By IJC member Paco Bataller
Following the example - and advice of - two friends and IJC members, Brian Doyle and Andres Mosquera, I attended this year’s Beutel Leadership Seminar. This event has been ongoing for a couple of decades under the auspices of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. It was one of the most exciting, soul-rewarding and emotionally-connecting experiences of my (now long) life.
This year’s seminar took place in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem, with a field visit to Tel Aviv (and its main Reform synagogue and Diaspora Museum) and a final week-end at Kibutz Lotan in the Negev. Most sessions (and the residence for participants) were located at Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel which also houses the WUPJ’s world headquarters. It is located on King David Street just across from the Old City.
It was one of the most exciting, soul-rewarding and emotionally-connecting experiences in my (now long) life. Several factors contributed to this. First - which worked to the benefit of all - the imbalance in gender. Out of 18 participants, only four were male, two of them rather young and two retired from professional life. The remainder were women - some rabbis or studying for rabbinical ordination, many of whom infused the atmosphere with youthful enthusiasm, reassuring togetherness, friendliness and positive emotionality.
Second, and possibly as important, the charismatic low-key devotion of the two great people who led the seminar: Rabbi Steve Burnstein, and semi-retired academic Paul Liptz. Third, the beauty and magic of attending Shacharit every morning with a full view of the Old City’s walls and participating in services in the middle of the desert.
Fourth, the hands-on experience of celebrating Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel, supporting Women of the Wall (while being verbally abused and heckled by Haredim who felt offended by their and our presence); meeting and holding discussions with Bedouin men and women, etc. And finally, the top quality of virtually all guest speakers who gave a number of lectures or led discussion sessions.