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April 19, 2014 | 19th Nisan 5774
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Israel Mitzvah Corps

EIGHTEEN REFORM JEWS FROM ACROSS NORTH AMERICA
TRAVELING TO ISRAEL FOR TEN DAYS OF WORK AND STUDY

Eighteen Reform Jews from across North America will travel to Israel on Sunday, July 3 to participate in ten days’ worth of social justice service learning as part of Tzevet Mitzvot: Israel Mitzvah Corps. Sponsored by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the ten-day trip will engage participants with hands-on projects, study and discussion with religious and political leaders, and the hospitality of Israeli Reform Jews.

Social justice has always been a cornerstone of the Reform Movement. “As Reform Jews, we are driven by our vision of a world redeemed by justice, mercy, and peace, and our role in making that a reality,” said Evely Laser Shlensky, leader of the mission.

Rabbi Marla Feldman, director of the Commission on Social Action and Shlensky’s co-leader, said, “This journey will integrate our devotion to the State of Israel with our wishes for justice and peace in our homeland. We want to understand more about Israeli society, its hopes, its hardships, and its efforts to enact our noblest visions. And we want to be part of those efforts.”

During the trip, participants will work on a variety of projects throughout the land of Israel. In Tel Aviv, they will explore the plight of Israel’s foreign workers at the Workers’ Hotline; in Jaffa, they will learn about the realms in which the Israeli Reform Movement is involved in social action and awareness; outside Jerusalem, they will discuss the ramifications of Israel’s security fence with members of Rabbis for Human Rights; and inside the capital, they will meet with a member of the Knesset to talk about social justice, and visit Yad Lakashish Project, a multifaceted workshop for senior citizens and the disabled.

The eighteen Reform Jews on the trip are eagerly anticipating these activities.

“I hope I will be able to bring back an important expanded vision for our congregation—the integration of a more active social action partnership with Israel,” said Diane Kabat of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles.

Sheryl Stein of Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa, FL, said, “Israel has always been an ideal in my imagination, and I am looking forward to view the realities of social programs there.”

Participants will also gain an up-close, in-depth look at Israel’s burgeoning Reform community. They will celebrate Shabbat at a Reform congregation in Jerusalem, and join the leaders and members of Congregation Or Hadash in Haifa to work on a tikkun olam project.

Iri Kassel, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, will study Torah with the participants; Rabbi Maya Leibovich of Congregation Mevasseret Zion will show them how immigrants from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere are absorbed into Israeli life; and Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, will lead them on a social action project.

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The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly 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. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.

 
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