Rocky Mountain High

by Rabbi Jan Katzew

A few days have passed since I came home to New York. But part of me, part of my soul, is still in Boulder, CO, where I attended a memorable retreat with 75 early childhood educators. I thought I was going to teach, but no, I actually went to learn. Rarely, if ever, have I experienced the combination of warmth and depth, openness and commitment, trust and faith that I witnessed for several days as we searched for and dare I say found God. We do not talk about God enough. We tend to dance around the subject because we do not feel it is safe to reveal our own questions and doubts. Somehow the combination of the spectacular surroundings, the gorgeous weather, the music, even when she was not singing, of Ellen Dreskin, and the multiple strategies of building a safe, sacred space and time resulted in a spiritual high. Why is it so rare that people assemble to encounter each other and God with open hearts and minds? Why are we so guarded, so defended and so defensive about expressing our relationships to God? What conditions bring out your spiritual best?

Spotlight on Early Childhood EducationWe did not go away to Boulder, CO as much as we went deep inside ourselves – where we found prayers that are not in the siddur, unless of course they are in the white spaces. It felt as though all of us were away, yet all of us were at home. Perhaps it was the unique assembly of Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) that enabled spiritual journeys to take flight. These are the people entrusted with nurturing the youngest, but certainly not the least among us, the people who literally hold our future in their hands, and they deserve the best we have to give. It is time to pay more than rhetorical flourish to the educational leaders in our early childhood programs. We need to invest in them; the return on our investment will be priceless. The ECE-RJ Kallah in Boulder, CO may have ended, but I am still on a spiritual high.

Rabbi Jan Katzew, PhD, RJE, is the URJ Director of Lifelong Learning.

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