MAZAL TOV! Sigal Plotkin Bat Mitzvah!

Debbie Zimelman B Mitzvah pic
MAZAL TOV to the entire Plotkin-Kozolchyk family and to their friends and community on the Epic December 31st 2015 Bat Mitzvah of Sigal Plotkin atop Mount Massada. Sigal did a REMARKABLE job leading the entire service and chanting all three aliyot (the second in unison with her mom, Shaun). Her dvar Torah was creative and inspiring – on the Women of the Exodus -and she included a visual Midrash, a song as well as a rich and powerful teaching. This GREAT picture was taken by the talented Modi’in based, freelance photographer, Debbie Zimelman.

Mazal Tov to Bar Mitzvah Zev Haworth & family!

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MAZAL TOV! On Thursday morning July 2, 2015 Zev Haworth became a bar mitzvah at the Davidson’s Archeological Park of the Western Wall, an egalitarian section of the Kotel, the holiest site in Jerusalem and in all of Israel. His family was there to celebrate this special day with him – his mom, dad and younger sister all beamed with pride. Zev chanted beautifully and skillfully from the Torah, from parashat Balak in the book of Numbers, and he delvered a spontaneous dvar Torah about what he had learned while studying. It was a beautiful, cool summer morning and everyone was uplifted and moved by this special and historic moment and experience.

Joyful Jerusalem Bat & Bar Mitzvah Celebrations

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After more than 25 years working in Congregations across the United States, serving as a leader, cantor, facilitator, teacher and spiritual counselor I am THRILLED to offer joyful bat & bar mitzvah celebrations at the holiest site in Jerusalem!  I continue to officiate lifecycle celebrations of all kinds – weddings, commitment ceremonies, renewal of vows, baby namings and welcoming ceremonies and bar and bat mitzvah services – throughout Israel and at your favorite sites world-wide. Please see my LinkedIn site for more information about me my rabbinic work and to read testimonials from satisfied families and couples. Contact me TODAY for a free initial consultation and to reserve a date for your celebration!

Leaving Mitzrayim in EVERY Generation

“I cannot think of a more striking example of the Exodus in our own day,” concluded Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based IRAC, Israel’s Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. As part of our January Mission to Israel the Northern California Rabbis had assembled to hear an up-to-date briefing on the status of Women of the Wall. We got that – and so much more.

Ms. Hoffman’s comment referred to the hundreds of refugees who make the journey by foot each month from the Sudan, through Egypt and across the southern border into Israel. She told us that in exchange for a brand new pair of New Balance sneakers, a social worker had recently collected one man’s shoes. The shoes were then mounted and preserved in a museum-quality box frame for display and sent to congregation in the US that had donated a sizable sum to support IRACs legal and social work on behalf of asylum-seeking refugees in Israel.

For days after returning from the mission I was haunted by the story and wondered whether it would be even remotely possible to raise the thousands of dollars needed to secure such a remarkable pair of shoes. I wrote to Ms. Hoffman asking where I could learn more about the project and she responded immediately. “We have another pair that made the journey from Darfur, but we are having difficulty interviewing the shoes owner because he works from dawn to midnight every day. We are thinking of offering him a day’s work pay to come tell us his story and also receive a new pair.”

Levinsky Park.  Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.
Levinsky Park. Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.

The impact of hearing this story powerful story was equal to that of seeing the Israeli neighborhood in which many of these refugees live. Our delegation visited BINA, a secular yeshiva in South Tel Aviv where students live and work with the most diverse of Israel’s ethnic populations. Our guide told us that refugees often find work as day laborers; yet their status remains precarious. As he introduced us to a volunteer-run, multi-lingual lending library they had set up in Levinsky Park, we witnessed one refugee taken into custody by a police officer. This is apparently not uncommon.

Refugee Library in Levinsky Park, South Tel Aviv.  Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.
Refugee Library in Levinsky Park, South Tel Aviv. Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.

It is heart breaking to imagine risking everything to begin a new life in Israel only to land in prison and face deportation. Yet many refugees say that they’d rather die in Israel than to be deported back to Africa. Speaking on the refugees’ behalf one social activist remarked emphatically that, “The failure of other countries to treat refugees properly does not give us an excuse to do the same.” Refugees are unlike migrant workers in that they simply have no option other but to flee for their lives.

