabbi Robert Hirt of Yeshiva University; and Sara Hurwitz, Madricha Ruchanit (Female Religious Mentor) of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. The visit to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) included a session with Rabbi Neil Gilman and an exciting presentation by David Wachtel about JTS' Rare Books Collection and fragments from the Cairo Ginizah, a repository of more than 1,000 years of Jewish documents discovered in 1896.
The Mission exceeded my expectations for an experience that broke stereotypes and created positive feelings among a very diverse group of people.. It also was an intensive educational opportunity where I learned not only about our shared history, but, even more importantly, on ways to promote our shared future.
The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts plans several Boston-area meetings in the next few months to develop programs and projects that will help Mission alumni to bring the message of K'lal Yisrael, the unity of the Jewish People, home to their congregations in Massachusetts.