Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
How can we describe this week? HECTIC! Two groups on their parallel journeys, finally coming together. One group with 3.5 months of experiences and memories in Israel, and one that has been here for less than 2 weeks. And this morning- both groups came together in Beit- Shmuel for a long weekend. As you can imagine, we are all very excited and over-hyped, so excuse the short intro, and enjoy our update below.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
Weekly update by Jayme Garland
Goodbye Me’ona, hello Jerusalem! This week has had its fair share of ups and downs, sad goodbyes and happy hellos, lost socks and found possessions. Here are a few of the most memorable moments…
We started this week, and concluded a chapter of this journey, at Amir’s pub in his home Mitzpe Hila. His generosity and warm heart was even more apparent than usual, as he had set up candles, snacks and music for us. It’s safe to say we all enjoyed the lovely, chilled evening and are very grateful to Amir for accommodating us.
Friday night saw us saying a fond farewell to our host families. Everyone felt so welcomed and loved by their families over the past few months and it was difficult to say goodbye. Finding a sufficient enough way to express our gratitude was also a struggle, considering their constant kindness and hospitality. It was comforting to know for several people that wasn’t a final goodbye as they have been invited back for Pesach and whenever a warm home and friendly face is needed!
Having spent the week saying thank yous and farewell to many people and places, it was only fitting to give the house a little send off too! And what better way to do that than a basement rave?! With all of us dressed up in our wavey garms, Eve banging out the tunes and the basement/bomb shelter decked out with balloons we partied the night away! It was such a fun night, and the perfect way to sikkum our time in Me’ona.
The following morning we were up early, trying to find the energy to tackle the day ahead. Monday was the dreaded HOUSE TIDY! With the thirteen of us living, eating, sleeping, working and doing many other things in this house, it is an understatement to say we were not looking forward to all the tasks we knew needed to be done. But we dug deep….very deep, and rallied together to efficiently and successfully tidy the house in a surprising amount of time! As happy as were we’re to have everything tidy and packed up, there was only one thing left for us to do – Say a fond farewell to our much loved Madrachim! The small gifts and card we got for them is no way near enough to express the gratitude we have for all they did for us.
After a couple hundred photos in classic Noffie fashion we all boarded the coach hyped for Jerusalem!
The past two days have been spent in Beit Ben Yehudah hostel where Dan, Tom and Jayme have been running the Sikkum Seminar for the Tikkun period. We have spentt time discussing many interesting things such as – politics (both the UK and Israel), what on earth is Tikkun Olam, the periphery and how we view tefillah. All such strong and interesting discussions which fill us with many ideas about things we want to do or discuss in the future. We have also had some group reflections and appreciations, which were both calming and allowed us to appreciate how close we all actually are. It has been amazing to see everyone come together, through cleaning, kef and discussions over the past week and to round off our second chapter of this journey in a fun and reassuring way.
Tomorrow we meet the southerners and officially start the Jerusalem period! With a big week ahead there are many mixed emotions within the group, but one thing is certain, we are all going to go through it together!
Weekly update by Tom Kreiser
My (Gap) Year in Israel
So this is my documentation of my Gap year in Israel. Here are some highlights, with stories behind each shot.
1. My first night on the town. My kvutzah (group that are doing the gap year with me) and I went to Ben Yehuda street, Jerusalem. This street is the centre of "new" Jerusalem. This shot is one of the first shops-windows I saw. Personally, I think this best represents the saying "a picture tells a thousand words". However this shot also represents the true meaning of perspective. In a privileged and educated position that I'm in, I can see the state of the affairs the world is in right now. However, for them (and quite a few more in Israel), the global political arena is religiously advantageous. For this shopkeeper, they can't see the people whose homes, families and dreams are unobtainable because of his executive order. seeing this was confronting and eye-opening, because it unearthed my own personal biases, and more status as privileged white Australian.
2. Our first Adventure to the Machane Yehuda Shuk. Now most people know (even if you haven’t been) that the sights and smells of this wonderment to Israeli culture is truly a spectacle beyond compare. So this won’t be about that. This is a story about this four people. In this iconic corner of the jewish globe, I found four typical Israelis. They found 4 chairs and put them in the middle of the shuk. They bought food from the bounty of shops on offer in this magical place. They sat down, a cup of wine or beer in each hand; and shared a meal together. Through my Australian bias this action could come off as inconsiderate, but to Israelis its a representation of community. It's an embodiment of what we as a progressive Jews going to the holy land cherish: being in a community, sharing meals together with the people you love most. This photo makes me excited not for what has happened so far, but what is still left to come.
