WEEKLY UPDATE- 24.8.17
Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
The shnattim have safely arrived to their new and last permanent home for Shnat- Kibbutz Lotan. This part of the year is for sure the most different and unique (not that living with 15 other people your age is the norm….) for the shnattim, as it offers living in the desert, having real communal life and working in agriculture, and much more. This of course, requires a lot of really hard work, which the shnattim experienced yesterday (Wednesday) for the first time.
May we keep hearing good things from the shnattim and their madrichot, and may this be a meaningful experience- one to remember and last a lifetime.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
First weekly update from Lotan- Nathaniel Knoll
This past week has been a pretty big week for all of us. We ended our chofesh (holiday) on Sunday and had a 4 hour drive down to the Arava, where we have settled into our new and final home for our Shnat Netzer journey – Kibbutz Lotan. We arrived at the Kibbutz around 2pm and were greeted by our Kibbutz Madricha, Debbie, who showed us our new homes. Once we had a bit of time to settle in, we began a tour of some of the Kibbutz, after which we cooked pita over a fire and made salad for dinner. We then met and got to know the Shinshinim (Israelis our age who do a year of volunteering before the army, called Shnat Sherut). After a long first day, we finally packed in and went off to sleep.
We started the next day with a short peula run by Debbie where we created visual representations of our Shnat experiences. We then met Leah, a kibbutznik who is going to run Hebrew lessons for us, so that she could see where we were each at and what we wanted to get out of our classes. That afternoon, we spoke with Mike Nitzan, one of the founding members of the kibbutz, who talked to us about the kibbutz's past, present and future. We then ended our second day by joining many of the kibbutzniks who went to the beach in Eilat, where we swam, relaxed, ate pizza and got to spend time with our new friends.
On Tuesday, we had a Ma'amad under the shade of a bird watching site just outside of the kibbutz before going to spend a few minutes at a soft sand dune. We then met with the famous Michael Livni, who gave us a short class on Reform Zionism and the vision for Kibbutz Lotan. After lunch, we had a program with Debbie wherein we wrote down various feelings we have towards our upcoming time on the kibbutz, followed by a fun blindfolded outdoors activity at the soccer field. The day was topped off with an evening activity run by two of the younger kibbutz members about Reform Judaism and what we associate reform Judaism with.
Today (Wednesday), we had our first day working in the fields. Waking up between 5-5:30, we headed off to the date fields by 6, to spend the next 8 hours picking dates from trees. In the end we had two and a bit large stacks of crates filled with dates. It was hot and tough, but the dates were delicious and we got our first taste of what it really means to be a kibbutznik. Exhausted from our tough first day, we went back at 2:30 and got some rest and relaxation for the rest of the day.
All in all, we've had a jam-packed first few days on Kibbutz, and we are all looking forward to the next couple of months. The kibbutz is truly an amazing place, and many of us are truly beginning to feel at home here.
From IMPJ's Newsletter
By Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Reuven Marco
We, together with friends and partners around the world, were shocked to learn about the horrendous acts of antisemitism, racism, bigotry and violence which took place in Charlottesville last weekend. On behalf of the entire staff, lay leadership and congregational members of the Israel Reform Movement, we sent our friends in Charlottesville the following message.
On behalf of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), we want to express our deep sorrow and distress by the events which took place in Charlottesville over the past weekend. Together with you, we are shocked and horrified by the rise of antisemitism, racism and bigotry in America. We are committed to working with you and all of our Jewish sisters and brothers all across the United States in ridding this horrendous acts of hatred from our midst. Know that we stand with you in solidarity and are here to lend a helping hand.
In these times of distress, we pray that we will know how to channel our anger not in the way of Amalek, but rather follow the ways of some of our greatest teachers and rabbis. In the spirit of Tisha b’Av, which we marked just two weeks ago, and further in the spirit of love of Tu b’Av, may we internalize the words of Rabbi Kook: “and if we were destroyed and our world was destroyed over blind hatred, may we rebuild and may our world be rebuilt by blind love.”
