Weekend Rabbi

I spent an amazing weekend with Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend. It’s one of the few times when, as I rabbi, I did something that really made a difference that I can talk about. Most of the time, when I make a difference in my rabbinic work, it involves a person, and is their story to tell. When working with a group, I’m able to talk about it a little more.

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The congregation is just starting out, having hosted spectacular high holiday services last month, is beginning to get around to thinking through what they do the rest of the year. They have about 30 families, which is amazing for a congregation that is only 6 months old and doesn’t really have much going on regularly yet. This weekend, I led services for them, taught some adult ed, and also taught a class for the kids. In addition, we talked a lot, and I did some organizational consulting.

The group of people in Bend is great, and are developing a really strong organization. However, this is a group that doesn’t have much experience starting a new congregation. In fact, the group doesn’t have a lot of experience with startups in general. In contrast, I’m immersed in startup-land, and have worked with a number of congregations in the early stages of development. As a result, I was able to give some advice that they were excited to recieve. How weird is that? I gave advice and it was valued!

Some of it came from knowing a thing or two about startups: you need a vision. You can’t build something unless you know what you are building. Some of it was based on congregational experience: get the religious school

central-oregon-3 online as early as possible, because that’s a big motivator for people to join. Some of it was based on marketing experience: it’s easier to sell a product that exists than vaporware.

The giving advice part of the weekend was fun, but maybe not the most exciting thing I did. This weekend, for my adult education session, I took a risk. I decided to try to teach mysticism.

Mysticism is really difficult to explain, but a fascinating philosophy of life. Mystical texts tend to be very technical, and hard to find a way into without a whole lot of context. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot. I taught Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook on love–and it worked! People understood both the text and mysticism by the end of an hour and a half. And I got to teach a text I really love.

I had a lot of fun this weekcentral-oregon-2end, and sense the congregation did too. I also got to drive into Central Oregon, which is beautiful high desert. I took a few photos on the way back…of the point and shoot variety, since I was driving at the time. But take enough shots, and some will turn out, even if you don’t look at what you’re photographing (and post-production helps a lot, too). So, for those who don’t know the beauty of Central Oregon, there are a few photos accompanying this post.

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Life’s Busy, but Good

I’m running  hard at th moment, and therefore haven’t had a chance to post much recently, but figured I’d take a few minutes to do so now.

Last night was Ignite Portland 4, which was amazing. My presentation went fine, I think, but some of the others were truly amazing. Carolynn Duncan did an amazing run down on the Portland scene from an outsider’s viewpoint. Cami Kaos‘ take on bluffing your way through life was a tour de force of stage presence at its best, and needless to say, very entertaining. Betsy Richter presented on how to do project or child management, and why it’s the same thing, which was perhaps the most useful presentation of the evening. And Melissa Lion‘s talk about the use of narrative in online communication was truly brilliant, and I’d have been delighted to have listed to an hour on the subject rather than the 5 minutes (which hinted at a truly remarkable set of ideas, without having the time to flesh them out). Oh, and here’s my presentation on spirituality in non-religious community. There were many other great speakers, but these were some of my favorites (admittedly, also, some of my favorite people).

Right now, I’m theoretically already in the car heading towards Bend for a weekend with a congregation. I’m very excited about this, but do wish that this week had been a little less hectic. I’ll be doing some last minute preparation (read: thinking) as I drive east. But first, since I need to go over the mountains to get there, I need to go buy chains for the car (a legal requirement, and probably a good idea as well). It will be a packed weekend with a service tonight, adult ed and a class for children tomorrow morning, a social get together tomorrow night, followed by some discussion about how one creates a congregation on Sunday morning. It seems like a great group, and I’m really looking forward to my visit.

In the middle of all this, I’ve also been trying to help a friend who found herself in a scary legal situation and scarily short of resources.

It’s all going well, and it’s all good stuff (except for the friend needing help), but I’m running hard doing life and not finding much time for blogging it. Hopefully I’ll have more next week.