Rabbi Joe Blair
December 24 2007
Working with Sherri Alt, I have been continued to be involved in Shorty, the Youth Group, specifically focusing on the Confirmation program (for those who are post-B’nai Mitzvah). Shorty is intended to serve those from age 13 (post-seventh grade) to 18. The program was well accepted in past. We now have more than a ten active members. Given the demographics of our community, this is an excellent representation.
Funding seems to me a significant issue – these NFTY events, camp, and Israel trips are extremely expensive, and most families’ budgets will not support sending their children to many of these events. Camp and Israel are wonderful and meaningful experiences for most youth, but the costs are as high or higher than tuition at many private schools. My sense is, and all statistics show, that they are worth the cost, but many of our members cannot afford to send their children often, or, to the most expensive of these, at all. We will need to find a way to make sure that we can assist or cover costs for our members’ children to attend. This is an investment in the future.
The THOI SHORTY Fundraising dinner and Youth Group Service at THOI is scheduled for January 11th. It is one of the less painful ways we help to fund the operation of Shorty. I hope all of our congregants will come, or at least consider sending a donation to Shorty.
One change for this year that I am happy to have proposed at the joint calendar meeting last June (to which that group agreed, and later the board of each congregation subsequently adopted as part of the calendar), was that I should attend at least one of the NFTY Kallot (Reform Youth organization gatherings) our members attend with them, and also try to arrange to travel with our group to participate in at least one of their activities on the road. Consequently, I plan to join them for the Spring kallah this year in April of 2008, and I also plan to go with them to Williamsburg overnight a
t the beginning of June for their year-end activity. Of course, I plan to attend their meetings and local activities (IY”H, bli neder*).
[*roughly translated, with G-d’s help, but I offer no promises or vows].
In Adult Education, I offered two levels of Hebrew literacy (introduction for those needing to learn the Alefbet, and intermediate to practice reading and to gain vocabulary), a weekly Parashat Hashavuah (Torah Portion) study session, and a Jewish Lecture and Discussion series, which included such topics as the role of the Chevrah Kadishah, various Holidays, topics in basic Judaism, basic Jewish History, and some dabbling with the Talmud. I brought in as lecturers two congregants on the topics of security in Israel, and a Jewish view on energy and healing. I have moved from the Parashat Hashavuah model to a monthly Torah Lishmah structure. This is still a work in progress, and there may be more changes as time goes on. The goal is to find the interest level of our congregants, and the best approach to meet that interest.
I continue to actively work with several conversion candidates (at last count, I was meeting with six fairly regularly), and have a few more persons who have approached me with this intent, but whom I have not yet accepted as conversion candidates.
I am working with our cadre of Torah and Haftarah readers, and meet regularly with some of them to practice and improve their skill set in that arena.
I have two adult B’nai Mitzvah students with whom I am working regularly at this time.
I am in the midst of teaching the 20 session Introduction to Judaism course. We started with 13, and after five sessions there are 11 students in that class, a record number in my experience here. Of those eleven, I anticipate that probably five are likely to become members of one or the other of the congregations after their process is completed (over the next two years). Several others will likely leave the area, either before completing the training, or shortly afterwards.
I have guest lectured or given presentations at MBC, EMU, JMU, Bridgewater College, and Stuart Hall, for a variety of courses, and for several Rotary Clubs and Church groups. I met with the JMU Hillel students on several occasions. I am teaching a class in Hebrew Scriptures at Mary Baldwin College as an adjunct instructor since the regular instructor resigned at the beginning of this academic year. I am serving as a mentor for a student in the Quest program at MBC. I have met with and advised JMU students on a number of occasions, and supported the JMU chapter of AEPi and Hillel as I am able.