Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
This week is coming to an end, and with it- the bit of routine we enjoyed, as this was actually the last regular full week in Ma'alot. You can read about it below, in Ilana's update. Last night, after a visit to their host families, the group was invited to have a toast, celebrating their contribution to the community. Thank youto our UJIA partners- Neta, Elinor, and of course- AMIR, who put this together, and thank you to our beloved ex-shnattim, who sent us some great tips and advice how to make the best out of the remaining time in Ma'alot.
On Wednesday next week, are shnattim will travel to Jerusalem, for the opening night of the Veida Olamit (World Congress). This is the moment where representatives from Netzer Snifim from all around the world gather in Israel to discuss ideological and practical matters related to the World Movement. A unique opportunity to experience an educational experience and engage in a meaningful conversation about the future of our movement. We expect about 30 delegates from all over the world to come to Jerusalem and represent their local snif (branch). We will learn from each other, share best practices and make some decisions in regards to Netzer. If you are around, please join us!!!
The shnattim are invited to join the first couple of days of the Veida, to have a taste of it. On the opening night we will also have a special evening dedicated to Maoz Haviv, the Head of Netzer Olami and TaMaR for the past 20 years, who is retiring in May this year. It will be the first of a few celebrations to honor this special Mench, who did so much for our movement!
The week after that, our shnattim will have their last week in Ma'alot, before moving to Jerusalem. It is hard to believe that they have been here for three months now, and we are excited to have them join our Jerusalem home and be close!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
Weekly update by Ilana Braham
This week we met our new Hebrew teacher, Ella, who is helping us fulfil many of our Shnataims of learning Hebrew. As part of our Hebrew this week, Ella showed us around her kibbutz whilst explaining the area in Hebrew. We ended the tour at the kibbutz café where we ordered ice cream, chips, and coffee in Hebrew.
Some people used the weekend to explore other parts of Israel, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Netanya, while others had a relaxing time here in Meona and in the surrounding areas of Nahariya and Tarshiha.
Following the weekend, we all returned to our respective Jewish volunteering placementson Sunday morning. Those volunteering at the Jewish secondary school ran their activity again in which the children are given an ‘English experience’. This activity went down so well that the volunteers were asked to return the following day to run the activity for a different group of children. Whilst this was being run again on Monday, the rest of us went to the Arab high school. This week we worked in English classes for 10th and 12th grade, having conversations in English to help the students improve their speaking skills.
Youth at risk is an amazing project that some of us volunteer at once a week. It involves going to a youth club for children of a relatively lower socio economic background who are given a hot meal, help with their homework, and fun activities. For many of us this is themost rewarding part of the week and the children are always excited to see us when we arrive.
For this week’s tiyul we took a trip to Akko. We aimed to begin the day at the Akko Baha’i gardens but when we arrived we found that on Tuesdays they only opened at 12pm. Amir did not make a fuss and simply switched the order of the day. We instead explored old Akko, the underground tunnels from the crusader city, and the beautiful port. After a picnic lunch we headed back to the Baha’i gardens to enjoy the first hot day we have hadin a while! The gardens were beautiful and we learnt about the Baha’i religion and the significance of the gardens to the Baha’i faith. As it was such a beautiful day we headed down to the beach where some sunbathed and others dipped their toes in the sea.
For tea on the border this week we went to the moshav of our madrich, Amir. After playing football and interacting with the youth of Mitzpe Hila, we were paired off with host families for lovely meals and company. We all met to sikkum this week in the moshav pub, owned by the one and only Amir. This was a lovely end to the week and we are excited for our final two weeks here in the North!
62% of Israelis support women's Torah reading at Western Wall
Taken from the website of Hiddush
Following the Supreme Court’s issuance of a Show Cause Order to the Government regarding the prohibition against women’s Torah readings at the Western Wall: Among secular Israelis 86% expressed their support, as did 61% of the traditional Jewish community.
The Supreme Court today issued a show cause order, ordering the State to explain within one month why women are not allowed to pray freely according to their customs at the traditional Western Wall prayer plaza. 62% of the Jewish public in Israel supports allowing groups of religious women to hold Torah readings in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza. 86% of secular Jewish Israelis support this, as does 61% of the traditional community. This telephone survey was conducted by the Smith Polling Institute in December 2016 among a representative sample of 500 adult Jewish Israelis.
The Show Cause Order issued by the Supreme Court is yet another step in the ongoing battle for the right of women to pray freely according to their customs at the Western Wall. We cannot predict what the Court will decide, but it is starkly clear that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis support the right of women to read the Torah in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza and reject the Chief Rabbinate's and the State's position that they should be prohibited from doing so. The public also rejects the Shas Party's legislative initiative to anchor Orthodox Jewish practice as the exclusive custom at the Western Wall, using its position as a Government Coalition member party as political blackmail.
The wording of the survey question was as follows: "Do you support or oppose permitting religious women's prayer groups to hold Torah readings in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza?". 62% were in support, of which 34% greatly supported this right, and 28% somewhat supported it. 38% expressed their opposition, of which 24% were greatly opposed, and 14% were somewhat opposed.
A majority of voters for the Coalition parties expressed their support for allowing religious women's prayer groups to hold Torah readings in the women's section of the Western Wall plaza. This includes 53% of Likud, 70% of Kulanu, and 88% of Yisrael Beiteinu voters. Even 43% of voters for the Zionist Orthodox Jewish Home party expressed their support. 86% of Shas voters and 100% of United Torah Judaism voters were opposed. Among voters for the Opposition parties, 85% of Zionist Union, 87% of Yesh Atid, and 100% Meretz were in support.
