By Stacey Dresner ~
Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz of Temple Beth El in Springfield was chosen to participate in Rabbis Without Borders (RWB), a National Fellowship program of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
More than 90 applicants competed for 22 spots in the fellowship program. Now in its third year, Rabbis Without Borders “encourages rabbis to think creatively about their work and the new American religious landscape.” “Interest in the program has only increased over the years,” said Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu, RWB Director. “Rabbis recognize that the religious environment has changed – from family make up to spiritual practice. To reach people where they are, rabbis need to apply their skills in new ways. RWB offers that kind of support. It helps rabbis better communicate in both familiar and new venues, and makes Jewish wisdom an accessible resource for the American public.”
“The goal of the program is to convene 22 colleagues from all flavors of Judaism – so there are Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform,” Rabbi Katz explained. “So we are all colleagues who are reminding ourselves about our rabbinate. I think the best way I can say it is that we are all spending time thinking about why we fell in love with our Judaism and help others to access it and find what they can love about Judaism.”
Rabbi Katz and the rest of the rabbinic fellows will gather in New York City four times over the next year. The first session, held earlier this month, featured Prof. Gustav Niebuhr, director of the Religion and Media Program at Syracuse University and former columnist at the New York Times, who discussed religion in America today. A December 19-20 program will feature social media innovators Rabbi Owen Gottlieb and Daniel Sieradisky, who will discuss technology, social media and gaming.
“Every year I try to find a different kind of program of professional development that will be an ongoing source for the year that can help me both grow professionally and also help me interact with colleagues who have similar challenges as I have,” Rabbi Katz explained.
RWB offers resources for rabbis to enhance their skills for addressing diverse audiences. From online learning to one-on-one dialogue, participants will work with Clal faculty to develop methodologies that draw on the texts and tradition in new ways. The goal is for these “spiritual innovators” to see their congregations as more than just members of their school, community or institution.