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On July 27th, a group Reform Rabbis from throughout North America representing the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) plan to begin a mission to Israel in an expression of solidarity and support.
Says Rabbi Richard Block, senior rabbi of the Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio, who is president of the CCAR and a leader of the trip,
We know that the timing of this mission may not be convenient. But we also know this: Our presence in Israel, at this critical juncture, as North American Reform Rabbis, especially our interaction with some of those most directly impacted by recent events, will demonstrate more eloquently to the people of Israel than anything else we could say or do that they are not alone in this struggle, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis stands with the State of Israel and all its citizens in good times and bad.
This group of Reform Movement leaders plans to meet with influential members of the Knesset, senior government officials, and local leaders to discuss pressing issues related to the conflict with Gaza. CCAR Chief Executive Rabbi Steven A. Fox says of the trip,
Providing support for the State of Israel at this difficult time is critical to our organizational mission. This trip will also enable us to bring new insights and understanding home to the members of our communities here in North America.
Delegates will engage in dialogue with Col. (Ret.) Miri Eisin, former advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Media; Dr. Tali Levanon, the director of Sderot's Mental Health Center; Prof. Moshe Halbertal, Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Noa Sattath Director and Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center; representatives of Tag Meir, a coalition of organizations working on issues of tolerance and coexistence, and local colleagues. The delegation will pay special visits to Reform communities in Southern Israel.
These rabbis seek to gain insight on the situation in order to help the congregations and organizations they lead in North America understand the complexities of the current situation. If the security situation permits, they will visit Moshav Netiv Ha'asarah and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, located on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, for insight into the current conflict and to meet those living under the everyday threat of violence. The rabbis will visit the border city of Sderot, a city that has been under the constant barrage of rocket attacks since 2001. The Sderot city tour will include seeing protected playgrounds and schools and the bomb shelter residential project - the first of its kind in the world.
The rabbis will also engage in firsthand support work in a number of ways. Through the Lone Soldier Center, they will deliver care packages of toiletries, energy bars, and other items that the soldiers have requested. They will also shop for the needy as part of a program run by Keren B'Kavod, the humanitarian aid program run by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Religious Action Center of emergency assistance for families in the Western Negev.
Rabbi Hara Person, publisher and director of the CCAR Press and director of strategic communications for the CCAR, who is one of the leaders of the trip, explains,
As Reform Rabbis, we want to show our support for our friends, family, and colleagues in Israel, and to gain a more nuanced sense of the situation than we can glean from North America.