Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hot-lanta, check it and see

Hello from Atlanta - I am surrounded by the nation's reform rabbis, and we are already having a wonderful time. I arrived around 1pm, had a bite to eat, and rested for a few minutes. I then attended a fascinating lecture, by Dr. Laurie L. Patton, about the influence of Eastern Religions on Judaism and the Jewish community. We discussed what is so enticing about Hinduism and Buddhism to today's Jews, and what we can learn from this. Apparently, Jews are drawn to Eastern religions for two main reasons: 1) the aesthetic qualities inherent in them (beautiful gardens, garb, etc.), and 2) what they think Judaism doesn't provide, such as a greater sense of spirituality and meditation practices. It looks like it is our job as rabbis to make sure to appreciate what other religions have to offer, and also to educate our congregants about what Judaism does indeed teach about meditation and the spirit.

Then, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold spoke for about 2 hours. WOW! He is an incredible, visionary leader. I was so inspired by his tenacity and willingness to take a stand for what he believes in. It turns out that he was raised an observant Reform Jew, and his children have gone to OSRUI. His sister is a rabbi! He spoke about our mandate as Jews to care for the stranger in our midst (illegal immigration policies), and for those made to feel like the stranger (African Americans, GLBTs, Latinos, Arab Americans). He spoke about accountability for the Iraq war, and our immediate need to create a course of action so that we can finally pull our troops out. We gave him at least three standing ovations!

Dinner was delightful (yummy peach cobbler!), as was the opportunity to catch up with classmates. I am now getting ready for bed, since we have a long shacharit service in the morning. Unfortunately, the hotel is under renovation, so there is no pool - the horror, the horror! I have been fantasizing about going in the hot tub for weeks - I am so disappointed. Darn you, Atlanta Marriott Marquis!

Okay, I shall update you more tomorrow. Good night!

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