On Being Stuck in Traffic with a Full Minivan

In 2013, I gathered together seven friends from my community to attend the JOFA Conference.  We clambered into my Toyota Sienna, early Sunday morning, for the drive into Manhattan and the air was certainly buzzing with anticipation for the learning and discussion that would take place.  But the morning ride paled in comparison with the evening ride home.  

Traffic crawled through the city and delayed our return by at least thirty minutes, but no one seemed to mind terribly.  During the day, we had barely seen each other, as members of the carpool had scattered to favorite lecturers and sessions of interest.  But when we crowded into that tight-knit space, the conversation seemed charged with electricity.  We debated issues of the day with informed and passionate voices, and spoke about how we agreed or disagreed (vehemently, in some cases) with many of the erudite presentations on the plight of agunot (women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce), women in rabbinic leadership, and tzniut (modesty) in day schools. But most importantly, we started talking about the changes that we could effect locally, changes that we could make with support from the group in the car.

The reverberations of the Conference were lasting.  Within a few weeks of that car ride home, members of our group sponsored a well-attended postnup signing party.  Within a few months of that car ride home, members of our group gathered support from rabbis and from community leaders to hire a Yoetzet Halacha (female halachic adviser, often specializing in issues related to the mikveh) for the area.  Within two years of that car ride home, members of our group spearheaded a monthly Partnership Minyan.  

The theme of this year’s Conference, which will be held at Columbia University on January 14th and 15th, is “Chart (y)our course.”  As the phrase indicates, the Conference will educate, inspire and energize you to choose YOUR agenda items for the weeks, months and years ahead — the ideas and/or ritual to which you will commit yourself personally.  But the phrase also emphasizes that this is a group effort, that the Conference will empower attendees to shape a collective vision moving forward.  The OUR refers to support of advocacy on national and international levels, such as the Orthodox community’s response to challenges with conversion (both here and in Israel), its inclusion of the LGBTQ community, and its imperative to address sexual abuse.  And the OUR refers to building programs and shaping new initiatives locally, with the help of others in the community.

What projects and action items will be generated by your ride home from the 2017 JOFA Conference? Which direction will you take? Fill your car with a group of friends and let us know what transpires…

Registration is now live for the JOFA Conference.  Groups of 5 or more (a carload!) receive a 10% discount.  Groups of 7 or more (a full minivan!) receive a 15% discount.  Organize your group first and then email conference@jofa.org to receive your personalized discount code! Click here to register now!

Pam Greenwood is the Chair of the 2017 JOFA Conference. She can be reached at conference@jofa.org

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