Top 5 Highlights of the URJ Board Leadership Mission to Israel



Earlier this month, I joined URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Director of Israel Engagement Rabbi Yehudit Werchow, and nearly 50 URJ leaders for an incredible four days in Israel on the URJ Board Leadership Mission. It was a working visit, and it’s difficult to boil down such an intense trip into five highlights moments, but here goes:

  1. Spending Shabbat in Israel is always meaningful, but on this trip, we could truly feel the impact of the Reform Movement. Friday night we attended services at IMPJ communities across the country, and during a Shabbat lunch with HUC-JIR students. Meeting dynamic, indigenous leaders we experience the strength of the Reform Movement in Israel – and could see it is growing stronger.
  1. Throughout the trip, Israeli leaders affirmed the importance of Reform Judaism. It was clear through our meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit that the Reform Movement is taken seriously and greatly respected in the halls of government in Israel.

  1. It was incredibly important for us to see the connection between the North American Reform Movement and our brothers and sisters in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Our conversations with IMPJ leadership at Beit Daniel, IMPJ Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv, and IRAC Director Anat Hoffman were deep and thoughtful. We discussed new ways to work together to advance progressive Judaism across our communities.
  1. We discussed the peace process with leaders across the political spectrum. We also had critical conversations in Ramallah with business leaders Azzam Shawwa and Huda El Jack, as well settlement leaders in Gush Etzion like Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. It seemed that no matter where we went, everyone with whom we met had the same goal: to bring about a smart and lasting peace.
  1. As we stood together – men and women – at the Kotel for a Rosh Chodesh celebration with Anat Hoffman and the Women of the Wall, we were reminded of the need to keep fighting for religious pluralism in Israel. We have made great strides together, but we still have much work to do.

All in all, it was an affirmation that ahavat Yisrael – the love of Israel – is a central pillar of Reform Judaism.

See more photos of the URJ Board mission to Israel in our photo album on Facebook. 

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Rabbi Jonah Pesner

About Rabbi Jonah Pesner

Rabbi Jonah Pesner is Senior Vice President of the URJ. Rabbi Pesner is also the founding Director of Just Congregations. He works with synagogues pursuing social justice across the country and teaches on all three campuses of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He has led efforts to engage thousands of members of congregations to join together in successful campaigns for health care access, affordable housing, public education and other social action initiatives.

One Response to “Top 5 Highlights of the URJ Board Leadership Mission to Israel”

  1. avatar

    Thanks, Rabbi Pesner, for a meaningful summary of an awesome trip! I was honored to travel with this group of lay leaders and rabbis and was overwhelmed at the impact which the Reform Movement has had and continues to have in Israel. While our travels took us to some non-traditional tourist sites such as a hill overlooking Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements, Ramallah and Gush Etzion, the most significant force was the opportunity to interact personally with Israelis in the realms of politics, journalism, social justice and religion. The Reform Movement is a recognized and powerful resource for Israeli leaders.

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