Notably, the survey data are consistent with previous surveys conducted by Hiddush. For example, according to the 2016 Israel Religion & State Index, released annually on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, 66% of Jewish Israeli adults expressed their support for the Government's Western Wall agreement, which would expand the egalitarian prayer plaza at the Robinson's Arch section of the Western Wall and give administrative control of it to the Reform & Conservative movements and Women of the Wall. 64% of Index respondents also supported the State of Israel officially granting equal status to the three major streams of Judaism - Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform.
During the ‘Jubilee,’ Reform and Israeli rabbinate will work together, says rabbi
As head of a joint venture between the Diaspora Ministry and the Reform Movement, Rabbi Nir Barkin is connecting between Reform communities across the Jewish world
In a Midwestern city better known for beer than spirituality, a sixth-generation Jewish Jerusalemite discovered Judaism. “I was a secular Israeli before. Going there was like, ‘Eureka! You can be Jewish without wearing a black hat,'” said Rabbi Nir Barkin about finding Reform Judaism during his stint as a Jewish Agency emissary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 1999 to 2003. “The Reform stream definitely fit in my wider perspective of being a human being. Being a Reform Jew is not just keeping kosher, etc,” he said. Reform Judaism, he said, includes looking into racism, gender discrimination, and other topics of social activism close to his heart.
Upon his return to Israel he attended the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and after his ordination as a Reform rabbi, he served for 11 years at Congregation YOZMA, a growing community with some 1,000 families in the central Israeli town of Modiin.“I know many in the movement who are facing animosity, hatred sometimes. But I’ve never faced a personal attack. Sometimes it has looked to friends and wider Israelis as a little weird, but while weird, also special,” he said.
Two years ago, however, Barkin left the pulpit to direct the Diaspora-Israel Department of the Israel Reform Movement. As such, he is a key partner in a joint venture financed equally with the Diaspora Ministry, which is aimed at strengthening and building relationships between Reform synagogues inside and outside of Israel. The venture has just completed 18 months with a budget of NIS 1.6 million ($416,000). The contract was recently renewed for a further year and a half (with the budget still in negotiations), by the end of which time he aims to have connected 37 Israeli Reform communities with another 120 around the world.
The program is part of “Domim-aLike,” an umbrella organization that creates and oversees the map of partnerships between Israeli and world Reform congregations. It publishes educational and communal resources, enables face-to-face encounters, and creates new media platforms for connections Partners meet virtually once a month and once a year an Israeli leader goes abroad to local Diaspora communities.
The initiative has also created a new holiday, “Diaspora-Israel Day,” which is marked on the seventh of the Hebrew calendar month of Marcheshvan. Domim has generated a “festive tractate” in Hebrew, English, Russian, French, Spanish and German that can be used to mark the fact that, according to Barkin, Jews have lived in the Diaspora for the past 5,000 years — “since the beginning.” At almost 3 million Jews worldwide, Progressive Jewry is a vital part of today’s Diaspora.
Through programs like Domim and its Conservative movement counterpart, the Israeli government is invested and investing in its relationship with the Diaspora. Diaspora Minister Naftali Bennett told The Times of Israel that, as the fate of Diaspora Jewry is one of his greatest worries for Israel, “We need to work with different groups and organizations to ensure the future of the Jewish people, and that is what we are doing.”
Reform has reached critical mass in Israel
In Israel, according to Barkin, Reform is currently a grassroots movement. Whereas from 1950-2000, it was more top-down, in which “our founding rabbis in Israel were holding the door open with their feet,” since 2000, it has become a grassroots movement. Currently, there are some 55 Reform synagogues in Israel and Israeli Reform rabbis are officiating at between 300-500 weddings a year, said Barkin.
Now that Reform is reaching critical mass in Israel, the movement’s opinions must be taken into consideration, especially at trigger-point sites such as the Western Wall, which affect all of world Jewry. “The issue is not necessary a Kotel or The Kotel. The issue is pushing back so as not to undermine the 3 million Reform and Progressive Jews outside of Israel. It’s not just about the Women of the Wall — who are not all Reform — we’re talking about a symbol of the Jewish people,” said Barkin. “When we were away from our symbol because of objective reasons — outside of Israel, conquest of the Jordanians — still every Jew around the world was yearning towards the Western Wall,” said Barkin.
“Now it is in our hands, but who controls it? A small cult in the Jewish people. This cult has the legitimacy to practice as they want, but cannot control one of the symbols of the Jewish people and enforce a segregation, dictating rules which were never there up until 20 years ago,” he said. “They [the ultra-Orthodox] have conquered the Western Wall and dictated their fanatic rules, and by that repelled 3 million from the sacred place,” said Barkin.
“It’s not just the headlines — it’s the aggravation, the frustration spilling over into the Disapora… One headline about the Kotel pushes us back years. These are forces which are impacting Diaspora Jews because they are emotional. I can talk to them cognitively about art, the uniqueness of the Jewish people. Then comes someone who spits in their faces,” said Barkin.
The cooperation among clergy he witnessed in Milwaukee among different denominations is his model and dream for working alongside the rabbinate in Israel. It will happen, he said, “during the Jubilee.” “I don’t expect the chief rabbis to think like me, but I expect and demand that they value the work I do,” Barkin said.
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-
Federal summer camp in Australia
Just love seeing this, and especially all our ex-shnattim, who are now leading!! Love you LOTS!!!
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