Region’s Reconstructionists invite community to explore how ‘place’ impacts identity
By DEBORAH MOON, Jewish Review
article created on: 2012-01-01T00:00:00
On Jan. 29, Havurah Shalom invites the community to join members of Pacific Northwest Reconstructionist congregations for a Jewish Day of Learning—Yom Iyun.
A keynote address—by Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College—and five workshops will explore how “place” impacts Jewish life and practice in the Diaspora in the 21st century. “East by Northwest: A Jewish Perspective on the Role of Place and Community in the Northwest” is the day’s theme.
“We are welcoming folks from all sectors of the community who are interested in exploring with us the concept of the meaning of place in Jewish life,” said Havurah Shalom Co-President Alanna Hein. “Havurah is happy to host the Yom Iyun on behalf of the five Pacific Northwest Reconstructionist congregations.”
The conference has been planned by presidents of those five congregations: Temple Beth Israel (Eugene), Temple Beth Sholom (Salem), Havurah Shalom (Portland), Temple Beth Hatfiloh (Olympia) and Kadima (Seattle).
Reconstructionist Western Region vice president Craig Starr, of Eugene, has responsibility for the Pacific Northwest congregations and serves as the conference coordinator.
“It’s a nice opportunity to get Reconstructionist Jews from the five congregations together,” he said, noting it has been several years since the PNW congregations have held a Yom Iyun. “It helps build a larger sense of community.”
Starr said that the five PNW congregations already had decided it was time to hold a day of learning to bring together members from across the area. But they had not settled on a theme until they read an essay by Rabbi Ehrenkrantz on the role of Israel in Jewish identity.
The thought-provoking essay appeared on HuffingtonPost.com July 10, 2011.
“(B)ecause the notion remains that Jewish unity is based in our collective support for Israel, those who criticize the state—both on the left and on the right—have become deeply alienated from other elements of the Jewish community,” wrote Ehrenkrantz in the essay.
The essay continued: “We must maintain our engagement with and commitment to a safe and secure Israel. However instead of depending solely on Israel to be the unifying factor for Jews worldwide, we must find additional and tangible ways to live our connections to Judaism and to other Jews, wherever we find ourselves.”
Starr said, “(T)he Pacific Northwest JRF presidents found (the essay) thought-provoking and we thought (it) would be a good basis for a discussion about Israel, which we eventually included in the event along with other presentations on the broader theme of “place.”
The day begins at 9 a..m with coffee and registration. Welcome and Shach’rit services are at 9:30.
At 10 a.m., Ehrenkrantz will deliver his keynote address: “When We Talk About Israel, What are We Saying?”
Three sessions of workshops will explore other themes of place.
From 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., participants can choose from one of two workshops: Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman will speak on “Portnoy’s Mother’s Complaint; Jewish Gender Dislocations in North America” and David Fuks will speak on “The Place of Elders in the Jewish Community.”
Following lunch, there will be two afternoon workshop sessions. Both sessions will include a panel discussion featuring Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin and Rabbi Joseph Wolf, moderated by Randi Brenowitz, talking about: “What Place in Our Lives for this Place Called Israel: the Ideas, Symbols, and Realities of Israel for 21st Century Reconstructionist Jews.”
From 1 to 2:15 p.m., the second workshop option will be a talk by Simon Goldenberg on “Jewish Life and Immigration in British Columbia.”
Goldenberg, who grew up at Havurah Shalom where his family have been members since 1995, is now a fourth-year student at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. The son of Richard Goldenberg and Karen St. Clair, he attended Portland Jewish Academy.
The second 2:30-3:45 p.m. workshop is a presentation by Oren Kosansky, Ph.D., on “Place, Person, and Piety in Jewish Morocco.” Kosansky is an associate professor of anthropology at Lewis and Clark College and a Havurah Shalom member. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Morocco in 2005.
Havurah Shalom is at 825 NW 18th Ave., Portland. Cost is $25, or $15 for students. For registration or more information, visit the event’s web page, jrf.org/east-by-northwest. (Registration is only online.) Photos and bios of the presenters, summaries of their presentations and links to any handouts will be posted on the site.