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Eight years ago, Karin Raveh from Even Yehuda, Israel, was left frustrated. Three years earlier, the Conservative congregation in the town closed its doors, and since then, a progressive Jewish presence was nowhere to be found in the central Israeli town.
Karin and her friends turned to the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s headquarter offices requesting a response to their need for an egalitarian Yom Kippur service. Little did the group know, they were preceding 2020 u’Faratztah community development initiative by just one year. (The initiative gets its name from a verse in the Book of Genesis: “And thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south.”)
Now, Kehillat HaShachar in Even Yehuda, which began with 10 dedicated families, runs many programs – nine this September alone! Each year, the story of Even Yehuda brings Israelis from across the country to turn to the IMPJ, as more and more people realize that they, too, want a meaningful Jewish experience during the High Holidays.
Eight years later, the IMPJ prides itself on its 47 Reform congregations located across the country, from the Galillee in the North to the Arava desert in the south. More than 25 of these congregations have been established in just the past seven years, many of them during the High Holiday season.
This year, three new Reform congregations: one in Emek HaYarden, another in Ramat HaNegev, and a Russian-speaking congregation in Be’er Sheva. As the IMPJ continues to “spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south”, more and more Israelis are “voting with their feet” and proving that there is more than one way to be Jewish in Israel.
U’beshofar Gadol Itaka, “in a great shofar it shall sound”: This Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, 65 Israeli cities, towns, moshavim, and kibbutzim ring in the new year with Reform services and celebrations. In so doing, they are blowing the shofar of Jewish renewal in Israel.