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August 3, 2015 | 18th Av 5775

Let's Talk Israel

IsraelThree and a half years ago, Rabbi Eric Yoffie spoke at the 2007 Biennial about the vital importance of Reform Judaism in Israel. He clearly and passionately set the stakes, saying, "If we fail to create a significant presence in Israel, this failure casts doubt on our authenticity as a religious movement. ... [If] we do not become a force in Israel in the next generation, we will have consigned ourselves to the margins of Jewish history."

Your views, and those of your fellow congregants, may lie near Rabbis Yoffie's or they may lie somewhere else entirely. But we suggest that holding divergent views on this or any topic shouldn't keep you from discussing it in your congregation. Instead, you may choose to approach it as an opportunity to connect with your congregants, hear their perspective and include them in the process of developing a congregational response to a given stimulus.

Of course, the most productive discussions, particularly on a provocative topic, are ones rooted in knowledge. This month, the URJ is highlighting it Israel resources to help congregational leaders like you engage your congregants in discussions about Israel. You can visit and find URJ resolutions on Israel; legislative action briefs; education materials and links to URJ affiliates such as ARZA & ARZA Canada, the Israel Religious Action Center and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

In addition to preparing for heated discussions by boning up on the facts, we believe it's also important for all parties to keep two other things in mind: (1) while the "other side" holds a different point of view, that doesn't make them bad or uninformed or malicious; and (2) if you're having a discussion you are likely working toward a goal; try to find common ground so you're able to come to a resolution rather than a stalemate. Instead of letting the discussion digress into a broad exchange on a given topic, focus on your overall objective and work constructively with one another to reach it.

For further assistance with managing discussions in your congregation and building consensus:

To learn more about the Reform Movement in Israel, visit


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