Levinsky Library: Media are available in Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, English, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Romanian, Spanish, Tagalog and Thai.  Photo:  Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.
Levinsky Library: Media are available in Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, English, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Romanian, Spanish, Tagalog and Thai. Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, January 2011.

These comments reminded me of a scene in “Out of Sight,” a new play by actress and playwright Sara Felder. In it she recounts her mother’s inability to forgive herself for not speaking against the FDR government when it refused entry of the SS St. Louis into the port of Miami thereby sealing the terrible fate of hundreds of Jewish refugees. Yet, in every generation, many courageous individuals do step forward to save the innocent. For example, I recently learned of Nicholas Winton, a righteous gentile from Great Britain who helped 669 Jewish children escape Nazi Germany and who until recently had never told anyone about it! When a youth activist asked him his philosophy of life he stated, “Don’t be content…just to do no wrong. Be prepared everyday to try and do some good.”

At Pesach we recall the Exodus, the Holocaust and all historic persecutions of our people. But remembering history is not enough. To live “as if we had personally gone forth” requires that we name and respond to the Exoduses of our own time; to put ourselves in the shoes of those struggling right now to escape Pharaoh’s death-grip. This Pesach let us refuse to indulge feelings of powerlessness; let us not surrender to paralyzing indifference. Rather, let us courageously step forward together to fight all forms of tyranny and oppression in our day – for the sake of our generation and generations to come.

Northern California Rabbis Meet with Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall, Jerusalem

Rabbi Rosalind Glazer with Anat Hoffman
Rabbi Rosalind Glazer with Anat Hoffman of WOW at IRAC Headquarters in Jerusalem, January 28, 2011. Rabbi Moshe Levin of Congregation Ner Tamid peeks in from behind.

 

[From the WOW Facebook page 1-30-2011; See also J. Cover Story 2-11-2011] Northern California Rabbis Support Women of the Wall January 31, 2011 From January 24-29, a delegation of 30 Rabbis from Northern California various high-ranking officials in Israel. The delegation, which was arranged by Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest Akiva Tor, included Consul Tor and Rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements.

As participant Rabbi Rosalind Glazer explained, “Our joint participation is a model of Jewish diversity in the U.S. We hope that 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 need to be taken seriously at this critical juncture in the history of Israel and the Jewish people.”

The Rabbis met with M.K.’s Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Kadima), Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Supreme Court Justices Elyakim Rubenstein and Salim Jubran, and Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky.

The delegation spent Friday, January 28, in the Old City of Jerusalem visiting the Kotel tunnels, Robinson’s Arch, and the City of David. The day began with an early-morning meeting with Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, who shared the group’s political and legal history. Hoffman said, “Israel could choose to be a leader in the Jewish world. There could be a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.” The rabbis flooded Hoffman with questions and snapped photos of her wearing a Women of the Wall tallit and head covering. Hoffman encouraged supporters to sell the Women of the Wall tallit in their gift shops, invite congregants to write letters to Israeli government officials, and bring their synagogue trips to Women of the Wall services on Rosh Hodesh.

Many of the rabbis in the delegation have been long-time supporters of Women of the Wall. In October 2010, Bay Area Rabbi Pamela Frydman and Rabbi Menachem Creditor launched an international campaign called “Rabbis for Women of the Wall.” Over 600 Rabbis, 85 Cantors, 60 organizations and 1000 individuals have since signed a statement to Israeli officials demanding that that they define a time or place at the Kotel where women are allowed to lead worship, wear a tallit, wear tefillin, hold the Torah and read from the Torah.

Rabbi Frydman, who participated in the January delegation, presented a packet to each government official (and Head of External Affairs Natalie Kimchi on behalf of the Supreme Court Justices) containing the statement and accompanying signatures as well as a new set of letters signed by hundreds of rabbis, cantors, rabbinic and cantorial associations, social justice organizations, congregations and individuals. In addition, Rabbi Glazer presented a letter from Bay Area Friends of Women of the Wall.

