By special invitation from the Israeli Consul General, Akiva Tor, I will be joining a rare rabbinic delegation to Israel during the last week of January as the only female pulpit rabbi from San Francisco and one of only five female rabbis in the 30 member delegation. Encouraged to participate because of my outspoken support for religious pluralism and liberal Judaism in Israel, my role will be to advocate for these through the loosening of the overwhelming influence of the ultra right wing religious establishment (Rabbanut) on the Israeli government. Why is this important to BIJ? BIJ’s congregants are strong supporters of Israel and are very concerned that there be a future for Reform and liberal Judaism in the Jewish homeland. Our successful campaign of photos this past Fall for Women of the Wall, WOW, was an expression of this effort. In December 2010 we also hosted the launch of the Year of Civil Discourse on Israel (co-sponsored by the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, the SF Jewish Federation and the Northern California Board of Rabbis) to express the urgent need for all members of our communtiy to learn and use constructive tools for sharing concerns about Israel without descending into hurtful, hateful, and distructive vitriol. As this delegation approaches I will speak about why I am making this trip – with individuals, at services, meetings and events. While in Israel, I hope to publish daily posts on this blog with comments and observations about my experiences. I will be speaking about delegation on Friday night February 11, 2011 at 8:30 PM in the BIJ Fireside Room following the Oneg Shabbat. Who else is on this delegation and why now? Participants from San Francisco and other Bay Area and Peniunsula rabbis from Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal and Post-Denominational streams of Judaism will include Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC Executive Director, Rabbi Eric Weiss, Executive Director of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and President of the Northern California Board of Rabbis (NCBOR), Rabbi Marvin Goodman, NCBOR Executive Director, Rabbi Steve Pearce and Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe, of Reform Congregation Emanu-El, Rabbi Micah Hyman of USCJ Congregation Beth Shalom, Rabbi Yonathan Cohen and Judah Dardik (both Modern Orthodox Rabbis) and others. Our joint participation is a model of Jewish diversity in the US and our unified voice can make a powerful statement about the underlying value of and need for religious pluralism in Israel. As American Jews our voices needs to be taken seriously at this critical juncture in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. What is the delegation’s itinerary? This 7-day delegation, with 5-nights in Jerusalem and two days of air travel, is composed of back to back exclusive meetings with high level Israel officials including President Shimon Peres, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and other senior staff of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anat Hoffman of Women at the Wall and Israel Religious Action Center, MK Natan Scharansky and the committee for Jewish identity (conversion, Reform), Supreme Court Justices Michael Cheshin and Justice Yitzhak Engelhard, and senior research fellows at IPCRI, a joint institution of Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Please stay posted for more information!