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Change of Plans

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Life is funny…

Starting tomorrow, the Central Conference of American Rabbis will converge upon the Holy City (Cincinnati, OH) for its annual convention and I will not be there. I had planned for a few years to attend. After all, you’ve gotta love a convention that has slotted a trip to Graeter’s (seriously the most amazing ice cream EVER!) as one of the highlights. Doris Kearns Goodwin will be speaking (among other notables). A service at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as well as one at the historic Plum Street synagogue. It will be a wonderful convention.

So what changed my mind?


Peach is at that age when being left with strangers is hard. And he is too active to sit through sessions. And the amount I would pay in childcare would completely drain my conference line. And I would be an exhausted wreck.

And yet…I was planning to go up until a few weeks ago. I was emailing a classmate of mine about something work-related and she happened to mention that she was planning her birthday party. I mused that I wished I could be there to celebrate and she countered “why not?”

Why not indeed. The fact that the party was going to be in a suburb of Kansas City (which makes sense given that she lives in a suburb of Kansas City!) caused only a moment’s hesitation. In Everything I Know: Basic Life Rules from a Jewish Mother, Sharon Strassfield points out that although people are willing to drop everything to attend someone’s funeral, rarely do we make the same efforts for life’s celebrations. I’m no different. I am a good friend in times of crisis — but like so many, I allow work and familial responsibilities to come before my obligations as a friend. And some very dear friendships have faltered due to my neglect.

And this is where God steps in and points me in the right direction.

Two years ago, I attended the URJ-sponsored Schindler Membership Fellows training and met a woman who runs an AMAZING caring community program at her shul. Which “happens” to be the same shul where my friend works. And it just so “happens” that our staff has been exploring this very issue in response to the needs of our congregants.

[Yeah, I’m listening God. No such thing as coincidence — I totally get that.]

So I purchased a plane ticket (anyone else ever hear of Midwest Airlines? Yeah, sounds like a made-up name to me too.), arranged to check out this program in person, packed, and got on a plane at some unGodly hour with the baby (who puked not once but TWICE on the three hour flight), and arrived safely in KC.

We’ve been here for 34 hours and without a doubt, it was the right decision. If you have ever wondered what rabbis do on vacation over Shabbat, wonder no more. We go to shul ;). It’s still Shabbos, after all. AND we get to sit with family and friends. And pray without carrying the hefty (and humbling) responsibility of leading people on their spiritual journey.

Rabbis need different experiences to grow as leaders. Sometimes a conference offers exactly what is needed. But I forget how much I learn by visiting another shul. What a wonderful opportunity this is for me to examine a full weekend (plus a weekday) of programming in a community that varies greatly from my own. Every rabbi (especially seasoned ones) should be given time (not vacation time) to visit other shuls. What we experience can only help strengthen our own community.

So although I will be missing Graeter’s, all is not lost. I did discover something called frozen custard.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sunday, 30 March 2008 5:29 am

    omg u r hilarious! midwest airlines rocks! did you get the warm cookies???? and custard, well, you havent really lived til you’ve had custard. come to wisconsin with me sometim and i can teach u culinary delights, my friend. (midwest air is based in mke, hence the food orientation there too:-) glad u had fun.

  2. meira permalink
    Sunday, 30 March 2008 12:05 pm

    sounds like you had a great time. and thanks for the reminder about graeters . . . they ship everywhere, you know . . . and i think i know what my husband will be getting for father’s day!

  3. Sunday, 30 March 2008 3:55 pm

    That Strassfeld book is one of my favorites. I’ve given it to several friends as gifts. I quote from her all the time. I’m glad the KC trip was so good!

  4. Sunday, 30 March 2008 4:49 pm

    1) I don’t get how the second part of the post connects to the first part of the post. What happened that made you realize that you couldn’t leave Peach alone or take him with you?

    2) While it’s true that Graeter’s can be shipped, you have to buy six pints at the same time. I looked into it once as a surprise to someone. I’m not ruining anyone’s diet by sending six pints of ice cream.

  5. meira permalink
    Monday, 31 March 2008 6:30 pm

    def. graeter’s can ruin a diet . . . or help you make some friends! : )

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