Shalom WJC Family,
This past Yom Haatzmaut I wrote a letter to the congregation about a newly established Task Force that was exploring the kinds of conversations WJC would like to have about Israel. The Task Force’s work has continued and I am truly grateful to the participants for their efforts, along with input from several of you in response to that message. I’d like to take the opportunity of my weekly message to update you about our efforts and about the “WJC Talks Israel” programming and communications we are launching as a result. These programs are designed to encourage a robust conversation around Israel’s historical, religious, and cultural significance. They will not be addressing political topics of either internal Israeli politics or the political relationship between Israel and the United States (if anyone would like to speak with me about either personally, of course, I am available).
The first activity we are launching in the “WJC Talks Israel” progamming is, a virtual book group on Yossi Klein HaLevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. The book is literally (and literarily) a series of ten letters from Klein HaLevi to an imagined Palestinian neighbor (imagined based on years of extensive work across borders and religions in the Palestinian community). Each letter highlights a different theme and as a whole they provide a remarkable window into Jewish and Israeli history and religion, with an appreciation for the immense diversity of culture, religion and experience. Each Thursday night starting on December 1st I will host the book group where we will focus on one letter. Discussion of this important work will provide an ideal platform for talking about Israel from the desired perspectives without shying away from difficult issues. Books are available for free at the WJC office (first come first served) – get more information by clicking here.
The series will run for 10 weeks, with a break in the series for the two Thursdays I will be in Israel with our (much postponed) WJC Family Mission to Israel. I will be posting about the trip on my personal Facebook page as well as on the Westchester Jewish Center Facebook page. So, follow the trip as the trip participants and I reflect on life on the ground in Israel, what we are feeling as we experience Hanukkah lights, holy sites, and all kinds of Israeli culture. We will also be sharing our reflections in email communications and on the website, so stay tuned for the exact mechanisms available to “travel with us.”
Also, we are still committed to more and varied synagogue trips to Israel. The next proposed trip is an Israel experience focusing on “Outdoors and Culinary Experiences” (two of my favorite kinds of culture!)This trip would be geared more towards people who have been to Israel before. This trip is in the very early stages of planning and we are gauging interest and seeking input from possible participants (no commitment). If you might be interested in the “Outdoors and Culinary Experiences” trip, please let me know.
The Task Force is also working on a series of educational and entertaining speakers and performers from Israel. The plans are all preliminary, but there are some exciting guests coming our way, so please keep your eyes peeled for information about visits from prominent Israeli journalist/bloggers, comedian/educators and American experts on AntiZionism/Antisemitism. These events are all in process and will be advertised soon. Many of these speakers were recommended to us by members of the congregation over the last few months. If you have additional ideas about who we might bring, please let me or Sarene Shanus (the Task Force chair) know, or any of our other task force members: our clergy, Linda Alpert, Jeff Lavine, Julie Musicus, Jacques Steinberg, Jill Miller and Sam Colin.
We are looking forward to sharing a beautiful Shabbat together. Friday evening services begin at 4:15 (I know! The sun is definitely on winter time.) Then Saturday morning we will have our regular weekly service led by Rabbi Dalton in the sanctuary, as well as our monthly Simple & Soulful contemporary service with Cantor Goldberg and me. Then we will have our regular mincha/maariv service on Saturday at 4:15pm, including a shiur (short teaching) presented by Rabbi Dalton. At the same time, we will be celebrating the bat mitzvah of Eden Paul – mazal tov to Eden and her parents Rustin and Stacey.
See you in shul,