May 22, 2023
By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
When Shavuot arrives on May 25, many of us will take part in the holiday’s immersive learning tradition—coming together for all-night Torah study sessions at which questions will be asked, pondered, and debated until they give rise to new questions just in time for the next break for cheesecake.
Shavuot exemplifies the quest for learning that is a hallmark of Jewish tradition. Your Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle has led such a quest, a Beit Midrash that is now coming to a close after four years of intentional learning, rich and unpredictable conversations, and weaving and reweaving of trustful relationships that are at the heart of community.
From its beginning at a 2019 gathering in Snoqualmie and its evolution in the Courageous Leadership Initiative and, this year, in Beit Midrash Circles, the experience has deepened a culture of learning among communal leaders, creating intentional space to put aside daily cares and gather for shared learning and listening via chevruta, study partnerships, from foundational Jewish texts. One of the 40 participants in this year’s Beit Midrash Circles called it a “soulful experience” that created an opening for him and his study partner to continue their conversations and reflect on contemporary Jewish life through a different lens.
By examining and reflecting on evocative stories in Jewish texts and their relevance to current lived experiences, communal leaders built a repertoire of cognitive tools for approaching the complex questions of contemporary Jewish life in creative and impactful ways. The intent was not to find specific answers to these questions. Instead, it was to foster learning for the sake of learning that over time may open new doors that lead to answers, and, very likely, more questions. The journey was the destination … much like an all-night Torah study session on Shavuot.
The Beit Midrash experience embodied Federation’s values of Innovation and Community—investing in potential, nurturing creativity, and empowering active Jewish engagement, rooted in meaningful relationships. Federation honors all the community leaders who have participated in this journey and thanks the generous community members who have made it possible. And, a big shout-out to Minyan Ohr Chadash for hosting gatherings of the Beit Midrash Circles at their beautiful social hall.
We look forward to building on the Beit Midrash to continue incubating compelling Jewish content for our community.
We wish you a happy and meaningful Shavuot … including at least two slices of your favorite cheesecake!