Many years ago, a Jewish friend said to me, “Jews don’t go camping.” What I think she meant is that, in many North American Jewish families over the last few generations, the kids go camping at summer camp, so why should the family go together? Camping is for the kids, they like it the most, so why should we parents have to suffer through it?
I never went to summer camp, Jewish or otherwise, which may explain why I still like to go camping. Car camping, backpacking, and even wilderness middle-of-nowhere camping. Here in Asheville, we are all very fortunate to live in a place surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers, so accessible to camping and other outdoor activities.
Like many people, I’m not so good at putting away the connected devices or totally unplugging. I’m also not really that interested in silent retreats or meditation. But, I very much like being in true wilderness, where there is no possibility of connection to any media, or technological distraction. When I’m disconnected in this way, I imagine the many generations of our ancestors who experienced only what their own senses supplied in each moment. I think many of our spiritual practices and traditions as Jews have meaning in part because they help us focus on our primary senses, on what is happening immediately around us. I suppose some of you might tell me this is just spiritual awareness, and what do I think meditation is anyway?
My family is not really planning for greater spiritual awareness (that might be self-defeating), but we are planning for camping season this coming spring and summer. It might even be our most ambitious summer of camping yet as a family. Our kids may well mark each disconnected day, hour by hour. My hope is that they will nonetheless develop a type of muscle memory of the experience of having no technological distraction.
As Reform Jews, we have no mandate to be shomrei Shabbos, but I think we all long for periods of freedom from our devices. Even if you meditate or keep Shabbat every week, I invite you to consider new ways to disconnect from the digital experience and reconnect with your own sensory experience.
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Previous messages from the President
The bigger picture. That’s what I saw in a room with 5000 or so Reform Jews, all in Chicago convening at the URJ Biennial. If you have ever been to a large gathering of Jews anywhere—at the western wall, Biennial, or large synagogue event—you’ve probably felt what I was feeling, the power of so many … Continue reading President’s Message – January, 2020
The security of our temple has been a frequent topic of discussion in temple leadership for some time. We want to be safe, and feel safe, so that we can experience our congregational home free of fear. It has not been easy for the CBHT Board and Security Committee to make security plans for our … Continue reading Presidents Message- November 2019
Just about 26 years ago, I climbed the steps to the brass doors and entered the CBHT sanctuary for the first time. You might not have recognized me then, with my long hair hanging in a bushy ponytail. (I knew nothing about man-buns.) I don’t recall who greeted me at the door, but I know … Continue reading President’s Message- October, 2019
It may be summer, but a lot has been happening at CBHT in the office, in the “boardroom” and behind the scenes. The office staff and Board have been busy keeping the wheels of the temple business well-greased. We recently entered the new fiscal year in July; thank you to all of our members who … Continue reading President’s Message – Sept. 2019
Since being elected president of CBHT a few weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to reflect on why I serve on the board and what it means to me in the context of my connection to our temple community. Let’s be honest: our board has occasionally had meetings that have gone on too long, … Continue reading President’s Message – August 2019
Over the past two years, when I have spoken to people about my role as president of our temple, I would get that “Oh, I am so sorry” look. They most always say something about how tedious it must be to deal with the complainers, the naysayers. I can honestly say that has not been … Continue reading President’s Message
As I wrote to you back in March, at the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees authorized the sale of the property that CBHT owns on Washington Road, behind the playground. Since then, we had measurements taken to assure that we had enough green space on temple property to meet city requirements, … Continue reading President’s Message – May 2019
How fortunate we are to have such a ‘deep bench’ at CBHT. We have a considerable number of very talented ‘players’ who can step up during a transition or help fill a knowledge gap when we’re sailing in uncharted territory. Some of this is by design. By the time someone moves into the president role, … Continue reading President’s Message
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jewish food lately. My daughter is planning her wedding and is designing the menu around ‘Jew-ish’ food — pastrami and rye, falafel in pita, black and white cookies, Israeli salads — a little of this and a little of that, mixing what we think of as culturally Jewish food … Continue reading President’s Message – February 2019
CBHT Heroes For a while now, we have been thinking about honoring congregants who’ve made important contributions to CBHT by instituting a ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award. It certainly makes sense, as there are many people who have given so much of their time and talent. In fact, it’s a huge challenge to think about … Continue reading President’s Message – January 2019
On the Shabbat when the murders took place in the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, the Torah portion was Vayera, from Genesis, recounting how Abraham welcomed perfect strangers into his tent. As Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), said in his initial statement after the shootings, it was so … Continue reading Presidents Message – December 2018