In the last weeks, I have written several times that I believe we are at an inflection point. These are not merely words—I truly believe we are at a moment that will separate the CCAR of the past from the CCAR of the future.
Ever since I was chosen to lead the CCAR, I have viewed it as my job to listen and hear about both what works well at CCAR and where we can do better. The review and audit of our ethics system that we announced earlier this year at Convention was driven in large part by that process of listening. My leadership is also informed by what I learned while leading the Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate, hearing painful stories from women rabbis of misogyny and sexism, as well as sexual misconduct, over the past several decades.
I was asked recently if I have been changed by the stories that we all have been hearing lately. The answer is yes, these stories have changed me, but it is a change that has happened incrementally over the last five years. It is impossible not to be affected by what we have learned in the past few years. Women have always known these problems existed because we have experienced them firsthand, but it takes on a different meaning when you hear a new story every day for years. It adds up. That is why we started the Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate. The formal work of the Task Force may have come to a close, but the underlying goals and purpose are now embedded in the CCAR and will continue to influence decision-making.
My heart is heavy because of these stories, but my drive to create change is only strengthened by what I have learned. I am motivated in much that I do as chief executive in part as a result of the painful experiences of colleagues. There are many kinds of pain that rabbis experience—loneliness, isolation, stress, loss, financial worries, but also sexual abuse, sexual harassment, homophobia, and misogyny. Sometimes these different forms of pain are related. All of this pain impels my work and my vision for the CCAR of the future.
In addition to an upgrade of the CCAR ethics system, we have also been in a process of changing other CCAR policies and procedures. Some of this is part of the natural growth cycle of an organization, especially one under new leadership, and some is a result of what I have learned, seen, and heard from you before becoming chief executive. I am called to do this change work because of the ways that I myself have been changed by the stories with which you have entrusted me.
CCAR’s change moment is here. Organizations must always change and evolve with the times. The difficult work we are engaged in right now is the result of the exact type of conversations so many institutions, including our partner organizations, are also having at this time. As community leaders, we all have a responsibility to make the changes necessary to maintain the community’s trust.
I welcome the challenges we are facing in this moment because I believe this is a galvanizing opportunity to build a stronger organization. I am not afraid of reexamining our past in order to create a better future. This will be painful, yes, but ultimately the work ahead of us will enable us to envision and create a strong and healthy future for the Reform rabbinate and the communities we serve.
Rabbi Hara E. Person, Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis