REFORM MOVEMENT TO SPONSOR EIGHT SOLIDARITY MISSIONS TO ISRAEL IN 2003-2004
(October 2002) --The Reform Movement is sponsoring eight week-long Solidarity Missions to Israel over the next 18 months. Designed to appeal to a variety of ages and interests, including NFTY alumni and social activists, the missions will begin leaving in February 2003..
The missions, sponsored jointly by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America, are designed give leaders and congregants of North American Reform synagogues the chance to involve themselves in the lives of Israel and her people and gain a better understanding of the daily challenges they face.
"We need to send a message of solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Israel," said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. "They need to know that we stand with them in defeating the fanatics who endanger their very existence. They need to hear that our embrace of Israel is heartfelt and eternal because we are lovers of Zion in the old-fashioned way."
Noting that Israel is the "soul of the Jewish people," Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Executive Director of ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America, said, "There is an urgent priority to renew a commitment to Zionist values--the centrality of Jewish peoplehood with Israel at its religious and historical center. We must not give in to our fears. We must return to Zion."
The trips will include visits to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other communities throughout the Jewish state, where mission participants will visit Reform/Progressive institutions and delve into the issues surrounding Israel's current security crisis. While in Israel, participants will receive military briefings from senior IDF officers, visit the Knesset and meet with MKs and other political leaders, talk with leading Israeli academics and American journalists on the campus of Hebrew University, tour the Seam Line Control Headquarters, visit Israeli Reform congregations and schools, and celebrate a special Shabbat in Jerusalem. In addition, they will spend one night at a kibbutz in the Galilee. Special emphasis will be placed on visiting the countryside and reaching out to average Israelis to express solidarity.
A senior staff member of the UAHC or one of its affiliates will lead each mission. While each is open to all, some are designed to appeal to particular groups, as follows:
February 1-9, 2003: Rabbi Dan Freelander, UAHC Vice President
March 8-16, 2003: Dru Greenwood, director, Outreach and Synagogue Communities, UAHC: tailored to those who are Jews by-choice
June 14-22: Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of ARZA/WORLD UNION, NA, and Rabbi Uri Regev, Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
July 19-27: Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, with a special emphasis on social action and social justice
December 27, 2003-January 4, 2004: Rabbi Allan Smith, former director, UAHC Youth Division: for alumni of NFTY
February 21-29, 2004: Al Vorspan, UAHC vice president emeritus
March 20-28, 2004: Rabbi Lennard Thal, UAHC senior vice president
May 8-16, 2003: Ellen Rosenberg, executive director, Women of Reform Judaism
The missions will be operated by ARZA World Travel with the support of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. UAHC services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.