AZYC opening seminar video, by the brilliant Yigal Sela, Israel office director, ZFA
By Charley Katan, RSY and Shnat Netzer Bogeret
This term at university I’m taking a class called “Migrations and Homeland in Israeli Literature”. It uses different pieces of literature as well as critical texts about the nature of migration and diaspora to build a picture of the various migrations and waves of Aliya by Jews, starting in around 1850 to present day. I’m only 3 weeks in, so this week’s reading was Brenner and Haim Hazaz, looking at the Zionist call for transformation and what made up an arguably ‘failed migration’.
Anyway, last night I was reading The Sermon by Haim Hazaz (הדרשה). And it really gave me some things to think about. I don’t know if you know the story or not. But I’ll summarise: a Kibbutz meeting, an old man, a respected fighter in the Haganah, who speaks and tells his friends of his concerns and thoughts about the nature of Judaism, Jewish History, Diaspora and Zionism. I’m just gonna quote a few lines of it and explain to you my thoughts and my questions. טוב, יאללה.
“the more enslaved we are, the more superior we feel; the more we are humiliated, the more highly we think of ourselves; the more we’re made to suffer the stronger we become. It’s become our second nature; we need it as the air to breathe…how cleverly we’ve arranged it! It’s become our character, our personality - which when you think of it, explains everything: exile, martyrdom, the Messiah…”
1) So, Jews want to suffer and have convinced ourselves that we need to suffer in order to be ‘us’. It justifies everything bad that’s ever happened to us, and in the past has acted as an explanation or justification for bad things happening. It excuses us from fighting for what we believe in because we wait for the Messiah to put an end to the ever-suffering people and deliver us to a place of peace where we don’t suffer anymore. So, cool, the Messiah is a lie a lot of Jews tell themselves to feel better about their current situation and avoid doing anything productive - after all, the Messiah will fix it. Probably not big news to those who don’t believe in the concept of a Messiah but instead, like us, believe instead in a Messianic age which we need to work for rather than wait for. But still, interesting.
“What if Judaism can continue to survive as it always has in the Diaspora, while in Palestine…who knows? What if, by taking the place of religion, Palestine is a terrible menace to the future of the Jews, since it shifts their fulcrum of existence from something proven and established to something still transient and terribly unformed? What if Palestine should be the ultimate shipwreck, the final end of the line?”
2) This reminded me of the whole Hamas implosion theory - you know, make Israel seem so bad that eventually Jews themselves turn on it, destroy it as a concept and there you go, no more Israel, and eventually no more Jew. Not much more to say here. Just an interesting quote. Plus, I’m really running out of time.
“A man becomes a Zionist when he can’t be a Jew anymore.”
3) This was the most interesting thing. I had to read it out loud to myself 4 times to really understand it or think about it. But, I think, in some ways, I agree. Hazaz’s character believes that Judaism and Zionism are contradictory movements. I don’t believe this. But, I understand the shift from the religious to the cultural. But it does make me wonder: can you have both? My instinct tells me ‘yes’, but I want to question that ‘yes’. Am I more Jewish in the Diaspora than in Israel? Yes. So, am I sacrificing that outward display of Judaism (aka, my Judaism) in favour of a cultural and political expression, despite the fact that this expression has religious roots?
“Zionism ... ignores the people, it opposes them, it goes against their inner grain, it seeks to subvert and deflect them to an entirely new path, to a certain faraway goal..”
4) This just made me laugh, because despite the fact that Hazaz uses negative words - “ignores”, “oppose”, “against”, “subvert”, “deflect” - THIS IS WHAT WE WANT! Just replace those words with more positive variants (e.g. challenges, reprioritise) and you’ll find a pretty good definition of Reform Zionist hagshama. Seeing something beyond yourself, opposing your social conditioning to be alone, deflecting you form a capitalist path, striving for a faraway goal…
And, finally, towards the end, as a somewhat contradiction to the rest of the story, Hazaz writes:
“A different people, one above all that makes its own history by and for itself, rather than having it made for it by others… a real history, that is, and not some communal ledger in the archives… that’s what it’s all about! Because a people that does not live in its own land and control its own fate has no history.”
So, maybe that’s what it’s all about.
This is just 1 part of what will probably be an ongoing series of: Charley has to read interesting books for uni. Charley needs to process her thoughts. Charley emails Ady.
Sending love, calm and inspiration to you and Danit.
