Personal Reflections on the Recent Zionist Meetings in Israel
The last two weeks of June were sort of a blur of meetings and conferences in Israel. Many of our ARZA leaders participated in several of these meetings including Rabbi Bob Orkand, Didi Gilbert, Sue Fratkin, Ellie Danker, Phil Meltzer, Rabbi Stan Davids, and Bill Hess.
The various meetings also included the leadership of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, including Yaron Shavit, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Gusti Braverman, Menachem Leibovich and others. ARZA was pleased to attend with Rabbi Rick Jacobs in several of these gatherings in his first Israel visit as President of the URJ.
Meeting nametags hold a certain fascination for me. What does the name tag say about the sponsoring organization? Is there a message along with your name? Is there a ribbon or chain with a message? What additional information about you can be found on your badge? Is there any sense of hierarchy to the badges?
I have a new collection of nametags from this recent sojourn in our land. This list of meetings included ARZENU, The Tomorrow Conference sponsored by President Shimon Peres, the meetings of the Zionist General Council and The Jewish Agency Assembly and Board of Governors. In addition, I participated in the 12th Quadrennial Conference of the World Council of Jewish Communal Service, where I serve as a member of the Board.
The only gathering to use titles such as Rabbi, Doctor, Minister of Trade, etc and for which one’s name tag provided for differentiated status, was the Tomorrow Conference of President Peres. The others were all on a first name basis. Of course, given that we are all part of a family, we did not need name tags for the meetings of ARZENU.
The Jewish Agency message is “Inspire*Connect*Empower.” During these meetings, the centerpiece was a daylong seminar on Liberalism and Zionism presented by Makom. For me, personally, one of the highlights was hearing from MK Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of the Labor Party and the opposition in Knesset. Her message on our issues was early and clear in her remarks. Judaism, as administered by the Chief Rabbinate, is coercive and needs to be changed. All citizens of Israel must share the obligation to serve Israel either in the IDF or in a public service capacity. ARZA has invited Ms. Yachimovich to the United States. We will keep you apprised if a tour can be arranged.
The WZO badge carried no message. Perhaps it is self evident what the tasks are of the World Zionist Organization. “Strengthening Jewish Community” was the theme of the professional conference. It is always a learning experience for professional colleagues from around the world to discuss their work, the different cultural ways in which matters are addressed, as well as to realize how very similar it is to work within the Jewish community in any part of the world.
Finally, outside of the meetings, the celebration in Ranana. On Saturday night June 30th, the congregation in Ranana celebrated ten years in its new building. Present for the evening were the lead donors, the Samueli Family of Orange County, California. It was a festive event full of warmth, good humor, and deep affection for what Beit Samueli means to its congregants and to the larger community. MK Ofir Pines-Paz is a member of the congregation and an old friend. In a quiet moment, he told me how much chizuk, strength, he gains from being a proud Reform Jew in his work as an MK.
Step by step, person by person, sometimes in big ways and often in quiet ways, ARZA is helping, with its partners the IMPJ, IRAC and the Israel Reform Congregations, to build an ever more inclusive, democratic, and pluralistic Israeli society. ARZA could not do this without you, our supporters, members and lay leaders.