“How good it is — when sisters dwell together!”

A WRJ YES Fund Partnership
July 27, 2023Rabbi Elaine Glickman

Challenge:

A vibrant, North American-based organization provides sacred community, support, and advocacy for over 700 female and nonbinary rabbis, but one-fifth of those rabbis serve internationally. Many are based in Israel; others live throughout Europe and Asia. In addition to the obvious challenges of connecting across oceans and time zones, the organization knew that several of these colleagues experienced a sense of distance from the organization’s camaraderie. They knew there was much-needed outreach to feel welcome, embraced, and seen.

With the end of COVID-19 travel restrictions and an overall yearning to be together in person, the timing was right to address this challenge. However, it presented another problem: the ideas were many, yet the financial resources were limited.
 

Solution:

Women of Reform Judaism’s YES Fund!

The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), a Reform Movement partner organization representing female, genderfluid, and non-binary rabbis, has long struggled with the physical and, at times, emotional and spiritual distance between colleagues in North America and those classified as “international members.” It is hard enough to find time to connect with busy schedules, but different time zones and programming needs make it more complicated. This year, WRN revitalized its international member outreach through several methods thanks to generous support from WRJ’s YES Fund.

Our Vice President of Membership and Outreach, Rabbi Heather Miller, led a creative and impactful effort to bridge this challenge. In partnership with several international WRN colleagues, notably Rabbi Esther Jilovsky, Ph.D., who hails from Australia and serves in New Zealand, Rabbi Miller improved the language in WRN communications to engage colleagues worldwide. She also launched a Membership Task Force, including international members, to create meaningful, inclusive outreach and programming. She conceived and co-hosted “VirtuALL Zooms” designed to bring together WRN colleagues to learn from and enjoy sacred time with each other, and initiated plans for upcoming in-person WRN gatherings in Israel and Asia.  

Highlights from the past year include:

  • In November 2022, WRN celebrated the ordination of a new class of Israeli rabbis at HUC-Jerusalem, with personal outreach and greetings to each ordinee. Fueled by the WRJ YES Fund grant, we were able to empower and engage with these new colleagues by hosting a gathering.
     
  • At the WRN’s June Convention in Beverly, MA, a robust cohort of international colleagues participated virtually and in person. Generous scholarships enabled WRN members from Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and more to share sacred opportunities for learning, praying, advocating, and holding space for one another. WRN was honored and delighted to welcome Rabbi Nava Hefetz in person, who represented MARAM (the Israeli Council of Progressive Rabbis) and elevated the group’s visit to the Salem Witch Memorial with her brilliant scholarship and unique perspective.
     
  • This past February marked the first in-person Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Convention since 2019 and one of the first assemblies of a Reform legacy institution since the accountability and repair work in our movement began and intensified. Held in Israel, the 2023 CCAR Convention was an amazing opportunity to bring together WRN members of all nations and regions, especially our Israeli colleagues, for an important and impactful gathering created as a two-day add-on offering. Over thirty MARAM WRN rabbis joined an equal number of North American members to explore and grapple with discrimination and inequity in contemporary Israel. They encountered an infamous strip club that has been reborn as an educational center, deepened connections and community, held powerful discussions about Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment in the rabbinate – and sang, prayed, and celebrated together at Beit Daniel, a leading center for progressive Judaism in Israel. The combination of dedicated work by event chair Rabbi Janet Liss, the eagerness of female MARAM and North American rabbis to share sacred time together, and – especially – the WRJ YES Fund made this historic gathering not only possible – but also affordable, accessible, and beautiful. As participant Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz exulted: “Hineh mah tov….yoshvot achayot byachad!” which means, “How good it is…when sisters dwell together!”

The partnership between WRJ and WRN is longstanding and cherished. With happiness and gratitude, we at WRN say to you at WRJ: “Hineh mah tov….yoshvot achayot byachad!” “How good it is” — and how meaningful, impactful, holy, and glorious — “when we dwell together!”

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