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!


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