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Get Engaged (with Israel) at Biennial

Get Engaged (with Israel) at Biennial

With everything happening in the Middle East, now is a critical time to support, learn about, struggle with and connect to Israel. The current wave of violence looks unlikely to subside, representatives of our Movement have just returned from the World Zionist Congress with victories for pluralism and democracy and the P5+1 are preparing to implement a nuclear deal with Iran. These recent events, along with Reform Judaism’s long-standing commitment to Israel, compel us to deeply engage with the many facets of Israeli society and consider our role in ensuring Israel’s future as a secure, pluralist and democratic state.

The URJ Biennial, November 4-8 in Orlando, will offer us opportunities to learn about and reflect upon these topics. Biennial will offer many workshops and other sessions where participants will engage with Members of Knesset, Israeli luminaries and Reform Jewish leaders on the pressing issues facing Israel. Even those who cannot attend will be able to view the two plenary sessions addressing Israel online.

Here are a few of the Israel-related sessions Biennial will feature next week:

Wednesday Evening Plenary – November 4, 8:30-10:00 PM in Cypress 2 and 3

Wednesday’s plenary will include a tribute to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his assassination. Charles Bronfman will also receive the Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award on behalf of Taglit-Birthright Israel, which is being recognized for bringing over 500,000 participants on transformative trips to Israel over the past 15 years.

Friday Morning Plenary – November 6, 8:45-10:15 AM in Cypress 2 and 3

The plenary on Friday morning will offer an even deeper dive into Israel’s politics, society and relationship with American Jewry. Award-winning New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor will moderate a panel with MK Stav Shaffir, a leader of the 2011 social justice protests in Tel Aviv who went on to become the youngest Member of Knesset, Ari Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz and the author of My Promised Land and URJ President Emeritus Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

Both plenary sessions will be live streamed on the Biennial webpage.

Strengthening Your Congregation's Israel Connections – Wednesday, November 4, 1:30-2:45 PM in Grand 10

A stellar team of congregational leaders and staff from ARZA, Hillel and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism will discuss ways to connect congregations with Israel. This will include not only congregational trips to Israel, but also programming for before and after trips and innovative ideas for Israel engagement that do not require crossing an ocean.

Praying for Israel: Tefilla L’shlom HaMedina in Our Time – Thursday, November 5, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM in Chicago

Reform Jewish Educator Lesley Litman of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion will facilitate the study and discussion of a prayer for peace in the State of Israel, looking at multiple versions of the prayer and grappling with the question of how we pray for Israel in North America.

Diversity in the Jewish State: Deepening American Jewish Connection to a Multifaceted Israel – Thursday, November 5, 3:45-5:00 PM in Grand 4

Mohammed Darwashe of Givat Haviva, Rabbi Arnold Gluck of Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ and Michal Steinman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli-Arab Issues will lead this workshop. It will focus on how Israel is addressing disparities between its Jewish and Arab populations and how internal domestic challenges complicate the relationship American Jews have with Israel.

A Tale of Love and Darkness in Israel – Friday, November 6, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM in Crystal M

Israel Religious Action Center Director Rabbi Noa Sattath will discuss ways to fight for a more just Israeli society. She will speak about the work of IRAC, which advocates for religious pluralism, democracy, human rights and social justice in Israel every day.

Speaking of Israel: Commitment, Concern, and Criticism – Friday, November 6, 2:15-3:30 PM in Grand 11

How do we welcome a diversity of views on Israel while still maintaining consensus and unity as progressive Jews? Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman of Boca Raton, FL and URJ Consultant for Israel Engagement Dr. Joshua Yarden will lead this workshop, addressing the wide range of opinions on Israel and providing ways to encourage open, honest and respectful discourse.

For online resources, please visit the RAC’s issue pages on Iran and Israel.

Jacob Kraus is the campaign organizer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leading the Reform Movement’s Urgency of Now campaigns for criminal justice reform and immigrant justice. Based at the Union for Reform Judaism offices in New York City, Jacob grew up in Cincinnati, OH, where his family is affiliated with Rockdale Temple. He is a 2015 graduate of Macalester College.

Jacob Kraus

Published: 10/28/2015