The IMPJ deputy-chair for Financial Affairs, Adv. Yair Lootsteen, spent time with his family in Charlottesville almost 20 years ago. Therefore, when he heard what had happened, it hit close to home. Yair sent a most moving letter to members of the Charlottesville. In it, he shared these moving words: ""כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה". "All of Israel is responsible for one another". Easier said than done when we are thousands of miles apart. But please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your congregants during these difficult times, as they are with all good people of Charlottesville. We pray for your safety and for a speedy return of calm and tranquility. "יְהִי שָׁלוֹם בְּחֵילֵךְ שַׁלְוָה בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָיִך"ְ. " Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces".
Yours in solidarity,
Rabbi Gilad Kariv- President and CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism
Reuven Marko- Chairperson of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism
Seeing Through the Darkness: Inside Charlottesville’s Synagogue One Week Later
Rabbis Tom Gutherz and Rachel Schmelkin of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA with Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacob
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” During the last week, the leaders and community at Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville have met Dr. King’s high bar of moral leadership.
I had the privilege to worship and spend time with this extraordinary congregation less than a week after the Shabbat that shook this community – and most of our world – to its core. I brought the love, support, and admiration of the entire Reform Jewish Movement – almost two million strong across North America — and bound with unbreakable solidarity to Charlottesville.
With uncommon wisdom, courage, and love, Rabbis Tom Gutherz and Rachel Schmelkin led this community through a sea of hate and danger as neo-Nazis and white supremacists, guarded by fully armed militias, marched around this historic synagogue spewing anti-Semitic taunts. No one would have balked had the leaders cancelled Shabbat morning prayers last week, but they didn’t; that’s not what this community is about. Rather, they prayed earlier than usual to be able to join the counter protests, faithfully standing up against roving bands of haters. Rabbi Dan Alexander, Congregation Beth Israel’s rabbi emeritus, planted so many seeds of compassion and commitment that have fully flowered during these dark days. The congregation’s president, Alan Zimmerman, helped guide this community through those fear-filled days and then graciously shared his reflections in a blog post that has reached hundreds of thousands of readers. To CBI member Mayor Mike Signer, as well, a debt of gratitude for the steadfast way he led this entire community.
The opening word of this week’s Torah portion is also its name: R’eih. It means “to see.” Everyone in this congregation will long remember what they saw last week: Nazi flags and tiki torches reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany and KKK rallies of years past. Tragically, those indelible images were not from newsreels.
In tractate Berachot 34b of the Babylonian Talmud, we are taught that “one may only pray in a house with windows.” Why? One answer is that even when we need to huddle together for spiritual strength, we must never shut out the sights and sounds of the world beyond our doors. Last week those sights and sounds were both terrifying and impossible to ignore. But windows also make sure that the deepest yearnings of our hearts radiate outward from our prayer place, helping to heal the brokenness throughout the world. Last Shabbat, the historic and beautiful windows of this, the oldest continuously used synagogue in Virginia, painfully connected the loving spiritual world inside to the seething hatred enveloping the surrounding streets.
In this perplexing and fractured world, so many people yearn to be a part of congregations of depth, purpose, kindness, and backbone. Congregation Beth Israel is such a place, a shining beacon of what we can be at our best. Through these days of trauma, this congregation and its members showed the world how our faith can shape who we are as we uphold our tradition’s enduring vision of a just and compassionate world.
Those who marched last weekend hate who we are. They hate that we are Jews. And they hate our Reform Jewish community’s radical inclusivity. A hallmark of our Reform Judaism is our audacious hospitality. Our embrace of LGBTQ individuals, interfaith families, and Jews of color, strengthens us. Those who marched last week hate our diversity; they hate our deep alliances with communities of color fighting for racial justice and civil rights. But our ranks continue to grow and we continue – undeterred – to partner with the Holy One to shape the world as it ought to be.