From IRAC's newsletter
Eva and Sadina grew up in Pucallpa, Peru. The two cousins learned that they were 4th generation descendants of a Jewish merchant who had moved to Peru from his native Morocco more than a century ago. Together with hundreds of other Peruvians with similar ancestral stories, they decided to reclaim their heritage and convert to Judaism. The women studied about Jewish law and history through classes organized and sponsored by Israel’s Conservative Movement. They started practicing Jewish rituals and customs. After passing an examination administered by a group of three Conservative rabbis, Eva and Sadina, together with 250 other approved conversion candidates, immersed in a ritual bath. When they emerged from the water, everyone blessed them with the declaration: “You are our sisters.”
About one year after their conversion, Eva and Sabina decided that they wanted to join their families who were already living in the Israeli city of Be'er-sheva. That’s when their problems began. Israel’s Interior Ministry questioned their motives and refused to recognize their Jewish bona fides, because they had pursued their conversion in their native Pucallpa, and not 300 miles away in Iquitos, a city in the Peruvian Amazon with an established Jewish community.
The practical effect of the government’s decision was that Israel would not recognize their Conservative conversions, and would not accept them as Jews. Adv. Nicole Maor, Director of IRAC’s Legal Aid Center for Olim (LACO), took on Eva’s and Sadina’s cause --one of the hundreds of clients we fight for every year-- and filed a petition in the Supreme Court. We argued that Jewish conversions should be recognized based on the integrity of the conversion process and the rabbis who oversee it. Acceptance of their conversation should not be based on geography. More broadly, we reminded the high court that this is all part of the Interior Ministry’s pattern of creating obstacles towards the recognition of conversions performed by Conservative and Reform rabbis - and of redefining the question “Who is a Jew?”
The Supreme Court agreed with us. It granted Eva and Sadina temporary legal status in Israel while the Interior Ministry meets with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements to adopt new criteria to recognize conversions performed worldwide.
With your support, LACO represents hundreds of converts and immigrants every year. Our victories don’t always make headlines like Eva’s and Sadina’s case did, but our goal is always the same: to ensure that Israel is a home to all Jews, that Israel recognizes the conversions performed by Conservative and Reform rabbis, and that all Israeli immigrants, regardless of race, sexual orientation or national origin, are granted equal rights under the law.
We expect that when their case is called again in another six months, Eva and Sadina will be granted permanent Israeli citizenship. Should that happen, Be'er-sheva’s Conservative synagogue is planning to celebrate their citizenship with the same words that welcomed them into Judaism years ago. “You are our sisters.”
In Light of the Times: The World Union for Progressive Judaism Responds to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration
The weekend of January 27-28 was tumultuous to say the least. With headlines, tweets and videos rapidly firing updates from airports across the United States, the news of Trump’s Executive Order, effectively banning the entrance of Muslim persons from seven Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., sent shockwaves across the world.
“There is no doubt we are living in contentious times,” lamented Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). “Protests in cities and airports across the world, many led by Reform Rabbis and congregants, including many youth, along with the Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington, gave hope as they stood up for justice. We rededicate our movement and its resources – our congregations, our rabbis, professionals and members– to live our commitment to be an Or LaGoyim (“light unto the nations”) by demonstrating to the world how religiously committed and humane human beings should behave toward each other.”
Protesters holding placards against Trump’s recent anti-refugee
and anti-migrant Executive Orders near the Israeli
Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem
(Photo by: JINIPIX)
In an effort to capture the global impact of the events unfolding in North America, the World Union asked Reform, Liberal and Progressive Rabbis, along with congregational leaders and regional presidents around the world, to send their responses, thoughts and reports of actions being taken by their congregations (see article below for more on this). While this is by no means a complete picture of all the Reform, Progressive and Liberal Rabbis’ and congregations’ writings and protests that take a stand for justice around the world, the list below serves as a starting point for conversations about ideas and reflections that show the importance of making our shared, global voice heard.
To continue readin press here.
Light unto the Nations: Reform and Progressive Congregations Welcome Refugees
“The Statue of Liberty has always been our symbol of welcome,” Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein of Am Shalom told The New York Times. “It feels like Trump turned off the light.”
Following is a list of Reform and Progressive synagogues turning the light of tikkun olam- of justice, humanity, giving and hope - back on by opening their doors, resources and hearts to Syrian and other refugees. The roundup of articles below provides inspiring examples of action being carried out by Reform Jews for you to join, initiate in your local congregation, support or just to keep in mind.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) welcomes updates from individuals, synagogues and community groups working toward tikkun olam and not mentioned below to feature on our social media channels and in future newsletters, or to facilitate connections between interested volunteers. Please write us at WUPJ Administration with your stories.
Members of Am Shalom welcoming a Syrian refugee family at
O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Jan. 27, 2017.
(Courtesy of Am Shalom/ From JTA.org)
To continue reading press here.
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