This message, written in the early spring of 2010, is being published here for the first time.
As part of a NEW Israel Education and Programming Initiative at BIJ, a dialogue, “Exploring our Complex Relationship with Israel,” was convened on Sunday morning February 21st. It was facilitated by Mady Shumofsky of JCRC’s Project Reconnections. The dialogue was terrifically successful and everyone left the workshop wanting more.
A dozen BIJ members met in the Fireside Room for two hours and shared their diverse views and experiences in a thoughtful, respectful and attentive exchange. While the structure of the dialogue initially felt a bit stifling, it enabled us to speak freely on an issue we all agree is probably one of the most sensitive and potentially divisive issues of our lifetimes.
Participants expressed a unanimous interest in further exploring their questions and concerns about Israel in the context of our BIJ community. They requested that there be more dialogues like this one – possibly a series of dialogues next year with a group of committed participants who’d attend all six or eight sessions. I am seeking funding for these and should have more information this summer.
I also hosted a conversation with parents to discuss the ways we speak about Israel with our children and to uncover the values and concerns that shape these discussions. We read When the Shark and the Fish First Met written by Gilad Shalit (Israeli POW) when he was only eleven years old and illustrated by a host of Israeli artists. The parents meeting on Sunday morning March 21st was lively and animated. We parted with a question about the pedagogical approach we should take and the extent to which Israel education should be included in our Youth and Family Program at BIJ. This is something parents suggested we address more fully in the context of a future YFP meeting.
Several BIJ members who would like to see more Israel related programming at BIJ are exploring approaches we might take to continue our learning since we. Suggestions include:
1) An Israel Reading Group designed to help us gain a greater understanding of the modern history of Israel and Palestine and develop a common language for speaking about Israel.
2) An Israel News & Views Group that would distribute and discuss timely articles about Israel and Palestine. There would be advance distribution of the readings and an agreement to only speak about them in real time in order to avoid inflammatory exchanges that can sometimes erupt over email.
3) An Israel Events Group that would attend local events and meet afterward for tea and discussion. Some folks may want to see the brand new film BUDRUS featured on the front page of the NY Times on April 7th. Co-directed by Ronit Avni BURDUS describes the growth of a Palestinian unarmed movement in the West Bank. It screens in May at the SF International Film Fest at the Kabuki Theater and Ms. Avni will be there for a Q&A.
4) An Israel Programming Group – To work together to bring more Israel related speakers, events and programming to BIJ. We have had many such speakers and events at BIJ in the past and are in conversation with three or four speakers to present at Friday night services or on a Sunday morning in the Fall of 2010.
I will be in Israel twice during the upcoming months (April & June/July) and will be telling stories about my travels at Erev Shabbat services following each trip. The first report back will be at services on Friday May 14th at 7:30 PM and will be followed by a discussion of the proposed ideas for our new group(s). The second date will be announced at the end of the summer.
Aside from the Facilitated/Structured Dialogue which is a separate program in itself, all ideas could fold into one group with a critical mass of interested participants. Interested in getting more involved? Call Michael Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.