Rav Bar Oz* (From Strength to Strength)


Commitment to Israel
by Rabbi Jeremy Barras

I fell in love with Israel on my very first trip when I was eight years old. It was a Hadassah family mission that included six other families from our Jewish community in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I remember a fair bit from that trip; the hotels we stayed in, the Hebrew Garfield sweatshirt that I bought, my first-ever trip to the Western Wall, and so much else.

This summer will mark my 19th trip to Israel when Cantor Rachelle Nelson and I lead 90 of our Temple Beth Am members on a sold-out 10-day magical trip to Israel. In essence, this is the trip that I have waited for my whole life — the first time I will be taking my children to Israel. They hear me talk about it all the time. They learn about it in school, they wait for me while I lead other people there, but this summer I will get to show them the homeland of our people, a place for which words can do no justice.

Israel continues to be a very hot button issue in American domestic politics and in the world arena. The shameful United Nations vote last month (which was denounced by various bodies of the Reform Movement) was just another reminder of how divided the world is on Israel, and how much pressure she faces on a daily basis. In the shadow of such ferocious debate it is worthwhile for us to consider what our responsibility to Israel is as a congregation.

We are certainly pro-Zionist, we support Israel trips both through our community and the Federation, we support Israel Bonds, our sister congregation (Kehillat Har El) in Jerusalem, as well as other Reform institutions on the ground throughout the State of Israel. Many of our members recognize our duty to our brothers in sisters in Israel and support a variety of Israel-related causes. Our students in the Day School and Religious School learn a great deal about Israel and her history and are encouraged, as they get older, to consider participating in a summer Israel opportunity. This commitment is part and parcel of who we are, and while we do not take partisan sides on particular issues, we stand with the Reform Movement in our commitment to Israel and her security.

In the next few months we have a number of events for you to learn, participate and engage in Israel-related programming, and I urge you to consider getting involved.

• On Thursday, February 9th at 7:30 pm, the Howard & Sharon Gurman Socol Family Foundation Endowment presents Yaacov Katz, Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post, as he introduces his new book, “The Weapon Wizards: How Israel Became a High-Tech Military Superpower.”

• Join Rabbi Judith Kempler every other Tuesday this spring as we explore the Jewish narratives, ideas and values that animate different attitudes toward the israeli-Palestinian Conflict and how these values shape our political understanding.

• Join me and 50 other Temple Beth Am members at the AIPAC national Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. March 26–28.

We are very proud of the Israel programming that continues at Beth Am and we look forward to more participation as we continue to explore our evolving relationship with the State of Israel and our spiritual connection to our brothers and sisters living there.


* The Barras family name was created during the Ellis Island Experience. Originally it was Bar Oz, meaning strength in Hebrew.

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