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About Dov Gartenberg

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is the Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.

One of the main insights I have gained is that our congregation is going through a period of redefining its identity. There are diverse and opposing opinions within our membership on what we stand for not only as a local congregation, but also as a synagogue identified with the Conservative Movement. In this short essay, I want to begin to suggest a new way to articulate an identity for Congregation B’nai Israel which helps distinguish our place in the community and aligns us with dynamic changes occurring in the Conservative Movement across the country. This new articulation also reflects the approach I have taken and will continue to take while I serve as rabbi of CBI.

Thursday, March 11, 2021, 27 Adar, 5781

Dear Friends of CBI and Those Concerned about the Conservative Movement,

I have now been with Congregation B’nai Israel for a year and one half.  I have learned a lot about the congregation during this time. The arrival of the pandemic gave me further insight as I observed the congregation face the stressful challenges caused by Covid-19. The adaptations that we eventually chose also revealed many insights about the capacities of the congregation for change and preservation during an unprecedented situation. 

One of the main insights I have gained is that our congregation is going through a period of redefining its identity. There are diverse and opposing opinions within our membership on what we stand for not only as a local congregation, but also as a synagogue identified with the Conservative Movement.  In this short essay, I want to begin to suggest a new way to articulate an identity for Congregation B’nai Israel which helps distinguish our place in the community and aligns us with dynamic changes occurring in the Conservative Movement across the country. This new articulation also reflects the approach I have taken and will continue to take while I serve as rabbi of CBI. 

I propose that we describe our community as a “Mentoring Congregation”.  By mentoring, I suggest that our congregation places a strong emphasis on mentoring our members to grow Jewishly. We grow Jewishly in different ways and depending on our stage in life. As rabbi, I have conceived my primary role to mentor members to grow Jewishly in some way.

The Rabbi as Primary Mentor

The rabbi of the congregation serves as the primary mentor.  For example, I mentor families to grow Jewishly in their home practice or in building sacred relationships.  I mentor teens to become more conversant in synagogue skills and communal leadership.  (This mentoring transcends Bar/t Mitzvah tutoring with an emphasis on learning lifelong Jewish skills.) Through the Miller Introduction to Judaism program, I mentor Jewish participants to learn more broadly about their Jewish heritage. The same program affords me the opportunity to mentor adults pursuing conversion to Judaism. I mentor other adults to help them acquire stronger Hebrew knowledge to open for them many avenues into Jewish culture and religion. I mentor other adults in Torah study to connect or reconnect them to this central mitzvah.  I mentor other adults toward building a meaningful prayer practice or refining their character and interpersonal relations (Mussar).

I mentor in various contexts: in formal classes, in tutoring, in informal settings, and in one on one conversations. This is the secret to my effectiveness and my passion as a rabbi. My presumption is that every one of us can grow Jewishly throughout our lives. My other presumption is that the Jewish way of life opens many paths of meaning and purpose for each of us. The core of my mentoring work is to help people find their unique paths with the Masoret מסורת (Hebrew for tradition) that provides continuing enrichment and inspiration.

Mentoring as a Path for Congregants

While the Rabbi serves as the primary mentor of the congregation, I see my task as inspiring other congregants to mentor family members, friends, and fellow congregants. Here are a few examples

of my approach.  One of my goals since arriving here was to find a way to inspire teens to emerge as mentors for younger children. I created the “Madrichim Program” as a path for motivated teens to advance their Hebrew and synagogue skills and to encourage them to teach their growing  Jewish knowledge to younger children and to others. My intention was to groom young persons to serve as Jewish mentors and to give them the training and lifelong skills to emerge as tutors and teachers for others. 

Other examples of my commitment to empowering mentoring in our congregation is encouraging fluent Hebrew speakers in the congregation to help others in make progress in their Hebrew studies.  Another example is my working with motivated conversion students to prepare them to mentor other persons considering conversion. 