In addition to the letter-writing campaigns, many congregations participated in Women of the Wall’s photo campaign last summer, when thousands of women all over the world were photographed holding a Sefer Torah. Rabbi Chaim Schwartz, President of Congregation Chadesh Yameinu in Santa Cruz said of the photo campaign, “Women were in tears. Many of them had never held a Torah before, because they had never been invited to do so.”

Rabbi Shoshanah Devorah of Congregation Kol HaEmek in Mendocino County, participated in the January delegation. She was present at Women of the Wall’s second gathering in 1988, and participated regularly until 1995 when she moved to the U.S. Rabbi Devorah remembers the tear gas used by police during one of Women of the Wall’s services in 1988, and said she felt like she was “at a civil rights protest in the U.S. in the ‘60s.” Devorah, who became a Rabbi at the age of 59, recalled fondly that “Women of the Wall was very important in my own spiritual development. It was the first place that I put on a tallit.”

Rabbi Rosalind Glazer of Congregation Beth Judea Israel in San Francisco is an International Vice-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall and also serves on the Steering Committee for Friends of Women of the Wall, a San Francisco Bay Area group of women and men who advocate for the acceptance of all streams of Judaism in Israel. Rabbi Glazer was in tears as she spoke about women at the Kotel, “Mayor Barkat told us that the Kotel is for all Jews. But, that is not true today. Jews in the diaspora want a place to be spiritual. It is the first place they go and it is the first place they get slapped in the face. The message that they get on their first experience is ‘you’re not equal; you’re not welcome.’”

Rabbi Stephen Pearce, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco recently joined Glazer and twenty-one others as an International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall. Explaining his decision, Pearce said, “I am thrilled to help pursue a sense of justice. The struggle of Women of the Wall is a model of how Israel can learn to compromise and pursue conflict resolution in other areas.”

Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel also recently became an International Vice Chair, joining Rabbi Andrew M. Sacks, Director of the RA in Israel, one of the original Vice Chairs. “I feel that it’s a very big z’chut [privilege] to serve” said Balter of his new role.

Northern California Rabbis Delegation to Israel

Rabbi Rosalind Glazer with Rabbi Levi Weiman Kelman of Kol Haneshama Jerusalem at Robinson's Arch in July 2010
At Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem with Rabbi Levi Weiman Kelman of Kol Haneshama 

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!

At Home and Far Away

To alight in peace, safety and joy in a troubled world – was such a gift. Blessed are the peacemakers!

United Religions Initiative Delegates and Friends at the Tayelet Promenade in Jerusalem. June 28, 2010
United Religions Initiative, URI, delegates and friends at the Tayelet Promenade in Jerusalem. June 28, 2010. My godson, Lev Hirschhorn, is seated in front of me and a Peace statue is behind us.

Earlier this week, my godson, Lev Hirschhorn, and I were fortunate to  attend a peacebuilders event in Abu Tor, Jerusalem.  The invitation came from my dear old friend and colleague, Jerusalem Peacemakers co-founder, Rodef Shalom, Eliyahu McClain with whom I taught Hebrew School at Beth Chaim in Danville, CA, some sixteen years ago.  

Eliyahu is a remarkable person who has spent more than a decade working in Israel, Palestine and around the globe doing critically important and needed peace building in the interfaith community.  These efforts are so needed during these difficult times and Eliyahu has modeled for all of us a way to do this important work with grace, unflagging commitment and joy.

This evening’s gathering took place at the Abu Tor, Jerusalem home of Tzvi and Elena Rozenblum who warmly hosted an enormous group of guests on a scorching hot day – feeding and watering us with food, kindness and generosity.  The gathering was convened to welcome and to celebrate with a delegation of URI, United Religions Initiative, an organization that promotes peace through dialogue among religious leaders to foster an end to interreligious violence. 

The guests, many of whom had just come in from Jordan where they were celebrating the 10th anniversary of URI, included visitors from many countries and religions:  Buddhist (from the Himalayas), Christian (from Ethiopia, Brazil, the UK, Israel and the US), Muslim (from Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Palestinian territories), Jewish (from Israel, California and the UK), and Hindu (from India and elsewhere), etc. 