Our Torah portion helps us to discern moral clarity. “See, this day I set before you blessing and curse…” (Dt 11:26). Sometimes differentiating the blessing from the curse, right from wrong, can be challenging, but not in these opening verses from Parashat R’eih: “When God brings you into the land…you shall pronounce the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at Mount Ebal…” (Dt 11:29). Mt. Gerizim is lush with green while Mt. Ebal is desolate and barren. These mountains are geographic visual aids for blessing and curses, right and wrong. You can’t confuse them; they couldn’t be more different. But somehow the President of the United States is not able to discern hate from love, racism from tolerance, as he repeatedly has articulated a moral equivalence between neo-Nazi white supremacists – spewing bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia – and those who stood faithfully against them. The moral distinction is as plain as Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, but, sadly, our president can’t tell them apart.
Nonetheless, presidents can lead with moral clarity. In President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he appealed to the “better angels of our nature,” and he built his leadership by urging all to tap into the best qualities we humans can exhibit. That’s what presidential leadership can be.
It’s not just words or symbols that are at issue. White supremacy is embedded in policies such as the voter suppression laws that make it difficult for people of color to vote in too many states, as well as in the many inequities people of color encounter in the criminal justice system. The problem extends far deeper than a rally in Charlottesville, and we will not rest until we become a land in which justice and liberty truly are for all – and there are no exceptions.
Elaborate preparations are underway for Monday’s solar eclipse. But it was last weekend’s moral eclipse in Charlottesville that threatened to block out the most essential light of all. That full moral eclipse never happened because, thankfully, this congregation joined with Charlottesville’s other faith communities and many decent people of conscience, refusing to sit idly by and choosing instead to be present – lovingly and firmly – as up-standers in the face of demonic hate.
Above the holy ark in this jewel of a sanctuary is a quote from Psalms: “By Your Light do we see light.” (Ps 36:9). Our tradition often depicts God with light metaphors, reminding us that our sacred work is to spread the light of God throughout the dark places in this world.
Our Reform Jewish Movement has asked individuals, families, and congregations across North America to take photos of themselves holding candles so that we can flood the internet with #BeTheLightForJustice images. This is one of six tactical actions we are suggesting that not only will help advance constructive solutions, but also represent the interfaith response to the hate and vitriol dividing our nation.
Congregation Beth Israel has been doing more than its share of spreading the light – and it is not alone. Its members are part of something much larger than just this historic gem of a congregation. During this last week, they have been the focus of our Reform Movement and of Jews of all practices and beliefs here in North America, in Israel, and around the world. And of course, the bonds of our interfaith partners – and the congregation’s partners – elevate our ability to stand against the hate.
On the day after the solar eclipse, we will observe Rosh Chodesh Elul, when we will see the sliver of the new moon that signals we are one month from Rosh HaShanah, the new year. Although the light of the moon will barely be visible, it will grow day by day. And so it is with our holy work.
Like our ancestors before us, we must be able to see the stark contrast between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, between blessing and curse, between love and hate, between pluralism and racism. May we continue to be inspired by Congregation Beth Israel to turn darkness into light, to turn fear into resolve, to turn xenophobia into acceptance, and to turn hatred into hope.
From IRAC's Newsletter
By Anat Hoffman
It all started with an injury. Orly, the head of our legal department, broke her leg during the Jerusaem March for Pride and Tolerance last week. One minute, she was full of activist energy, the next she was writhing on the ground in pain. Orly's plight made all of us stop to examine how fragile we are as individuals and as a team.
At IRAC, we are a team of professionals committed to saving Israel from religious extremists and zealots. We fight for equality, tolerance, and religious pluralism, and we do that using our various arms in synergy. Lately, we have all felt broken and exhausted from our constant struggle.
Like all fighters, we too noticed both in ourselves and our collegues, a slow creeping development of fighter's fatigue. The symptoms are: disappointment in Israel's democratic institutions, difficulty sleeping, cynicism, a decline in confidence, pessimism and hopelessness.
