Mazel Talk

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October 3, 2022 — This Mazel Talk features a short essay by Rabbi Sheryl Katzman, the Senior Director of Member Engagement at the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) of the Conservative Movement. The Rabbinical Assembly is an SRE Network member and grantee.*

How I Found my Havruta with SRE Network

A little over a year ago, my colleagues from the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and I were fortunate to find ourselves in a Zoom room meeting for the first time. We had been invited by the SRE Network to speak on a panel for their 2021 online convening and to reflect on our work with the Ethics Committees of each of our rabbinic associations. To say I was nervous about the panel is a glaring understatement. I was less than one year into my time as the lead professional supporting the Rabbinical Assembly’s Va’ad HaKavod (ethics committee) and the scrutiny facing these committees and our institutions were formidable.

The blessing of that invitation was the havruta that came from that chance encounter. Our connection began in the “green room” getting ready for recording, and again a week later at the conference preparing for the live conversation. In those moments in the waiting room and through our conversation on the panel a havruta was born.

There are very few of us serving in these roles for rabbinic organizations. The work of rabbinic ethics committees is both sacred and complex. We work with volunteers who care deeply about our responsibility to safeguard the trust that the community places in their rabbis.

Our regular meetings represent the ideal of what it means to have a havruta, a study partner. During our time together we ask practical questions about procedures and share helpful resources. We push each other to think about how we can improve our work. Most of all, we have found the support we need to continue this work no matter how daunting the task ahead may seem. We are able to connect around our deepest concerns and greatest fears. Through our conversations, we have been able to turn what could be paralyzing questions into concrete action steps.

The application to SRE Network for the training grant for our ethics committees was born out of our regular conversations. We are grateful not only for the havruta that SRE Network created for us but also for the true partners we found at SRE Network.

*In 2022, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), in partnership with the Rabbinical Assembly (RA), and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) received a two-year grant to provide cross-denominational training for their Ethics Committees with a focus on acting with a trauma-informed lens, conducting investigations, counseling congregations, and more.

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