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TCS Bulletin - We're Going to Israel

Later this month Rabbi Z and I will be flying to Israel to represent you and the American Jewish community as part of the ARZA delegation attending the World Zionist Congress. Once again I want to thank all of you who voted in the elections and allowed The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) to be the largest group in the US delegation attending the Congress.

In preparation for this event the American Zionist Movement (AZM) brought together all of the 145 US delegates for 2 days of preparation in New York. This gathering included all of the different denominational groupings and all of the various political parties; so that we gathered together as Secular, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, together with those both on the right and left of the political spectrum (with everyone in between).

As we sat together in that room it was clear that we disagreed on many issues. We had different visions for the future of the State of Israel, we differed on what policies would be best for creating a secure Israel, and we disagreed about the rights of minorities, and the subject of religious freedom. And yet the AZM brought us all together in one room because they recognized that we are at least united by a love of Israel.

In one of the presentations, Professor Arnold Eisen, the Chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, spoke to us about what it means to be a Zionist today. He suggested that the important faith uniting the Jewish people is Am Yisrael Chai – the People of Israel live. He said that we have to go on living because we are the bearers of something uniquely precious and we are not going to let them stop us. 

Professor Eisen found a way to articulate a faith that all of the delegates in the room could agree upon, despite our political and religious differences.

Sitting with those other delegates it was clear that there were some with whom I have very serious ideological differences; in some cases I would go so far as to suggest we oppose each other on vital issues of Israel and our Jewish future. But we were able to sit together and explore the points of agreement to see where we could find communality. And more importantly we were able to find a way to talk together in a way that was (on the whole) respectful.

As a Jewish community it may often be very difficult for us to speak with one voice, but we have to find a way to listen to each other in a way that does not seek to silence anyone who disagrees with our perspective or point of view. Historically there have always been disagreements and differences of opinion within the Jewish community, but we have always flourished the most when we have allowed the different voices to be heard in a respectful way. It doesn’t mean that we have to agree about everything, but it does mean that we should at least allow others to speak and to listen to what they have to say.

Having attended the two previous World Zionist Congresses unfortunately respect is not a word that I would use to describe this storied gathering. I hope that this time it will be different, and I know that with the American Zionist Movement bringing all of the groupings together they have at least done their bit to try and encourage better relations and dialogue within our Jewish community.

Only when we can come together in support of one another, even if we are not in agreement, can we truly assert Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel lives, and then we won’t only be living, but we will be flourishing. 

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
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