Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
This week was a relatively quiet one, as Etgar went on their Southern Tiyul (trip/ hike), meaning- no shnattim walking barefoot in the building, no noise in the flat, no shnattim rushing into the office to search for things, and no Ady and Danit around. Too quiet.
While the Etgarniks were all enjoying nature, getting blisters and hiking about 17km per day (!), the Machoniks had quite a fascinating week, which you can read about in Ilana's update below.
Next week we celebrate Purim- a very interesting holiday in Jewish tradition. In the Book of Esther, we read that Purim is a time for "feasting and merrymaking," as well as for "sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22). In addition to reading the M'gillah (Book of Esther), celebrants dress in costumes, have festive parties, perform "Purim-spiels," silly theatrical adaptations of the story of the M'gillah, send baskets of food (mishloach manot) to friends, and give gifts to the poor (matanot l'evyonim). If you want to learn more about the holiday and get ideas for activities- click here.
May we always be able to assist others and make others happy. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and happy Purim!
Weekly update by Jessica and Caroline
Weekly update by Ilana Braham
It has been another busy week for Machon. We started the week with a closed Shabbat, meaning that all of English Machon stayed at kiryat moriah to enjoy a peer led communal Shabbat. Kabbalat Shabbat was organised so that everyone could experience a service that reflected their Jewish identities. All the netzerniks attended the egalitarian service and had the chance to learn some new tunes from Noam UK and Habonim SA. The remainder of the Shabbat weekend consisted of peer led chinuch, time to reflect, and a lovely havdala to close the weekend.
On Monday evening Lior kindly drove some of us to a 5 star hotel in order to attended a seminar about the conflict, organized by Masa. Whilst the seminar was interesting, the main excitement for us was the food! After weeks of below average mystery meat, rice, and an awful vegetarian option at kiryat moriah, we finally ate like royalty. As if we weren't excited enough by the enormous buffet and endless supply of chocolate mousse and cakes, Lior then presented us with takeout trays. The joy in our eyes as we ran to fill up our trays was priceless.
After a couple of days of classes, ranging from leadership to Zionism class, we all woke up extra early on Tuesday in order to visit the Knesset (The Israeli parliament). We all found this trip very interesting as we got to view the conference room in which the parliament sits for all meetings. The arrangement of the seats is in the shape of the menora and the positioning of the press means they face the government co-elation rather than the opposition. We also had an amazing talk from Nachman Shai, a Zionist Union MK. The group had many questions, from discussing women at the kotel to the possibility of a two state solution. Tom says that "it was excellent for me to be able to compare the Israeli parliament to the British parliament I know so well. It was also interesting to see the psychological accountability that was built within the layout of the knesset meeting room". Everyone enjoyed lunch in the sun in the gardens outside the kinesset.
We then travelled to Belz yeshiva, a yeshiva for charedim. We had a talk from a charedi who studied at the yeshiva. Our speaker had dramatically different views to us, telling us that he thought "the holocaust was retribution for too many Jews straying from Halacha" and that women are merely "partners in the marital home and are for having babies due to the organs they were given". As you may think, we had many questions for this man who seemed to think that reform Jews were not legitimate Jews. Dan felt that "although incredibly uncomfortable to sit and listen to such abhorrent opinions about our Jewish identities, it was still fascinating to be exposed to such a lifestyle". Whilst the main synagogue was beautiful, the women were forced to sit behind a metal mechitza two flights of stairs above the main seating area.
One thing I found particularly troubling was that seat allocation was dependent on how much an individual had contributed towards the synagogue. Seats ranged from $1million dollars for front row, to $5,000 for seats near the back. It saddened me to hear that the speaker's 16 year old son had recently bought himself a $7,500 seat which he will have to pay off over 7 years. I don't believe that any 16 year old should have to spend this tremendous amount of money on a seat near the back of the synagogue they are a member of.
