What does your Rabbi do? Part 5

Rabbi Joe Blair

December 24 2007


College Students:

I have spoken by telephone or met with students from various schools, including MBC, EMU, JMU, Bridgewater, BRCC, and W&L, most of whom are in one Religion or religious studies class or another that requires them to attend a service and/or interview a person of a faith not their own. Many of them have come to our services, if not to the Community Awareness Shabbat (which is generally too late to meet the requirements for their semester schedules). 

Non-Jewish community members: 

I have made presentations to several churches and civic organizations and at various colleges and other schools, and been contacted numerous times, sometimes with questions, sometimes to ask for a speaker, or to attend services to observe. In that light, our Fall Community Awareness Shabbat was very well attended, with roughly 130 people present. 

Peace Festival:

I have been asked to work on a Peace Festival to take place on Sunday, January 13th at 2-5 at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg. I am happy to tell you that Sarah Grove-Humphries has also agreed to help me with this project. The planning group includes representatives from several churches, the  mosque in Harrisonburg, some Kurdish families, FINISH UP HERE


I attended professional training sessions and conferences put on by the CCAR and the MAC.  I will also be attending the URJ Biennial later this month. In coming months, I will attend the CCAR Convention, the CCAR MAC regional conference, and probably two other rabbinic training and professional development programs. 

I hope to apply as a candidate for one of the available programs, either at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS), or at the Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal (STAR) Good to Great Rabbi or the Peer Executive Leadership program. These programs each require attending two workshops/retreats each year for one or two years, studying, taking on-line courses, working with mentors and peers, and generally improving skills and focusing on being more effective as a rabbi. 

Tzedakah, Gemilut Chasidim, Tikkun Olam:

I have continued to make disbursements and contributions to various groups and organizations I believe are worthy from the Rabbi’s Discretionary fund. When an acknowledgement is sent, I have passed it on so that there is some way of others knowing what is being done with the monies that are donated to the Discretionary fund while maintaining the maximum confidentiality when appropriate. All disbursements are reviewed with an individual who maintains confidentiality in order that there be accountability for my choices and to assure that I don’t run afoul of the IRS rules in dealing with this fund. 

In the last two years, I have encouraged our youth group to volunteer to work at the Volunteer Farm, an organization in Woodstock that uses donations and volunteer labor to plant, raise, harvest, and deliver fresh food to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. I hope that this will become a regular activity for the youth group, and perhaps for other members of the congregation as well.