Our staff is more susceptible than others to attrition. The very characteristics that give us strength are the ones which make us more susceptible: our commitment to our work, our high emotional intelligence, and our deep caring about Israel and its Jewish and democratic character.
So, we decided, that like anything else, we will take this fatigue to task. We invited our whole staff to meet with Dr. Nahi Alon, a veteran psychologist specializing in advising on this topic. Orly limped into the conference room, sitting through the meeting with her feet propped up on pillows and her wheel chair beside her.
Dr. Alon asked us to describe what is so difficult about our jobs. One of our leading lawyers on racism said that he feels like he is choking. He can't breathe after reading racist incitement by rabbis against minorities. Our legal intern, wished she had a way to protect her heart so she is still sensitive, yet not infected by the hate she is exposed to. Orly confessed that she is disgusted by all the talk about "Jewish unity" uttered by the very same peole who actively incite against Reform and Conservative Jews on a daily basis. I said I can handle sticks and stones, but I'm deeply hurt by ridicule, jeers and mockery. Our grant writer, shared how hard it is for her to find hope when some of our victories in court are reveresed by lack of implementation or circumvented by a new law in the Knesset.
"So, why do you do it, and what helps you survive?" Dr. Alon asked us. The answers from our staff were very much like those answered by Israeli military heroes when receiving a commendation for heroism. They said: "I do my job because I have no choice." "It gives my life meaning." "I do it for my chldren." "What helps me is the team." "Our staff WhatsApp group, which showers even little achievements with handclapping icons, flowers, and smilies."
And you, our readers from abroad, were also mentioned. Members of our staff said that encouragement from you, your comments, your checks, your questions, reflect more than money. They are a source of strength and a source of hope.
This meeting gave us just the boost of energy, support and hope we needed to keep going and continue our non-violent fight for justice in Israel. It also gave us ideas of how we can continue to provide each other the support and positivity we need to not give into the fighter's fatigue.
Orly's leg was looked at by one of Israel's orthopedists and he found that it's not quite broken. Maybe that is true for the rest of us.
RSY- Netzer Summer Camps Summary
RSY-Netzer’s ‘Shemesh’ summer camps were a huge kef-filled success! We had over 400 chanichim aged 5-15 across 6 camps, and we had an amazing two weeks together! In what was a typical British summer, it rained almost every day, but this didn’t dampen our spirits! Our chanichim were led by around 160 incredible madrichim aged 17-23, engaging with Reform Judaism and some of our favourite Jewish prophets in innovative and exciting ways. We also did a million and one different activities: from Keftivals to invisible llama hunting, from football to dry slope skiing, from discussions around politics to mad science activities, there was never a dull moment with RSY-Netzer this summer!
We were extremely lucky and so grateful for a huge amount of Netzer input before and during our camps. Our ten shnattim all returned and led on our camps with a wealth of Israel knowledge and hadracha experience. We also had three southern shnattim from South Africa and Australia join us on three of our camps, and they all made a MASSIVE contribution to their events – their fellow madrichim loved them, and their chanichim admired them.
You can find loads of our photos on our Flickr page (we’re still uploading some of them)– click HERE to have a look!
We hope you all had incredible summers (or winters (shout out to RSA & AUS) and hopefully see you all at Mega Netzer Veidah!
All our love,
The RSY-Netzer Movement Workers :)
Netzer Barcelona Summer Camp Summary
Netzer Barcelona's summer camp was amazing! We had about 35 chanichim, and we spent a fantastic time together! Peulot, T'fiot, Peulot Laila, birkat hamazon, kabbalat shabbat, swimming pool, sports and competition, the defense of Netzer flag, and macropeulot were only a part of the amount of activities we did! We had a new Tzevet of Madrichim that worked very good- they all worked good and earned a lot of experience as Madrichim.
We were very lucky to have Rodrigo in our camp, and before it. He helped us a lot with the planning of the Machane, and carrying it out. We could learn a lot from him, and also we had a very good time with him! Also Daniel Norris from South Africa came to visit us. He also helped us a lot, and teached the Chanichim about Netzer South Africa. He gave them a global view of how big is Netzer.
