This past Tuesday, dozens of rabbis from around Atlanta gathered at Molly B’s inside Mercedes Benz Stadium (MBS) to begin a day-long retreat sponsored by the Atlanta Rabbinical Association. The most impactful time at MBS was when Rabbi Spike, Rabbi Rachael, and I heard from Dietmar Exler, the COO of Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment, about what running a massive operation like MBS entails. We learned that MBS is the highest-rank stadium by any metric in the country. When Dietmar went into the details of how that happens, the clear lesson was to treat every person in the stadium, guests and employees, with the highest quality of service. While our budget is slightly less than MBS, we were able to draw some connections to our own work in the Jewish community. We are after similar goals: to foster positive connections between Jews and Judaism within our building and among our members.
We also studied how architecture and design affect our experiences. Entering MBS, our eyes are drawn upward to the halo screen and down toward the field below. As a group, we discussed what the feelings are when we enter our own holy spaces. From entering the parking lot to sitting in your seat in the sanctuary, all the surroundings at Temple Emanu-El should facilitate our mission to foster the Jewish identity and journey of each person who enters.
Finally, we went on a tour of the stadium and had the rare opportunity to kick some soccer balls around the day before an Atlanta United match. If you had seen us on the pitch, you would have thought you were watching a bunch of five-year-olds at recess playing with their friends. Seeing what happened to us all was amazing when the operation staff said we could play on the field. While Rabbi Spike and I were shooting on goal, Rabbi Rachael pulled out her NCAA D-I soccer skills—juggling the ball and taking impressive shots on the net.
Learning (and playing) at Mercedes Benz Stadium was a unique opportunity that reminded me of all we can learn when we step outside of our professional fields. I’ve only touched the surface of what we learned during our day at the stadium. I can’t wait to share more throughout the weeks ahead.
“Unite and Conquer”