Atlanta Rabbinical Association Eyes the Future
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Atlanta Rabbinical Association Eyes the Future

ARA President Rabbi Daniel Dorsch welcomed a full spectrum of Atlanta’s rabbis at a full day “retreat” in downtown Atlanta.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Brigid Groggin (far left) and Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Founding Director of the Atra Field Academy Center for the Rabbinate, chat with Rabbi Michael Bernstein and Rabbi Brad Levenberg.
Brigid Groggin (far left) and Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, Founding Director of the Atra Field Academy Center for the Rabbinate, chat with Rabbi Michael Bernstein and Rabbi Brad Levenberg.

On Tuesday, May 7, the Atlanta Rabbinical Association convened to learn the value of marketing, the future of sustainability, the importance of self-care, and most especially to share experiences and get to better know one another.

Rabbis Jason Holtz and Larry Sernovitz found the time to share their thoughts.

After a kickoff breakfast on site at a downtown corporate headquarters, the rabbis convened later in the afternoon on the Georgia Tech campus at the state-of-the-art Kendeda Building.

Hillels of Georgia Rabbi Larry Sernovitz stated, “Today was a wonderful opportunity to refresh and reenergize with colleagues and be ‘as one.’ We may all be going through similar things together, and here is a platform to support each other.”

The final session, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., concluded with “My Rabbinate: So What and Why?” featuring Brigid Groggin and Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein, founding director of the Atra Field Academy Center for the Rabbinate, based in New York. Here the wheels of self-examination and potential change in self-care began by honing resilience and wellness skills. Rabbis were challenged to examine their visions in terms of their own unique work situations, what it means to be a rabbi today, and to encourage having the “agency” to fine tune or make changes.

Koch- Epstein advised, “Maybe you have an ‘aha’ moment in this session. Only focus on one small thing, which can start the motivation and change the process.”

As an example, she talked about a rabbi in a hypothetical situation where a change in the synagogue’s board chair might be beneficial. “Read about it, look at the bylines as a start. Most importantly, how will you make yourself accountable to affect any change?”

Rabbi Mike Rothbaum of Congregation Bet Haverim and Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim enjoyed the dinner from Fuego Mundo.

Some suggestions were: call and involve a friend who is outside of the situation, set an alarm. “[Your job] may find you exhausted, pushed, as you care deeply, but not all things can be done on the same day.” She concluded with a blessing for all rabbis.

Prior to the dinner, which was catered by Fuego Mundo, Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez chatted with Rabbi Rachael Miller of Temple Emanu-El and felt that the day allowed “an examination of how our own values align with our work.” Miller found it helpful to set aside the time to ponder the future of her rabbinate.

In reviewing the program, Dorsch commented, “With 46 rabbis, we had a jam-packed day which exceeded expectations in being exactly what the doctor ordered, coming out of COVID into some state of normalcy. It was inspiring to see the rabbis of different denominations come together in sincere fellowship. We love being together in this city!”

Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, President of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association, summarized the day’s success at the closing session.

Congregation Beth Jacob’s Rabbi Ilan Feldman also most enjoyed interacting with colleagues. Ohr HaTorah Rabbi Adam Starr spoke of the benefit of “stepping back and examining the shared work we do each day.”

Ahavath Achim’s Senior Rabbi, Laurence Rosenthal, was impressed with the morning’s visit to a local corporate headquarters. He said, “In the business sector, they were so able to put together their ‘purpose statements,’ and we reflected on how that is both different and similar to our ‘not for profits’ (houses of worship). The building itself helped create the workplace culture … things like slogans bolded as reminders of how we have to constantly work on our own staff, community, and culture.”

He admired that the other venue, Kendeda, was like a mini-Epcot Center in seeing the future with innovative sustainability, solar energy, composting, handling bio waste, using less water; and more. He later commented, “I thought the last session was meaningful … what we accomplished was hard work… so often we focus on the institution and less about our own rabbinate. Is our work in line with what we envisioned?”

Some of Atlanta’s female rabbis shared their “ruach” energy

Congregation Etz Chaim Senior Rabbi Daniel Dorsch serves as president of the ARA and is entering his last year of the two-year term.

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