Also, this was the last Machane as chanichim for the older group, that are going to start the Madrichim formation on 2017-2018. They ejoyed it as they never did it! You can see some photos of the Machane in our Facebook Page and below-
We asked a Chanich to write something about the Machane, and this is what he told us:
After spending 12 days at Majane I'm going to talk about what Netzer means to me. First of all I’ve been going to Majanot since I was 3 years old. And the years are passing and I'm growing up. I have seen janijims evolving into madrijims, I've seen friends, and family leaving this community. But Netzer has never finished. And now in this Majane Kaitz 2017 I’m 15 years old, being one the oldest janijim of the Sniff. I have spent 12 days on the Majane every year since I was really young. And at every single Majané, I have learnt a tone of things about Israel, judaism, sionism, tikun olam... However I learnt all this things without following the torah at 100%. Instead I learnt it with fun and with my second family: Netzer. Guess that's my definition for reformism. So what is my conclusion of this Majane:Netzer is a cycle, your home (even if you dont feel super religious) and one of your best experiences of your life.
Hope all the camps went well, and hope to meet you all on the super veida!
Mazkir of Netzer Barcelona
Reflexión del Majané Yajad 2017 Valle de Antón- Noar Panamá
If you can't read this, please use GoogleTranslate :)
El Majané Yajad 2017, realizado en el Valle de Antón entre los días 7 y 10 de julio, fue un claro ejemplo de lo que significa ser parte de una TNUÁ.
Tnuá en hebreo quiere decir “movimiento” y hace referencia a los cambios generacionales que se dan dentro de un marco como el nuestro. El paso de una persona dentro de Noar (un movimiento juvenil) comienza cuando es Janij, luego pasará a ser madrij, más adelante, tal vez, podría llegar a ser Coordinador o Rosh y años más tarde sus hijos irán a Noar y así continuará…
Participaron en este Majané los janijim del segundo grupo más pequeño de Noar quienes acudieron por primera vez con gran alegría y emoción. El tzevet de madrijim estuvo conformado en su mayoría por nuevos jóvenes graduados de nuestro Curso de Lideres " Leatid" en 2016 quienes por primera vez fueron madrijim en un Majané. También Martín Calp, quien está vinculado con Noar desde que era janij, debutó como coordinador en este Majané.
Si bien las personas cambian constantemente, la esencia de un Majané es algo inalterable y tiene objetivos claros, continuar con la trasmisión de los valores, enseñanzas y el legado de nuestro pueblo, de Israel y de Noar (destacándose los momentos de Tefilá), consolidar los grupos de Noar, generar mayor identidad y compromiso hacia el movimiento y por supuesto vivenciar un Majané con un estilo propio en donde cada momentos es especial y único como ser la fogata con sus cantos, buzón y bailes, actividades deportivas y lúdicas, actividades grupales y por kvutzá, talleres, Tefilá, fiesta final y mucho más. Actividades y momentos que también estuvieron presentes en este Majané Yajad 2017. Estamos seguros que los nuevos conocimientos adquiridos y las experiencias vividas, gracias al gran trabajo, dedicación y compromiso de nuestros madrijim (Tomy, Nico, Jessi, Sofi, Eddy, Seba, Maia, Dam, Oren, Eze, Dani, Gaby y Sarah), pero principalmente de nuestros janijim de los grupos (Pishpishim, Sababim Javerim, Pachitas, Falamemes y Bananim) hará que la segunda mitad del año nos encuentre fortalecidos y preparados para abordar nuevos objetivos, continuando, así, en movimiento… Revive junto a nosotros, a través de las mejores fotos y videos, los 4 fantásticos días vividos en el Majané Yajad 2017 en Facebook
In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion click here.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
This may be the first weekly update you receive directly from us, and is part of our goal to have more direct and open communication with all our partners in this program
if you think there is anyone else that should receive this weekly updates, please send me their details
As always, the local Netzer Branch is always there for you as well