As the only thriving democracy in the Middle East, Israel is a beacon of light in a region often filled with despair. And yet, despite its democratic nature, when it comes to religious pluralism, Israel has a long way to go. In 1947, Israel adopted the Ottoman Millet system, formerly in place under the British Mandate, which allowed for religious groups within Israel to establish their own legal systems governing personal status laws (marriage, divorce, alimony, etc.) The URJ notes that there are presently 13 recognized religions in Israel, including Judaism, Islam, Druze, and several Christian denominations. Within the Jewish tradition, however, only Orthodox Judaism is recognized by the state under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. All other Jewish denominations, including Reform and Conservative, function under the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
In the past few days I have received numerous messages of concern from friends from all over the world. They refer to media coverage of the anti-Semitic attacks that took place in Paris and often make comparisons to World War II, such as the attacks of Kristallnacht.
First, let me be clear: These are very serious and bad events but the situation is far from being the apocalyptic crisis that one could believe when hearing CNN; I can’t help thinking of my Israeli friends who explain that life continues even when siren alerts are heard several times a day.
Chasidic tales. The foolish but pious people of Chelm. Folklore. Myths. The Jewish people is a people of storytellers. We use stories to make our points, identify moral and ethical responsibilities, and connect ourselves to an ancient tradition. Each time we hear a story, we find ourselves in it. Maybe we don’t always do this consciously, but each of us is looking for that connection; that meaning; that relevance.
I am moving apartments this week. It’s a tough and emotional process, but like everyone else coping with these kind of challenges these days, how can you complain? Proportionality has become a fact of life in Israel, just like the sirens and the terrible images from southern Israel and Gaza. I spent this Shabbat in an empty apartment, surrounded by boxes, not sure where I packed my reading glasses, fully aware that my quiet desperation paled in comparison with the feelings of the thousands of mothers who spent this Shabbat unsure of where their sons or spouses are. Read more…
This blog originally appeared at ReformJudaism.org on July 20, 2014.
As you know, the conflict in Gaza has intensified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Israeli soldiers killed in action, with our brothers and sisters in Israeli, and with all who are in danger.
When the conflict began, the Reform Movement made a decision to join Stop the Sirens, a community-wide campaign, coordinated by Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), to provide relief and support to the most heavily impacted Israeli communities. We did this rather than creating our own campaign to support our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) congregations and the vital work the IMPJ itself is doing because we thought it was important to show support for the larger communal effort.
The campaign has already allocated $8 million for “respite and relief.”
ARZA Chair Rabbi Bennett Miller is doing a great job representing our Movement on the JFNA Allocations Committee, assuring that the allocation reflect Reform Jewish values as well as Reform Movement interests.
This blog was originally posted on ReformJudaism.org on July 9, 2014.
By Rabbi Denise L. Eger
It has been a difficult time in Israel. I have been here in Eretz Yisrael for more than a week now, arriving just before they found the bodies of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. I was with several colleagues when the news of the discovery of their bodies came over the news, and it was a palpable moment that took our breath away.
Israel went into mourning. Jews from the right or left cried with their families. I was surprised how few cars were out in the streets. I was glued to watching the funeral and crying, too – and then, in the midst of mourning, a young Arab teen was burned alive. Retribution by a gang of Jewish thugs, it was cold-blooded murder. Read more…
How much evil can we bear in one short week?
It is with a sad and heavy heart that I share with you that the body of a 15-year-old boy, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, was found early this morning in Jerusalem. There are signs of much violence on his body. Right now, riots are breaking out in his neighborhood Shuafat in East Jerusalem. Last night, the streets of Jerusalem were lined with hundreds of rioters shouting “death to Arabs” and “revenge.” Read more…
When I opened my inbox this morning, I was struck by an email from Anat Hoffman regarding the tragic murder of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were discovered yesterday. To speak to the heartbreak we all felt upon hearing the news of the boys’ deaths, Anat shared this poem, The Third Mother, written by Israeli poet Natan Alterman: Read more…