Many of us found this trip emotionally challenging but equally interesting to see a point of view we are rarely exposed to. I can safely say I don't think any of the netzerniks will be becoming charedi anytime soon. To contrast this, upon return to kiryat moriah we spoke to a woman of the wall representative. Woman of the wall is an organisation that netzer supports and therefore many of us were very excited for this talk. This was a refreshing way to end an emotionally charged day as we once again felt that we are supported in our move for equality.
On Wednesday we took to the streets of Jerusalem to celebrate international women's day. We offered free hugs and sung songs to show our appreciation for women and equality.
We're all excited for another week full of Machon meals and special Purim celebrations.
I'm glad you care how we pray – now let's hassle
A reply by Ady Blum, Etgar Director, to articles published last week by Emma Jacobs and Mathilda Wise
My dearest and brave Chanichot (and chanichim) who joint WOW prayer at the Kotel,
The many talks we had since you've participated in that prayer, and the articles you wrote, imply this had a great impact on you. I allow myself to guess this was the first time you felt de-legitimized. I also guess it was the first time you didn't show solidarity with another oppressed group, but rather you were the oppressed group who called for recognition and solidarity from others.
Firstly, I wish to tell you – many other groups in the Israeli society show solidarity and support the official recognition of our Progressive movement by the state. More and more secular families and couples choose our rabbis and our synagogues when celebrating Bar\bat-Mitzva and weddings. Different shades of pluralist Jews send their kids to schools who have the Israeli movement for Progressive Judaism's Jewish education programs.
However, I'm not writing you in order to make things comfortable. The whole educational philosophy that stands behind the Mechinat Etgar program is to take you out of your comfort zone. Let the conformist feel comfort, let us, Reformist, fight for reforms. Only when we feel discomfort there is a chance for Tikkun.
When you expressed your feelings regarding that experience, you were shocked mainly from the violent de-legitimization of our way of praying. Tilda's beautiful article about the matter is called "why do you care how I pray?". I want to challenge this question and offer an alternative view for this friction with the Ultra-Orthodox. I want to say – "I am so glad that you care about my prayer – now let's deliberate or struggle". What do I mean by that? Firstly, The fact that those Orthodox masses in the Kotel were even bothered by you, means they see a great deal of your actions. They feel your actions influence them. I'm glad they care because this shows our prayer matters. Your prayer is a political statement. It sheds the light on the way we wish to Tikkun our Olam (world). And this Olam includes those ultra-Orthodox. If you thought Tikkun Olam means that everyone is happy it's time to wake up – Tikkun Olam means changing the conservative order of our world – an order that some benefit a lot from, and won't be willing to give up without a fight. It's our time to become more political – more committed to Tikkun Olam.
However, my argument goes further than that. The Liberal thought wrongly isolates the individual and asks for indifference to her\his choices in life. We use to praise the expression "live and let live". But this indifference breaks apart any sense of solidarity, any sense of society who shares something worthwhile (like Judaism for instance). Tikkun Olam can take place only in a world that is consciously being shared with others. If each individual is free in his/her own atomic world, there is no public sphere where we interact. And if that sphere doesn't exist subjectively in people's mind, there is no world that can or should be fixed. Why should people bother putting their efforts to change a world which is disconnected to their lives? Judaism teaches us that the community is the basis for individual growth. This growth happens only in the communal sphere. Sometimes it demands a struggle. The strong objection you felt from the Ultra-Orthodox actually confirms their understanding that we are, in fact, part of the same community, of the same people. The fact we fight for egalitarian section in the Kotel means we care about how prayer looks like in the public sphere – in the most symbolic place of Jewish prayer.
Liberal thought also defeats itself by emptying any sense of meaning to ones' choices. A world in which people don't care how we pray, is a world that considers this question as equal to the question of "should we eat pizza or pasta for lunch?". An indifferent world that finds no higher meaning in whatever decision we make. This is the opposite of a fixed world (Olam Metukan) – it is the alienated world of Sodom, where no one cares of others.
