Why you should go to CSJO

Written for the summer issue of L'Khaim by Lisa Rothman.

The weekend of May 28-31, filled with anticipation, Maxine Hermolin and I, along with 2 Shule teachers and 3 of our Madrikh youths, piled into a minivan and took off for Philadelphia. Our destination – the annual Congress of Secular Jewish Organization’s (CSJO) Conference. And I couldn’t wait to get there. At my first conference the previous year, I had been overwhelmed by the whirlwind of educational workshops, stimulating conversations and debates, joyous entertainment and late-night sing-a-longs, and I couldn’t wait to reunite with the tightly-knit North American delegates who make up the CSJO.

It is difficult to convey in writing the impact that this conference has had on my discovering, defining and redefining my identity as a secular Jew. I attended such controversial and fascinating workshops as: “Dealing With God in the Classroom”, “The Growing Jewish Circumcision Debate”, and “Passion Plays: The Effect on Jews, Then and Now”.

I had an hours-long discussion with several delegates about the challenges and blessings of being part of an inter-faith couple. I had inspirational conversations with delegates in their 20’s and 30’s who are struggling, as I am, to overcome the growing ‘hour-glass’ problem – the need to address the lack of Jewish programming geared specifically towards the middle generation, those of us who feel like minute grains of sand falling through the middle of a large ‘hour glass’. And of course, I sang, I schmoozed, I philosophized, I ate, and I caught up with members of what I now consider to be my extended Jewish family.

The people at CSJO, through their wisdom, experience, strength and love, have me hooked! I haven’t even been back from this year’s conference a month, and already I’m looking forward to next year’s. I would recommend this life-changing experience to people of all generations, and I would encourage you all to attend next year’s conference. The pride it instills is, in my opinion, unequalled.