What makes the mentoring approach unique for us locally? First, making mentoring central to who we are reveals to the community our strong commitment to personal and communal Jewish growth as a feature of being part of CBI. For instance, one new benefit to belonging to B’nai Israel is that our nationally recognized Miller Introduction to Judaism program is tuition free for new members.  Learning and growing Jewishly is made into a clear priority and benefit of belonging to CBI. 

Second, our congregation is aware that people who may be interested in getting involved in the community come from a wide variety of Jewish and even non-Jewish backgrounds. With our mentoring approach we are saying that we will help each person to gain the skills for full and meaningful participation in the religious and cultural life of the congregation. Our congregation is accessible to all. We are not a congregation that is only interested in people with specific Jewish educational backgrounds, with only Conservative Jewish upbringings, some presumed level of Jewish literacy. We are a congregation that offers a path into a more engaged Jewish life and is willing to impart the skills and practices to all our members. We are also a congregation who welcomes and utilizes members who wish to be mentors. 

What makes this approach align with our identity as a Conservative Jewish congregation? Conservative congregations across the country have discovered that a dynamic approach to mentoring is key to sustainability and to flourishing.  The term Conservative implies that our purpose is to “conserve” our religious and cultural heritage. Every Conservative congregation faces a unique challenge to the conserving and keeping vital the Jewish way of life.

In Albuquerque we cannot rely on a vigorous stream of identified and educated Conservative Jews moving into our community. Instead, we must rely on offering to our diverse congregation ways to grow into our greater Jewish commitments whether it be learning, praying, repairing the world, or building community. CBI should be known in the community as a congregation with great Jewish learning and growing.

Please send your comments to this link where this essay is also posted.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Dear CBIABQ members and Jews by Choice Students,

I want to call your attention to an innovative initiative called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” AKA GUEST created by several CBI members. The goal of this initiative is to spark interest among our members in the mitzvah of Shabbat hospitality and to build support for the sharing of our Shabbat tables.  While we begin this project during the pandemic, our hope is that we can expand the program to in-person events when the all-clear signal is issued.

The first GUEST Shabbat event will take place on Friday evening, March 19th at 7-9pm after CBI Friday evening services.  

  • WHO ARE OUR HOSTS:  CBI members, Acy DeBois and Milt Lasoski.  Acy and Milt's were married 16 years ago in Jerusalem.   Sixteen years later they are still happy and still love celebrating Shabbat with guests of all ages!!!  Acy is a retired lawyer learning two musical instruments.  Milt retired as a VA psychologist and has a small private practice, with time to indulge his interest in history and world events.  
  • VIRTUAL ZOOM DINNER:   This Shabbat dinner will be a Zoom event. Participants prepare their own Shabbat meal (or purchase precooked meals from Gourmet to Go.)
  • ORGANIZED AROUND A CONVERSATION:  We gather over a conversation topic. Acy and Milt have chosen Stories from our Passover Table. You will have a chance to share your favorite or most memorable Seder experience.
  • FEATURING FRIDAY NIGHT SHABBAT RITUALS: The conversation will take place amid the rituals of a Friday evening Shabbat meal.  This will include the traditional Shabbat table rituals of Shalom Aleichem, Blessings, Kiddush, Washing, and Motzi  We will sing at least one Shabbat table melody.  Lastly, we will conclude with the Birkat Hamazon.
  • YOU ARE INVITED:  Acy and Mit have opened their table to 4 Zoom guests (households who will sign in on one computer).  Any CBI member and any person studying for conversion to Judaism with Rabbi Gartenberg can signup. Please write to Rabbi Gartenberg at dovgartenberg@hotmail.com if you are not a member, but would like to come to this or future GUEST events,
  • WHO ELSE IS COMING: Rabbi Gartenberg will be one of the guests along with three other households who are friends of Acy and Milt. We will have a total of 9 households.  
  • HOW DO I SIGN UP? Click on this LINK.  The sign up is on a first come, first served basis. Signed up guests will receive the zoom link before the event. 
  • PARTICIPATING IN FUTURE GUEST EVENTS:  While we expect this event on March 19 to fill up fast, we will save your names for future GUEST Shabbat events coming after Passover. If you find the guest list is full for the above event, click on this LINK to sign up for waiting list. 
  • INTERESTED IN HOSTING A FUTURE GUEST SHABBAT EVENT? Click on this  LINK  

Please write or call Acy at 2021CommitteeInfo@gmail.com if you have more questions about this lovely initiative. 

