PSWR Officers Q&A

From Pride in Serving to Authentic and Dynamic Judaism, Our Pacific Southwest Region Officers Lend Perspective

The role of the Pacific Southwest Region is to promote and facilitate the understanding and observance of all aspects of Conservative Judaism by strengthening the bond among, and providing direction, guidance, resources and training to, our Region’s affiliated kehillot. And helping to guide us in this pursuit are our 2017-2019 Officers, who represent different organizations and backgrounds, but share the same important passion: making Conservative Judaism meaningful and relevant for generations to come. We posed three questions to these Officers and you’ll want to read on for their perspective:

What makes you most proud to be a PSWR Officer right now?

 

David Brook, vice president (executive director at Temple Aliyah, Woodland Hills, CA): The time for change is happening now. To be part of a collaborative group of officers who will help understand, define and craft a vision for our region is very exciting

Tiffany Doctors, vice president (disability attorney, Las Vegas, NV): The Conservative movement is at a critical moment in its historic development. Both my grandparents and parents were leaders within the Conservative Movement. I am proud to continue that family involvement and be able to help shape the future of Conservative Judaism in the Pacific Southwest Region for my children and one day, for their children.

Benzy Kogen, vice president (High Holiday cantor at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and consultant for leadership and education, Los Angeles, CA): I am proud to be a PSWR Officer at this time because our Movement is at a major crossroads. It is our job to prove the skeptics wrong—to clearly demonstrate the vitality of our Movement. We need to usher in an era of new and sustainable growth—one that relays the dynamism of a Movement that heralds tradition and change.

Michael Waterman, vice president (founder and president of Pegasus Investments, Encino, CA): The vision, desire and commitment of the board members to improve and revitalize Conservative Judaism (United Synagogue) in order to preserve Halachic, traditional Judaism while bringing it into the 21st century. We stand with one foot firmly planted in the 21st century and one foot tethered to 3,800 years of the traditions, customs and Mitzvot of Judaism.

Linda Moskowitz, vice president (registered nurse and health professional, Scottsdale, AZ): As a new officer, I am not sure quite yet what makes me most proud, but I can tell you I am honored to be reunited and serving among colleagues in PSWR who I have known for many decades, all who share a common bond, commitment and goal to conservative Judaism.  

Jeffrey Stern, vice president (partner with the law firm Pearlman, Brown & Wax, Los Angeles, CA): It provides to me the opportunity to further develop my personal ties to the Jewish Conservative Movement.

If you could accomplish one thing during the time you serve,
what would it be and why?  

David: To help our region understand its relevancy to our regional congregations and communities and help forge a united community of USCJ congregations. Our national organization just finished a two-year-long rebranding process; just like national, our region would benefit from looking at itself and then creating a vision that both strengthens the region as well as our congregations.

Tiffany: I’d like to continue to strengthen the communication and relationship of the more isolated kehillot with each other and those in the more populous Los Angeles area.

Benzy: I would build upon our existing programs, but more importantly, I would encourage many people sitting on the sidelines to engage with everything they’ve got.

Michael: To teach the next generation that their Judaism is the greatest gift they have. It will bring them warmth, security and love—in an ethical, moral society. Hopefully, we will be able to help individual synagogues recall that they are not separate fiefdoms, but rather a collection of small community groups (made up of family groups) living in the Jewish community of Los Angeles, California, the United States and the world. We are one people and are responsible for one another—whether the “troubled” community is in the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Syria, Israel or the U.S., we all need to be able to rely on one another in order to preserve God’s vision for the Jewish people.

Linda: Today’s world is more complicated than ever before. Education must be at the forefront of everything we do. I would like to see religious school teachers, B’nai Mitzvah tutors, youth advisors, youth directors, camp counselors and all those who work with children and young adults have ongoing professional training to support the ever-changing needs and questioning of our young people in a safe, appropriate and nurturing environment.

Jeffrey: To create an environment which will result in the retention of young families in our local synagogues.

What does “authentic and dynamic Judaism” mean to you personally?

David: Those that know me know that I shy away from labels. “Authentic” and/or “Dynamic” Judaism is whatever I believe and feel at any particular moment in any particular setting. It is incumbent upon each of us to define what is authentic and dynamic for our own lives and then find a spiritual community that provides us with that.

Tiffany: I think it is important that a person’s observance and beliefs come from their heart and soul. When a person understands both the “what” and the “why” of a service or ritual, then they can derive meaning from it and choose to observe it in a way that is authentic for them. As a movement, it is our obligation to continue to provide that education to not only children, but also to adults so that as we grow as individuals, our relationship with Judaism can grow as well.

Benzy: “Authentic and Dynamic Judaism” is a Judaism rooted in Torah and centuries of Jewish traditions and practice. It is not stagnant. It interprets and re-interprets the teachings of our tradition—and encourages more and more individuals to become part of the larger group.

Linda: I would like to think that authentic and dynamic Judaism is how I am connected. Judaism is a priority in every aspect of my life, 24/7. I am connected in tradition, but rooted in Torah. Most importantly, authentic and dynamic Judaism must be relevant in all that I do to be meaningful.

Other PSWR Officers helping to guide us include:

  • Belinda Sacks, Regional President
  • Linda Barzilai, vice president
  • Jamie Berman, vice president
  • Beth Klareich, vice president
  • Jennifer Lowe, vice president youth

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