Last week, more than 3,500 people from 156 Jewish federations arrived in Jerusalem for the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly. Restaurants were crowded with many people for the first time eating hummus fit for human consumption. The Kotel was at the top of the agenda and it turned out to be a huge engine that carries behind it a multitude of religion and state issues. Civil issues were central to the convention. Entire panels were dedicated to who can marry and divorce in the Jewish state, insights into the Haredi world, and egalitarianism at the Kotel and in the Israeli public sphere. Read more…
This past Monday, on Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5774, more than 800 worshippers gathered at the Western Wall to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Women of the Wall. Women of the Wall holds a monthly prayer service on rosh chodesh (the start of each new month), and their mission is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” Read more…
This article by Rabbi Kari Tuling originally appeared at the Reform Judaism blog on November 1, 2013.
I am packing for Israel, after a long time away. Like nearly all Reform rabbis, I spent my first year of the rabbinical program in Jerusalem, learning firsthand what life is like in the Jewish state: beautiful, complicated, ordinary, and above all else, profoundly Jewish.
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu nominated Karnit Flug to be the new governor of the Bank of Israel. Flug had been passed over twice for the position before being nominated for the position on October 20, 2013. Flug was selected as the previous Governor’s deputy, Governor Stanley Fischer, and has been acting governor of the Bank of Israel since Governor Fischer’s resignation in June (which he announced six months before his resignation).
Many people focused on the long, drawn out process of nominating a new person for the position of governor of the Bank of Israel. While the cabinet still needs to confirm Flug in order for her to be named the new governor of the Bank of Israel, most are optimistic that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet will do so.
Perhaps one of the biggest pieces of news to go along with this announcement is that, if confirmed, Flug will be the first woman to hold her position in Israel. Flug is the most recent woman to be named to a position as the head of a central bank in past months; President Obama named Janet Yellen as his nominee for the head of the Federal Reserve and President Vladimir Putin of Russia named Elvira Nabiullina as the head of Russia’s central bank. This is an exciting time for woman on the financial world stage!
Image courtesy of Sason Tiram/Bank of Israel via Bloomberg
We often hear a lot about negative stories about religious freedom around the world. We recall the tragedy at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin nearly a year ago, in which a man identified as a neo-Nazi by the Southern Poverty Law Center killed six members of that community. We recall also the tragedy at the Ozar Hatorah school in France in spring of 2012, in which a rabbi and four children were killed in a horrible act of anti-Semitism. A church in Pakistan was recently bombed as part of ongoing attacks on minority faiths in the region. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, which describes in great detail the state of religious freedom in many different countries. Eight countries have been named “Countries of Particular Concern”: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Read more…
Last week much of the staff spent time at the URJ’s Kutz Camp. The first part of the week was a gathering of 130 URJ staffers from the various departments, with the goal of strengthening our working relationships. There were creative programs, interesting lectures, and time to schmooze informally and get to know each other better.
The second part of the week was focused on youth programming, and our program team of Michael Namath, Allison Porton, Laura Gorsky and Tanya Nathan worked with the NFTY and camp teams to better integrate the many great opportunities our Movement provides for youth and teens. And because we didn’t have enough together time this week, today the RAC program team is meeting offsite with the LAs for some extended professional development.
The New Year is a time to take stock of what you have accomplished in the past year as well as dream of what could be if you only have the courage to stay true to your convictions. I have dedicated my life to making pluralism a reality in Israel. I want Israel to be a spiritual home to Jews from all countries and denominations. It is a process that requires dedication and faith that, sooner or later, equality will win the day.
Last year, I was arrested at the Western Wall for wearing a tallit and saying the Shema, Judaism’s central declaration of faith, in full voice. I had a realization while I sat in prison. I sat with my hands cuffed, and basic actions, like the full freedom of movement that I normally take for granted, were limited in ways I could not describe beforehand. I think I might have learned to function with such limited mobility and freedom if I stayed in those cuffs. But why should I?
Reform and progressive Jews in Israel have become accustomed to living in metaphorical handcuffs. We have been living as second class Jews in the eyes of the State for so long that we have learned to function this way. But why should we? We all accept the statement, “It is easier to be a progressive Jew outside of Israel,” as a given. But why should we?
Equality is the Jewel that I pray for this Elul. The Jewish New Year welcomes each of us and does not discriminate on the basis of our affiliations; we all pray to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Israelis deserve pluralism and we will not rest until we are so used to it being a reality that we simply “take it for granted.”
Haaretz, the leading newspaper in Israel, has just put out a survey asking people to vote for the person of the year. Anat Hoffman was nominated as one of the six candidates. Please take a moment to like Haaretz’s Facebook page. Once you have done that you can vote for Anat.
Anat is a symbol for Israelis and Jews around the world who want to see an end to the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on religious life in Israel. We have no doubt that she is Israel’s person of the year, so please click here to vote.
The Staff of IRAC