Shalom Uvracha,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

CBI GUEST Initiative LINK or https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050545AAAC2DA4F85-guess.

Where to See Other Writings by Rabbi Gartenberg and to Respond with Your Own Comments

I want to also point your attention to my personal blog at this link: Panim Hadashot: New Faces Blog – by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg. For the time being I will be using this blog to post messages on a more frequent basis than the once-a-week Thursday CBI message. I will post copies of my regular messages as well.  The advantage of the blog is that you can comment after posts and others can read your comments along with my posts. I will moderate the comments to maintain civility and to advance the conversation. I believe a rabbi’s blog is an important way to maintain an interactive conversation about our community. I hope that CBI will establish a rabbi’s blog for this purpose in the future. 

One of my finest teachers over my rabbinic career is the philosopher, Moshe Halbertal, with whom I studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute. His books on Jewish thought and on Maimonides are among the most respected in contemporary scholarship. He is a keen observer of contemporary events in both Israel and the United States. 

I was happy to see Professor Halbertal quoted in a column by Thomas Friedman today, 2/24/21, in the New York Times. I wanted to share his observation because I believe it applies locally as well as globally. 

‘“For a healthy politics to flourish it needs reference points outside itself — reference points of truth and a conception of the common good,” [underlining is mine] explained the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal. “When everything becomes political, that is the end of politics.”

“Making everything politics,” added Halbertal, “totally distorts your ability to read reality. And to do that with Mother Nature is particularly reckless, because she is the one major force in our lives that is totally independent of our will. And if you think you can spin her,”Halbertal said, “the slap in the face that she will give you will be heard all across the world.”’

Following Moshe Halbertal, it is important that in our own community we be able to conduct our debates and disagreements with these “reference points of truth and a conception of the common good.”  In a synagogue, Torah serves as a critical source of truth and provides a way for us to understand the common good. My responsibility as a rabbi is to help the congregation access those sources of the common good found in our texts and teachings. We also access the common good from other sources as well: plausible and convincing scientific outlooks, insights from broader ethical traditions, and a careful study of history, to mention a few.

Halbertal warns us that it is not healthy to avoid discussion of critical issues such as climate change, even in a local context. We need to engage in the reality of our lives with purpose and meaning. The Torah summons us to live more fully and to respond to the unique challenges that characterize our lives.   

You should know about Hadar.  Hadar empowers Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of TorahAvodah, and Hesed. I get Hadar’s mailings and have taken many of their classes and musical workshops.

This week they sent out a playlist for Purim assembled by their wonderful Rising Song Institute fellows. You must look at their Spotify Purim playlist of 177 songs. (I subscribe to Spotify to hear new Jewish music, and for all my musical interests.) The playlist is called “A Trip to Shushan: Purim Vibes.”  It will completely blow your mind to listen to the variety of Purim music from Israel, the United States, and around the world. The Hadar folks have also added music to their playlist of songs not composed for Purim, but that fits perfectly with the themes of the Megillat Esther. An example is Taj Mahal’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her.”

 Be prepared to be delighted and overwhelmed. Purim will never be the same. I hope to use selections from the list from our online Megillah reading on Thursday night. Here is a link to their Spotify Purim Playlist. A Trip in/to Shushan (Purim Vibes) - playlist by Rising Song Records | Spotify. You may need to be a Spotify subscriber to access this amazing list.