No matter where you are in your Jewish journey, creating a relationship with the state of Israel can be challenging, but it is also vital to your journey and necessary in forming your Jewish identity.
Our goal in this edition of TalkingOutreach is to encourage each Jewish home to take a fresh look at their connection to Israel. As we talk about Israel, it is important to acknowledge the strong feelings involved. The concept of Jewish peoplehood may be baffling. For those who celebrate Jewish peoplehood and their relationship to Israel, enjoy this issue, share it with friends. For those who are still finding a way to relate to Israel, it is important to know that you are not alone. Struggle with it, think about it and share and discuss this issue of TalkingOutreach with us and with your community.
Here are a few ideas to help you understand Israel:
Stephanie Fink Outreach Specialist Time Zone: Central 212.452.6792, T-Th firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel and the American Jew
By Vicky Farhi, URJ Outreach Specialist
I always knew I would visit Israel. I wasn't sure when, but I knew I would get there.
Many years passed until I was able to visit Israel; my first trip occurred only six years ago. It was right after the disengagement from Gaza, and friends suggested it might be dangerous. But I knew that this was the time to go, so there I was on a standard ten-day beginners' congregational trip. I figured I would see Israel, learn something and have a great time shopping. (Not necessarily in that order!)
Israel was amazing. The first days of the trip were exhausting a lot of walking in extreme heat combined with many interesting lectures. I always knew the Zionist narrative, but being in the place it actually happened made it come alive. Learning about the connection between ancient Israel and the modern state of Israel was fascinating. Meeting the people and experiencing the culture made me want to do and try more. And the more I learned, the more I felt a connection to Israel.
Read more about Vicky's Jewish journey in Israel and why people are surprised by her reaction, and share your experiences on the RJ.org blog.
ARZA Israel Program Guide
By Rabbi Victor Appell, URJ Marketing, Outreach and New Communities Specialist
We all have a relationship with Israel. Whether it is a faraway place on a map or an emotional homeland, we all have a connection. This connection often grows and changes over time. For families with a non-Jewish member or a Jew-by-choice, this relationship may be a newer one. As parents, we want to encourage our children to explore their own relationship with Israel, but we may not feel that we have the ability to help them. What better way to learn more about the land of Israel than as a family? ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, created a program guide to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Differences and Dilemmas: Exploring our Connections to Israel is a wonderful program for your congregation. It can be used in either a religious school or family education setting and is a great for way students and families to learn together about the modern state and explore their connections.
The Soundtrack of Our Jewish Lives: Israeli Music
By Stephanie Fink, URJ Outreach Specialist
Another great way to connect to Israel is to delve deeper into Israeli arts and culture. We wrote recently about the power of Jewish music in shaping Jewish identity. Make sure that your collection (your personal collection as well as your synagogue library collection) includes Israeli music, both folk and contemporary. Naomi Shemer, of blessed memory, wrote many of the melodies that make up the soundtrack for the newborn state of Israel, and Arik Einstein recorded a three-CD set called "Good Old Eretz Yisrael." Contemporary artists provide a window into Israeli culture. Some of my personal favorites include Achinoam Nini (Noa), Gaya, David Broza and the Idan Raichel Project. One way to find new names of artists or albums is to ask any Israelis in your community, such as a shaliach/shlicha, Israeli camp staff or Israeli study abroad students, for some of their favorite recommendations. Avigail Cohen and Sarit Hadad are among today's more popular artists. Another way to find new favorites is to listen to some selections for yourself. You can find Israeli artists' videos on YouTube, and you can listen to excerpts from CDs before you buy them at Israel-music.com.
Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification Registration is Now Open
The Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification, otherwise known as Conversion Fellows, will be held July 7-10 as part of the URJ Summer Learning Institute in Princeton, NJ. Now in its eleventh year, Conversion Fellows will prepare you to work in partnership with your rabbi as you counsel, support and welcome prospective Jews into your community. You'll train with HUC-JIR faculty members, congregational rabbis and URJ specialists. This exceptional program will not be held again until 2013, so don't miss this opportunity to study, pray and learn skills and techniques that will help your congregation excel in providing a warm and supportive environment for those on the path to Judaism.
For more information, contact your Outreach Specialists or visit urj.org/summer for details. Partial scholarships are available.
The 2011 Summer Learning Institute includes Adult Kallah, Had'rachah and the Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification.
Belin Outreach & Membership Awards
The Belin Outreach Awards have been designed to encourage and honor Reform synagogues with outstanding Outreach and Membership programs that actively welcome and integrate those new to Judaism. Awards of $1,000 each will be made to ten congregations at the URJ North American Biennial in National Harbor, MD, December 14-18, 2011, and the Awards Committee will designate at least two of these awards for small congregations (under 250 member units). Award-winning programs will be included in The Outreach and Membership Idea Book, a program guide for congregations. A limited number of honorable mentions will also be named at the discretion of the Awards Committee and included in the Idea Book Volume IV.