Wellness and illness. Joy and grief. Pregnancy and infertility. Marriage and widowhood. These are some of the topics explored during the three-day, fifth biennial of the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) of the Reform Movement, held in March in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The conference’s theme was “Healing Ourselves/Healing Others!’ Each of the three rabbis who opened the conference had suffered either the loss of a spouse or a serious illness. One of the speakers, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein of Temple Beth David in Canton, Massachusetts explained, “We each had to answer the question, ‘How did this crisis in our lives affect us spiritually as Jews, and what did it teach us as rabbis who have to help people in our congregation with similar problems?’ As rabbis, we need to work on our own life issues in order to develop special skills to help others to heal.”
Some of the workshops included “Creative Liturgy in the Face of Pregnancy Loss, Miscarriage, Stillborn Birth and Abortion” with Rabbi Shira Stern of New Jersey; The Mitzvah Model: A Jewish Approach to Religious Life for the Old and/or Frail” with Rabbi Dayle Friedman of Philadelphia; “Food for the Spirit or Meals that Heal (Macrobiotic Nutrition)” with Rabbi Donna Ber-man of New York; “Spousal Abuse” with Rabbi Julie Spitzer of Baltimore; and “Integrating Gay Men and Lesbians into Our Congregations and Organizations” with Rabbi Stacy Offner of St. Paul.
The Women’s Rabbinic Network was organized in 1975 by Rabbi Sally Priesand (the first woman ordained in the United States), Rabbi Sandy Sasso and Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus, among others. Its primary goal is to provide a support network to share the concerns and experiences that are unique to women in the rabbinate. The next WRN biennial conference will be held in Chicago in 1991.