Full of hope about new Israeli Knesset (government)
I am full of hope about the new Israeli government that began this week. This government represents the values that are sacred to us at Temple Shaaray Tefila. We pride ourselves on being an inclusive and progressive community. This government has more female ministers, Jews of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, than ever before. I am inspired by Shirley Pinto the first deaf minister to ever serve in the Israeli government. She is a champion for the rights of people with disabilities for full-inclusion in Israeli society. I am cheering for my friend and colleague Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who is now the first ever Reform Rabbi to serve in the Knesset. Gilad and I taught together at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Our students were the future Reform Rabbis of America and Israel. Many times over the years, Gilad and I attended together the Woman of the Wall prayer services at the Kotel (Western Wall) supporting the right of woman to have access to Judaism’s holiest site. Gilad is blessed with a gifted intellect and the ability to articulate Reform Jewish values in the most compelling way. Knowing that Rabbi Gilad Kariv is championing the rights of Jewish pluralism fills me with hope that Israel will move forward in harmony with the spirit of our Movement for Reform Judaism.
One of the planks in the platform of the new coalition is guaranteeing equal access for egalitarian (meaning men and women together) prayer services at the Western Wall. Till now, praying together as a family; Moms, Dads and children was not been permitted at the Wall. This new government’s official founding document declares support for the rights of both Moms and Dads to be with their children during prayers services at the Wall, like on Shabbat or at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. We take this for granted at Shaaray Tefila that we can be together as a family. This is our Reform way, but for Israel this is a big step forward that we can applaud.
After two years, Yair Lapid, who is currently the alternate Prime Minister, is slated to become Prime Minster. Yair Lapid is an active member of Beit Daniel, Tel Aviv’s Reform Synagogue. All three of Yair’s sons became a Bar Mitzvah at the Reform Synagogue in Tel Aviv. Lapid is a leader of the right for Israelis to get married with Reform or Conservative rabbis. Under the previous government, by law, you could only get married by an Orthodox Rabbi, even if you are an atheist! Under the new government it is planned that Israelis will be allowed to be married by the rabbi of one’s choice. The monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox will be now become opened for people to make their own choice’s biased on their own conscience.
The new Israeli government stands for Reform and Progressive Jewish values in a more robust way than ever before.
When was the last time you went to Israel? There are so many new things to see and experience. Rabbi David Greenberg is leading a trip this October and I understand there are still some spaces available to join. I too dream of leading a trip, if we can gather-up enough excitement, in the Spring of 2022. Some of you may know that I worked as a Tour Guide in Israel for many years and was the Director of Education of all the Reform Trips to Israel from the Reform (URJ) Summer Camps (like Eisner and Crane Lake) and NFTY Groups. It would be a joy to lead our families on a journey discovering the new Israel, its people and its hopes.
I pray the new leaders of Israel will govern with Seychel (wisdom) and Menshlichkeit (decency). Please join me in prayers for hope and health for the future of the Jewish people.
Rabbi David Wilfond