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Addressing the Current Situation in Israel

A letter from Rabbi Joel Abraham, May 20, 2021

 שַׁ֭אֲלוּ שְׁל֣וֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם  

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6

Dear Temple Sholom Family,

At each Bat and Bar Mitzvah service, on behalf of our movement the Union for Reform Judaism, and our youth arm, NFTY, we present a gift certificate toward a trip to Israel, because we hope that each student will get a chance to meet and visit our family there.  We do this because we feel there is an important connection between being Jewish and the state of Israel.

Right now, we are all torn about what is going on with Israel.  At varying levels, we feel an attachment to our Jewish homeland.  Some may have lived there, some visited, or others just spent years donating to the little blue box.  We also see the loss of life - of Jews and of Palestinians - as a tragedy.  We are concerned not only with the survival of the state of Israel, but also how it is perceived and how we are perceived in the world.  Israel is portrayed as a bully, as an apartheid state.  We are ashamed and, so often, we do not know what to say or how to address such a complex situation, and so we remain silent. We may be supportive of Israel, but not of its current government. We may feel that in a time that everyone else is attacking Israel, our responsibility is to publicly be supportive, and keep our criticisms to ourselves.  We may feel that, to the contrary, speaking up about what we think Israel is doing wrong gives us more credibility to defend what Israel is doing write.  Or, sadly, we may be just so conflicted and without hope, that we do not even want to hear or think about it.

Please know that we believe that our congregation is a place where we can share our thoughts, grow our knowledge, and find comfort and support in each other.  We have been addressing the situation, as we often do, in all of our regular venues: We have prayed for the healing of those injured on either side in our Shabbat services.  At the request of one of our teachers (who is Israeli), our fifth grade students added a song for peace to the beginning of the Teacher Appreciation service they led last Friday.  On Monday morning, during our Shavuot Yizkor service, the texts we studied were from Ahad haAm, that helped us wrestle with our connection to Israel, and the modern state's connection to our religion. The subject was the theme of our Friday afternoon Welcoming Shabbat and was a topic in our Tuesday morning class. Monday evening, the Board of Trustees decided that we needed to reach out to the congregation as a whole and not only let people know that we continue to make an integration of world events a part of our regular calendar, but that we make a special place for Israel, and are always available to make more opportunities to come together.

In addition, I have listed below some statements and resources from across the Reform movement, and from our Federation.

If you are struggling, reach out.  If want to pray for peace with friends - join us at our Shabbat services or at the Cantor's Wednesday Morning Meditation. If you want to gather together for a conversation, let us know when is a good time and we can set up a space for sharing. If you need to speak privately, please call or e-mail me.  We know that we have a wide-range of feelings about Israel in our congregation, just as Israelis, across political spectrums, also have a wide-range of feelings and beliefs.  We are firmly committed to being a place where we can all come together, despite those differences, as we all hope for the same thing in the end - peace, in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, and in Ramallah and Gaza, as well.

b'shalom,

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham (he/him/his)
Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains/Fanwood, NJ
(908) 889-4900

"The more Torah, the more life" - Hillel

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Union for Reform Judaism statement -  https://urj.org/press-room/reform-jewish-leader-addresses-situation-israel 

Prayer from ARZA President, Rabbi Josh Weinberg -  https://urj.org/blog/prayer-jerusalem 

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israeli Reform and Progressive Movement, and recently elected member of K'nesset - https://www.facebook.com/RabbiGiladKarivEN 

CCAR (Reform Rabbis) statement -  https://www.ccarnet.org/central-conference-of-american-rabbis-statement-violence-in-israel/

Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest information page - https://www.jfedgmw.org/ 

Sun, June 13 2021 3 Tammuz 5781