By Ruth Thomas…

Temple Sinai’s Mashpia JoEllen Duckor will be taking time-off for six months from November 12.

“The aim is to refresh and renew,” she says.

Involved with Temple Sinai for 30 years, JoEllen has been the spiritual leader of the congregation, the Mashpia, since 2005 and was privately ordained as a rabbi earlier this year.

During those years, she has taken short holidays but this time she plans to immerse herself in study and meditation.

First, she will attend the four-day Biennial Conference of the Union of Progressive Judaism in Melbourne with conference attendees coming from Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, USA and Israel.

At this conference, the keynote speech will be given by world renowned scholar, Rabbi Larry Hoffman. As well there will be talks, workshops, panels and special functions including a mini music stream,

“I will be hosting Rabbi Hoffman in Wellington when he talks at Temple Sinai on November 9,” JoEllen says.

“We ae extraordinarily lucky to have him here. But I will leave immediately afterwards for Melbourne.”

After the conference, she will fly to New York to visit her 86-year-old mother, Julie, and her two brothers. While in the United States, she will also attend two silent retreats, one a three-week silent Jewish meditation retreat and the second, a contemplative training programme.

In between, she will catch up with friends and spend many hours with the on-line studying she has often been unable to fit into her busy life.

Her partner, Rick Sahar, will not be going with JoEllen. Instead he will spend a month in Israel  taking a group of mainly non-Jewish teachers to visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Centre for Remembrance. This trip is organised every two years by Wellington’s Holocaust Centre.

JoEllen will be back in Wellington in February so that she and Rick can spend the rest of the time together.

“I am planning my trip away during December and January as it’s the best time Jewishly- except for Chanukah – when nothing much happens,” she says.

Chair Matthew Smith says Temple Sinai is largely a lay led congregation and JoEllen as its Mashpia has been at the heart of the congregation’s ritual and educational life for the past 13 years.

“Our congregation has reaped rich rewards under JoEllen’s guidance. We wish her well on this well-deserved time off for study and renewal and trust that she will return to the fold invigorated with fresh insights to share,” he says.