I was surprised to learn (but why be surprised at all, anymore) that the main URI office is located in San Francisco, CA, at the Presidio!  Hence, more connections upon which to build upon when I return home. 

After the walk, noshes and drinks, blessings and greetings, prayers and invocations of many traditions were offered in multiple languages.  Then came the sharing of the missions of the various represented peace and co-existence groups and each attendee (possibly as many as 50 of us included 8-10 youths) introduced him or herself and spoke a word or phrase that described their present experience.  I heard Lev say, “at home” and I was warmed by the knowledge that he had found a place in Jerusalem where he could truly feel this way.

Following the sharing more food and drink, animated conversation and networking ensued. The evening ended with a remarkable musical collaboration – including the extraordinary talent of Biswadeb Chakraporty, URI staff member from India and world class tabla player!

To alight in peace, safety and joy in a troubled world – is such a gift.  Blessed are the peacemakers!  May they be strengthened and may their efforts be amply rewarded with good.

Talking about Talking about Israel

For millennia our prayers and our thoughts as Jews have been directed toward Israel. The establishment of the state in 1948 and daily news about Israel undoubtedly increases our awareness and concern for the Jewish state. Many of us have a more personal relationship with Israel after having visited or lived there, or because of close relationships with Israeli friends and relatives. [Yet]…as proud Jews who support the state of Israel, we do not have a community forum in which to engage in regular, open dialogue about our feelings about Israel or in which to exchange ideas about what it means to support the Israeli state. We do not all think alike on this nor on any other subject, and as a people we cannot afford to avoid the most challenging and important Jewish conversations of our time.

 

Moshav Yad HaShmona in the Judean Hills, April 2010
Moshav Yad HaShmona in the Judean Hills, Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, April 2010

This timely article was originally published in the BIJ Bulletin in the Fall of 2009 / Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur 5770. 

For millennia our prayers and our thoughts as Jews have been directed toward Israel. The establishment of the state in 1948 and daily news about Israel undoubtedly increases our awareness and concern for the Jewish state. Many of us have a more personal relationship with Israel after having visited or lived there, or because of close relationships with Israeli friends and relatives.

At these past Yom Kippur services I shared my concern for my sisters’ families in Israel; in particular a concern for my sabra nieces and nephews who have either completed or are anticipating service in the IDF. I spoke publically of my Israeli family partly to explain why my prayers for and conversations about a lasting peace in Israel do not derive merely from my rabbinic duty. My prayers, talks and efforts toward peace in Israel are also very personal. They are direct plea that the day of shalom be upon us soon, bimheyra b’yameynu, speedily and in our day; and they are dedicated on the behalf of my nieces and nephews so that they may be spared the obligation of having to fight to defend their country.

In my Yom Kippur sermon I included the reading of a letter by Israeli POW Gilad Shalit who was captured in Lebanon in 2006 and who remains in captivity today. The moving letter was addressed to his beloved family and expressed the challenges of sustaining hope. I then shared a tearful piece written by Gilad’s mother about all that her son has meant to her since his birth and her struggle of knowing that all her efforts to protect him have left her powerless in this situation. As a call to action, I urge you to complete and mail the postcards that I have included in this bulletin. Addressed to our congressional representatives, they demand that unrelenting pressure be put on Gilad’s captors in order to secure his immediate release. Your effort on Gilad’s behalf is the fulfillment the mitzvah, pidyon shevuim, freeing the captives, a mitzvah we worked so tirelessly to fulfill some 20 years ago different in freeing Soviet Jewish refusniks.

Kibbutz Revadim Memorial to Fallen Soldiers in the IDF
Kibbutz Revadim Memorial to Fallen Soldiers in the IDF, Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, Yom Hazikaron 5770

Here at BIJ we are not afraid to express our love for Israel. From time to time I speak about Israel issues from the bimah and I often meet with congregants to discuss their personal concerns on the subject. We’ve hosted speakers from the New Israel Fund, from AIPAC and from the local Israeli consulate. We’ve attended fundraisers as a community and have raised tzedakah for an Israel Emergency Fund; we’ve bought thousands of Israel Bonds. As a community we’ve attended Israel in the Gardens to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, and we hosted a community wide ‘Israel at Sixty’ celebration in partnership the Israel Center.

