From Our Rabbi…
Shalom, B’nai Sholom!
In February, I spent over two weeks in Israel. My main reason for going was to attend the annual convention – held in Israel every seventh year – of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic association of the Reform Movement. The convention itself was a wonderful opportunity to learn on a number of levels, engage in challenging conversations, experience a taste of Reform Jewish life in Israel, and build new connections with some of the approximately 250 colleagues who participated – including a mini B’nai Sholom “reunion” at the Western Wall with Rabbi Cashman and Rabbi Katz!
I extended the beginning of my trip, though, to show my parents around the country. It was their first visit to Israel and, for most of the week, I was their unofficial tour guide. Some things were familiar to me, especially when we made our way to Jerusalem, where I had spent the vast majority of my first year of rabbinical school. Some changes were pleasant surprises, such as the reimagined ANU Museum – formerly the Diaspora Museum – which strives to represent the broad spectrum of Jewish communities and Jewish observance around the world. And some changes were more unsettling.
We had to be careful about our travel routes to work around the public protests scheduled throughout the week and which have continued since our departure. We watched the news about eruptions of violence. And I was surprised by the light traffic one day, which I learned was the result of a strike in response. The proposed “judicial reforms” that would gut the authority of the Israeli Supreme Court, as well as the egregious killings of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially in Huwara, were a dark backdrop to our visit.
But it wasn’t all darkness. In the words of Genesis 3:3, “there was light;” and it was good. The energy of the protestors in the streets, the passion of members of the Knesset who are committed to protecting democracy, such as Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the spreading recognition of the urgency of the moment, the joint Israeli-Palestinian youth groups (choirs, ultimate Frisbee teams, etc.) that are promoting dialogue and other signs of progress were both inspiring and uplifting.
Israel continues to be a beautiful and complicated place, with much to celebrate and much to wish changed. What gives me the most hope for its future – and for the future of all who live there – is that important conversations are happening, the influence of Reform and progressive Jewish values is growing, and more and more people are stepping forward together in favor of democracy, equality, pluralism, freedom and peace.
Rabbi Danielle Weisbrot