By Marlene Dodinval
Chicago has lots of sports teams: the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears, Wolves, Fire and of course the Cubs and the White Sox. Each team and sport has fans with varying levels of commitment and with different means of expressing their support. Some attend games once or twice a year, others have season tickets. Some feel wearing an occasional cap or jersey for their team is a significant expression of support, while others have flags flying from their homes or entire basement rooms decked out in team regalia. And, indeed, there is often rivalry between fans over which team is the quintessential Chicago team. But, as Chicagoans we recognize there is room and respect for them all. So, when Chicago-area ARZA leaders met with Roey Gilad, the new Consul General to the Midwest for Israel, ARZA’s Central District President, Steve Sukenik, presented him with a mishloach manot gift basket that included souvenirs from all our Chicago teams. It was a fun but important metaphor to start our discussion about ARZA’s mission for promoting religious pluralism and supporting our communities in Israel.
Attending the meeting were Steve Sukenik, Central District President; Monte Lewis, Immediate Past President; Diane Moore, Netiva Caftori and Dorish Schyman, Vice Presidents; Lenore Mass, URJ leader and ARZA National Board Member and me. Members of the Consul General’s staff also joined our meeting and offered ideas about how we might work together.
We updated Consul General Gilad on the status of the Reform Movement in Israel and were thrilled to learn that he was very familiar with it because his daughter had her bat mitzvah at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv. We spoke about our role as local representatives and our work to raise awareness and funds for ARZA in the Central District, including ARZA’s upcoming bike ride “Bike the Drive for Israel!” The group also discussed three issues of particular concern in our community: the government’s foot dragging in carrying out the agreement to pay the salary of Rabbi Miri Gold and other non-Orthodox rabbis, our support for requiring ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve the State in some capacity, either in the army or national service, and our desire to see a fair resolution to the issue of equal access for all Jews to pray at the Kotel. CG Gilad listened attentively, provided feedback, and offered to be a conduit for expressing our concerns back in Israel.
He concluded our meeting by expressing his desire to be more than a mouthpiece back to the Israeli government. He expressed his hope to find opportunities to support our work and to be our partner when he can. Of course, as a diplomat, he must make this same offer to all the “teams” playing on behalf of Israel, but that is in keeping with ARZA’s mission – for every Israeli to be heard equally and treated respectfully and fairly.
Marlene Dodinval is ARZA’s Central District Director. For more on the leadership’s visit, check out this article on the Consulate’s website.