Yet sadly, as proud Jews who support the state of Israel, we do not have a community forum in which to engage in regular, open dialogue about our feelings about Israel or in which to exchange ideas about what it means to support the Israeli state. We do not all think alike on this nor on any other subject, and as a people we cannot afford to avoid the most challenging and important Jewish conversations of our time.

This past fall the Northern California Board of Rabbis hosted Rabbi Donniel Hartman from the pluralistic Orthodox Shalom-Hartman Institute of Jerusalem. Rabbi Hartman shared the complex feelings of a father whose son was in active duty in the IDF while simultaneously expressing concern about the IDF’s treatment of Palestinian families. He spoke of the enormous challenge Israel faces as a ‘normal’ nation that must also live up to expectations that it be ‘light unto the nations.’ He shared his appreciation for the support of American Jewry for Israel, while identifying problems in the way we express our support. And he laments the absence of open and civil dialogue in the American Jewish community about Israel. He insisted that there must be a range of discussion that avoids the polarities of either mudslinging or silence and supports a more broad and nuanced dialogue like that which one might hear in a café in Jerusalem.

Hartman, who was born in the US and lectures frequently to American Jewish audiences speculates that the decreasing rate of affiliation in the American Jewish community, particularly here in San Francisco Bay Area, is due in part to the inability of the established Jewish community to allow diverse views and perspectives on Israel. Could it be that our fluctuations between divisive speech-as in the letters to the editor in the j. Weekly regarding the controversial film ‘Rachel’- and the avoidance of the topic is responsible for a shrinking Jewish community? “Israel is more of a liability than an asset to the American Jewish community,” said Hartman. Whether you agree or not, his theory is certainly worth considering!

Last year, a self-selected group of Rabbis from the Northern California Board of Rabbis, seeded a task force which has since named itself, ‘Rabbis for Respectful Dialogue’. We have met several times and the fact of our existence will soon be published in the local and national Jewish media. To a person the rabbis and professionals who sit on the task force have expressed deep sadness over the lack of candid and respectful dialogue about Israel in our individual congregations and also within the larger Jewish community. We all agreed that this is serious problem that we are committed to tackling.

Kibbutz Revadim: Achreological Exhibit of an Ancient Philistine Street, Photo:  Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, April 2010
Kibbutz Revadim: Achreological Exhibit of an Ancient Philistine Street, Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer, April 2010

In our first meeting, the most interesting notion was that the two camps in the Israel debate are divided not between pro and con but between the one that is willing to engage in dialogue as a matter of principle and process for the purpose of greater understanding, and the one that ceases to dialogue at the moment the position runs counter to deeply held feelings and views of the right way to support Israel. As a greater Jewish community we know that we simply have to learn how to discuss Israel with civility and respect. During the time I was interviewing at BIJ, I was in training as a facilitator with the Jewish Dialogue Group, based in Philadelphia. I had also been hired to facilitate Israel conversations at Swarthmore College, but soon after that I decided to take the position here. In my training I learned that in order to be successful in the long term, dialogue requires serious preliminary reflection upon the reasons we take each take the issue so personally. This can only happen safely when a dedicated group of individuals agree to respectful exploration of deep concerns and issues. Undoubtedly we all hold deep feelings for and about Israel. But only when we commit to understanding and appreciating one another’s experiences and perspectives can we work together to develop effective Israel advocacy. I believe this is possible and have seen it in action. And I agree with Eleanor Roosevelt that if we wish to make a difference in the world, “Each day we must do the thing we think we cannot do.”

During my first three years at BIJ I have dreamed of the formation of an Israel dialogue group and I am now seeking for partners who are interested in being part of such a group. Please contact me if you are interested. Meanwhile, as s a start, on Sunday morning 2/21/2010 I am convening a conversation for parents and other adults on the subject of our complex and ambivalent relationship with Israel. That will be followed by a 3/21/2010 workshop on and, how to speak about Israel with our young children and grandchildren. Please join us!

BIJ Israel Education & Programming

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.

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 michaelcpastor@gmail.com.