The fact we argue about the Jewish way to prayer means there is something important about that. It means Judaism is important enough to possess it and fight for its character. But sometimes important and crucial achievements are the result of a bitter battle (The same goes with Zionism, but we will keep that to another time…). We should always remember that these battles are within our people. The ultra-orthodox are our political rivals, but they are not our enemies. We will fight their world view with peaceful bilateral actions until there will be a will to achieve compromises in the public sphere through deliberation.
I want to congratulate you for making the effort to wake up early than usual (classes cannot be missed😊) and join this prayer, which by itself changes something in this world. Yishar Koach!
"God, if you gave a flame in my heart, let me burn what deserves to be burnt in my home, the home of Israel. And if you gave me eyes to see, ears to hear, give me also the strength to whip, to caress, to lift up. And let these words be a certificate of my life" Hannah Szenesh
IRAC's Newsletter by Anat Hoffman
As I listen with horror to everything that is happening to Jewish community centers and day schools in North America, I am reminded of the questions you often ask me when you hear about Reform Synagogues being vandalized in Israel or our leaders being threatened: Are you OK? What can your friends from afar do to help? What gives you hope?
What truly gives me hope is when I see how many people of different faiths come together after one of these attacks to help rebuild. Things like Muslims helping clean Jewish cemeteries and Synagogues opening their doors to a Muslim community whose Mosque was burned. Knowing that there are so many out there willing to help can bring some comfort when the forces of intolerance appear.
We civil-rights activists in Israel know what it is like to be attacked. We know about the need to have resilience when facing our attackers. In moments of despair, I focus on my country’s core values, find like-minded people, and take action to ensure those values are implemented. David Ben Gurion said in 1954: “The State of Israel will not be judged by its riches, army or advanced technology, but by its moral image and human values.”
Later this week, Rabbi Noa Sattath will be speaking at the Knesset’s Israel-Diaspora Committee, condemning Israel’s silence in the face of rising antisemitic threats and violence in the United States since the November elections. Netanyahu has a moral obligation to speak up about antisemitism in America, and to demand that President Trump take immediate and concrete steps to put a stop to it. Israel has to be part of the worldwide effort against the rise of hate and bigotry everywhere.
This is a time to reach across continents to hold hands and to support one another. The only way to fight intolerance is with tolerance, and together, we will share hope for a future steeped in mutual respect and peace.
By the time you read this I will be in the United States visiting Jewish communities in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Buffalo, New York. I hope to see many of you.
Zikaron Basalon- The memory of the Holocaust
Hi! I'm part of an international team leading the global efforts of Zikaron BaSalon with the goal of engaging as many people as possible around the world on this coming eve of the Holocaust Memorial Day (Sunday the 23.4).
How are you planning to commemorate the Holocaust this year? Zikaron BaSalon is a social initiative that was born to create an intimate and meaningful way to commemorate the Holocaust. Last year, 500,000 people chose to take part in a Zikaron BaSalon event at home, among family, friends and guests.Last year, there were around a 1000 Zikaron BaSalon events worldwide, in countries such as Kenya, India, USA and Germany. This year, we aim to reach more people and allow them to take part in this unique experience.
Zikaron BaSalon events takes place at in people's living rooms, and has three parts: We begin with a testimony, which could be either personal, filmed or read. We continue with an artistic break, and end with a discussion about the memory of the Holocaust and its implications on our nowadays lives. Each Salon has a its own special atmosphere which is created by its participants and the detail invested by the host and guests.
We are looking for responsible volunteers to help us expand our activity abroad. We supply all the content and guidance. You may ask, “what are my responsibilities?”- Being responsible for a certain geographical area and exposing our initiative to the communities throughout the region. Using social network the goal is to target organizations, youth movements, communities and individuals that would like to take part in this amazing event. Being in touch with them from the moment of initial engagement until the eve of the Holocaust Memorial Day.
Blow you will have the One Pager with more information about the initiative. I'd be happy to answer any questions in order to explore possible ways for you to join this meaningful and important journey.
For more information please visit our website and signup to mailing list to be notified once registration begins. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
Have a wonderful day!
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.
Great comedian and educator- Benji Lovitt
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