Towards the end of last year, I had the great privilege of speaking at the Women of Reform Judaism’s YES Fund Breakfast in San Diego, California. The 2013 breakfast, held as part of their biennial conference, was especially exciting as it marked their centennial. In 1913 the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (the name was changed in 1993 to reflect changing social attitudes WRJ) was founded as an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism. In its early years, the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods campaigned on a range of issues including rights for women, relief efforts during both the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and the rights of Jews to settle in Palestine among many other issues. But going back to its beginnings, WRJ has always supported rabbis and rabbinical students.
At the YES Fund Breakfast, I heard a number of other speakers, including Rabbi Professor David Ellenson, Emeritus President of HUC-JIR, talk about how the WRJ had supported Hebrew Union College, raising funds not only for students, but also for infrastructure like dormitories. During the 1930s, WRJ helped to bring German rabbinical students to the United States in order for them to have a safe place to complete their studies after the Nazis closed the doors of higher learning to Jews. Today, WRJ continues their crucial work of supporting rabbinic training. They continue to raise money for HUC-JIR’s many campuses, including supporting the work of training progressive rabbis in Israel.
But just as important to us, for many years now the WRJ’s YES Fund has been raising money to support European rabbis as well. Today virtually all of LBC’s continental European rabbinical students, including Russian students, receive some support from WRJ – a contribution for which we are most grateful. Many European and Russian communities simply cannot afford to fund rabbinical training for their students here in London. While LBC is happy to do its part to help, we are delighted that we have such gracious partners as WRJ. They were thrilled to hear my stories of Spain and France and the Ukraine, to name just a few of the countries our rabbinic students hail from.
I left the YES Fund Breakfast with an overwhelming feeling of support – 500+ women applauding loudly is truly heart-warming. So my deepest thanks to the WRJ for enabling me to address them, connect with their membership, and solidify our foundational relationship with them as we move forward towards another 100 years together.
Photography by Dale Lazar