Having just returned from attending a joint convention of Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) and Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ), I wish to offer you some impressions and observations.
The convention was held in Crystal City, Virginia. It was sizzling outside, it was scintillating inside. My attendance was partially subsidized by my Brotherhood, my Rabbi, and by the Executive Council of MRJ. These contributions were appreciated, and I thank each of them, since these gestures speak volumes about our organizations. I trust you received assistance also.
FJMC’s men comprised the bulk of the convention’s almost five hundred attendees; MRJ’s contingent, while significantly smaller, was none the less influential and made to feel welcome at all times. The charge for all to “take the opportunity to engage your body and spirit, and engage with Jewish men, women, and congregational leaders from around the globe in camaraderie, education, leadership development and fun” was enthusiastically embraced.
We were greeted and feted by luminaries, including R. Saperstein, R. Uram, Ron Wolfson, and a host of cantors led by the incomparable Alberto Mizrahi. Constantly on our minds was the so well-deserved tribute being paid throughout the convention to the retiring Executive Director of FJMC, R. Charles Simon.
And then there was the panoply of seminars, training sessions, power breakfasts, Torah study sessions, and Shabbat services, all for the benefit of each attendee. Choosing which offering to attend was sometimes difficult but mitigated by the fact that many sessions were presented at different times.
What was the purpose of all these gifts to us so freely given? After all was done and said, for me an overwhelming answer was uttered in one of the study sessions: the mission of Brotherhoods and Men’s Clubs is not save the synagogue, but to save Judaism. This precisely was the undertone of many of the sessions I attended, whether on climate change, on the joys and difficulties posed by inter-marriage, or by leadership succession. And let’s be absolutely clear: all these topics, all these questions, all these seemingly intractable matters are shared by FJMC and MRJ alike. Equally clear is the fact that the collaboration between our two entities now and into the future will provide antidotes and answers to many of the vexing and not so difficult questions facing each of us. Make no mistake: we have, are now, and will continue in camaraderie and moments of greater collaboration.
So what now? I was elected, and so were you, not because no one else was available; we were elected to fulfill the expectations of our Brothers. I will, hopefully, meet the challenge of authentic leadership during my tenure as a VP of the MRJ Executive Council by concentrating, not on the low-hanging fruit, but rather on issues of greater consequence. We can all adopt or improve on the social aspects of our Brotherhoods (steaks in the Sukkah), or information brunches (let’s get screened for prostate cancer). What I need to do is make personal and frequent contact with each of my local Brotherhoods to reinforce the good news of our collaboration. I need to initiate and continue contact between each of our local clubs, FJMC and MRJ. And I need to engage by Brothers with great expectations of success.
“Bal taschit,” do not waste, pertains to all that we believe, to all that we do: our mission depends on our collective willingness to take what we experienced recently and transform it into actions that accord with our own expectations. My personal “what” includes all that I have written here, and it begins now.
Gary Brock, VP Executive Council MRJ, Main Line Reform Temple