By Rabbi Benji Stanley
I have a memory from 15 years ago of loving a Shavuot in Jerusalem. As it got light, some friends and I made our way to the Kotel, meltingly white in that light.
We went there to do some sort of prayer. I wouldn’t have known exactly what I was doing – but found some way to commune. Some of those friends are my best friends a decade later.
Early that night we had run from educational centre to centre, from Torah session to session, with the excitement and passion that 18-year-olds normally reserve for a pub crawl. It was towards the end of our gap year in Israel, the beginning of our exciting lives, the close of so many experiences, discussions, and deep relationships.
Those of us who went to the wall were young men and women, blind in the light to the different denominations of our youth movements. We were together.
This was the beginning of the rest of my Jewish life and commitments, an experience of adventure and love. We were standing at Sinai together.
As rabbi for young adults at Reform Judaism, I’ve found that people are yearning for experiences, discussions and relationships. That moment in Jerusalem began a journey that has brought me to love synagogue, and the long-term necessity of belonging and contributing, and to actually learn exactly what one’s doing.
Gradually, in our work, we’re encouraging young adults to seek out experiences, discussions and relationship in our vibrant synagogues. At Reform Young Adults, we are focusing on experiences, discussions and relationships. We’re focusing on people.
I’m delighted that we’re offering the experience of a lifetime this summer, between 15 and 25 August, with the UJIA Birthright trip in partnership with Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism. This is a free trip for any Brit aged between 20 and 26 who has not been on an organised trip to Israel. More than that, it will be a wonderful experience, a chance to create memories that will never leave you. There are still spaces – so email me at Benji.firstname.lastname@example.org if you or anyone you know might be interested.
Benji Stanley is rabbi for young adults at the Movement for Reform Judaism