Shana Tova from Rabbi Miri Gold
By Rabbi Miri Gold
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you Shana Tova, on behalf of Kehilat Birkat Shalom, and to bring you up to date on recent developments. As you can imagine, I’ve been interviewed numerous times since the historic decision of the Attorney General of Israel who announced at the end of May that rabbis of non-Orthodox communities are eligible for salaries through the Ministry of Culture and Sport. Sometimes notoriety is good, and I’ve been given an opportunity to express my New Year’s message through the media!
May this be a year ahead of good health and happiness, of justice and compassion, freedom and good will for our Jewish People, and for all of humankind.
Currently, we are in the process of clarifying what needs to be done to clinch our rights for recognition and salaries for fifteen rabbis of rural communities, including my position at Birkat Shalom, which is part of Regional Council Gezer. Our first and happy challenge is to prove that we have at least 250 supporters, over the age of eighteen, who live within a reasonable distance from our synagogue. We are signing people up, and hope to have our signatures by the end of the Sukkot holiday. The legal staff of IRAC is working on the details of the criteria which need to be fulfilled in order to see the decision implemented. Hopefully, by next year’s New Year’s greeting, we’ll be able to report that everything is in place and working smoothly. When the first paycheck arrives, you’ll be the first to hear! Obviously, this decision will help strengthen the Reform and Conservative Movements in Israel, which are under financial strain, but which continue to work diligently to offer liberal, creative and meaningful religious services to Israeli Jews all over the country.
Birkat Shalom has a new challenge, to put up a new building at Gezer. A generous offer, which we couldn’t refuse, came through Regional Council Gezer, which works with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to help communities acquire modest, pre-fab structures for synagogue use, and for us, this will be a major step up from our charming but tiny space. We will be able to have our offices in the same building as our sanctuary, and we’ll be better able to provide activities, and to host visiting synagogue groups, something we very much enjoy. I will be on a speaking tour through ARZA in October, and I look forward to seeing some of you during that time to bring you more in-depth news from Israel. I will be in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Atlanta, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City.
My great interest in strengthening Israel-Diaspora relations has found a new, perhaps unexpected venue. Israel was invited to participate in the Qualifiers for the World Baseball Classic to be held in the Spring of 2013. Team Israel is comprised of several Israelis who grew up in the local leagues of the Israel Association of Baseball , former MLB stars Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler, and North Americans, minor-league players. If we win the Qualifiers (we’re up against South Africa, Spain and France), Major League ball players will join the team. To be on a WBC team, the requirement is that the player must be eligible for citizenship of the country’s team. For Team Israel, that means The Law of Return, so we can hope that Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis and others would join the team managed by former MLB catcher Brad Ausmus.
Currently, the Israel Senior National Team is in Jupiter, Florida along with the recently announced 28-man roster. All the players are getting to know one another, and several of the minor-league players are talking about making a first trip to Israel. Local synagogues, JCC’s and Federations are hosting and promoting the games (the first one will be broadcast live on the 19th–details are available on the internet)and great interest has been generated. All the ball players will be together this evening to usher in Rosh Hashana. The friendships that are developing, and the increased sense of Jewish identity overall, is very heartwarming.
How do I know all of this? My son, Alon Leichman, who is currently a student at Cypress College in California and on their baseball team, made Team Israel as one of the three Israelis chosen, and my husband David, who was instrumental in organizing the first baseball Birthright trip, is with him in Florida as part of the Israeli staff.
May we all begin our New Year with joy and thankfulness, buoyed by our achievements, and ready to fulfill our aspirations to create a better future.
Rabbi Miri Gold is the rabbi of Kehilat Birkat Shalom on Kibbutz Gezer in the Gezer region of Israel. Rabbi Gold made aliyah in 1977, and in 1999, she was the third woman to be ordained as a rabbi by the Hebrew Union College. In 2005, Rabbi Gold petitioned the Supreme Court of Israel to recognize her as the official rabbi of her community and to receive a salary, as do the Orthodox rabbis serving communities in the Gezer Regional Council. She has been represented by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), founded and supported by ARZA member dues.
Rabbi Gold will also be in attendance at ARZA’s Annual Meeting next month! Have you registered yet?