I came home from the alumni institute this week feeling a small pit of sadness at saying good-bye to such a special experience, like it was the end of camp.  I still find it a little incredible that I actually met people, made friends, and was able to participate in meaningful conversations despite my fears that none of these hopes would really materialize for me.  But they did.

I reconnected with old friends, people I don’t talk to enough.  Frankly, were it not for the alumni institute, I probably never would.  Yet there we were, solving the world’s problems over coffee, sharing jokes and stories over beer, and rekindling friendship over time we would never take if The Wexner Foundation didn’t give it to us.

Rabbi Effy Unterman is the newest member on staff at Congregation Torat Emet, where he serves as the Director of Education and Outreach, overseeing the educational platform and programs of the synagogue, and working to cultivate a warm and welcoming atmosphere to strengthen the synagogue’s community. Prior to joining Torat Emet, he and his wife, Rivkie, lived in New York, where Rabbi Unterman served as the Jewish Education Specialist for the Kingsbay YM-YWHA, teaching young students from the Hebrew Language Academy charter school, and collaborating with senior educators from across the country to develop an innovative after school curriculum. He also taught in the Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, and in other primary and secondary educational settings. Rabbi Unterman received a Wexner Graduate Fellowship for Jewish leadership and academic achievement in his work at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Education and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.  Effy can be reached at rabbiunterman@toratemet.org.

s if that weren’t enough, faceless e-mail writers known to me only by a shallow smattering of listserv posts were transformed into real, warm, thoughtful, nice people.  Reading Wexnet now is less like blogging and more like hearing from friends.  My community has grown.  I know I can listen better already, and I hope I can contribute more positively as well.

The institute reinvigorated my spirit.  I came home with better focus, renewed resolve, and many more blessings than I took with me to Florida.  I can’t wait to go again next year!