By Rabbi Julie Wolkoff. D.Min.
I love the photograph on the top of of this blog. It’s from May 2011, the most recent WRN conference. Each time I see it, I think of my colleagues and the times we have shared with each other over the years. For me, the WRN is the professional organization whose conference is the one that is not-to-be-missed. I have missed only one over the years and I can’t remember or imagine what was important enough to take its place.
This may sound like hyperbole, but its not. I has been almost 18 years since I was a congregational rabbi. Several rabbinic careers later, I am a rabbi working in the non-Jewish world. In short – no convention allowance and conference time counts as vacation days. My time off is precious to me and I don’t give it up lightly, but I can’t imagine not taking the days off for the WRN.
Over the years the WRN conference has been the place where colleagues have shared their most personal stories. It’s where we’ve struggled and, at times, argued over our rabbinates, our relationships with women rabbis in other movements (and with each other,) and with how we divided our time and tried to balance it between self, family, job and life in general. It’s been the place where we’ve maintained connections begun in rabbinic school and where we’ve grown new connections.
WRN conferences over the years have seen laughter and tears. More than once I have come home with a new vision for my rabbinate. It was for a WRN conference that I first took the Myer Briggs Type Indicator. I came away with a clearer understanding of why some parts of congregational life were easier for me than others and a deeper appreciation for other parts that challenged me and helped me grow.
I could go on and on about my feelings for the WRN, but instead I’ll share another photo. If the picture at the top of the blog is a small snapshot of who we are now, this one is one of who women rabbis were then:
I think it’s it’s 1980 (and if it’s not, I know one of my colleagues will post a comment and correct my date.) A historian or anthropologist could have a field day with this photo. There are the obvious differences: this one is black and white and our group photos now are in color; we’re more formally dressed – no sign of the jeans and t-shirts (and this year the WRN fleece PJ pants) that many of us wear in the newer photos; there are no babies or young children in this photo. And there are more subtle differences: if I’m correct on the year, the students outnumber the ordained rabbis in this picture; and my personal favorite memory – you couldn’t sit in the front row unless you were wearing a skirt!
But one thing is the same – both photos contain some of my dearest friends and both are filled with women who mean the world to me.
I’m counting the minutes until we see each other in Memphis. My bag is packed (almost) and I can’t wait to spend time with my beloved colleagues.
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, D.Min, CT, is a hospice chaplain in Massachusetts and a past co-president of the WRN. Find her at: http://fabricfiber.wordpress.com/