At a Time of Crisis in Israel

July 11, 2014 - From Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

Dear Friends,

Having just returned from Israel right before this crisis exploded, I can tell you that during our travels throughout the Holy Land in mid-June on the 4th Temple Emanu-El Pilgrimage it was as beautiful and peaceful as I have seen Israel in a long time. It is an incredibly vibrant, wonderful place.

And now, things are shocking and terrible.

Read more: At a Time of Crisis in Israel

2014 Israel Pilgrimage Photos

2014 Israel Pilgrimage

Report #11 - The Final One

June 22, 2014 - The Final One: Modi'in, a new place and an Amichai story

For our final day in Israel we had a special experience planned. Congregation Yozma in the growing Israeli city of Modi'in, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, has a fabulous program with a local home for developmentally challenged children and young adults. They share Shabbat weekly with them, have a tutoring program for them (and others in the community), and work with them and prepare them for bar and bat mitzvah, which the children experience at the Kotel followed by a party at Yozma. There is a great deal of peer-to-peer teaching and sharing, and because of the yozma, the initiative of a lay leader, Yuval Newman, their leadership and their rabbinic team of Kineret Shiryon and Nir Barkin, and Executive Director Eyal Ronder, they have created a wonderful model for Reform Jewish living in Israel.

Read more: Report #11 - The Final One

Report #10 - Holy Places

June 21, 2014 - Holy Places and the Holiest Place

I have often written about Shabbat in Jerusalem, that day of peace and tranquility in a city better known for other things. There is a magical calm when you begin walking through the city on the way to services, with few if any cars on the streets, a cool, calm air, the scent of pine unmingled with car exhaust, and a general sense of the experience of a true day of holiness and rest. I always lead a group on an exploration of Shabbat morning services at various synagogues of many different Jewish ethnic traditions, and it is always an interesting and unique experience. Nowhere else on earth can you participate in Shabbat services using the authentic melodies and traditional prayerbooks and ritual practices of Jews from literally hundreds of different countries, and a number of beautiful and subtly varying cultures.

Read more: Report #10 - Holy Places

Report #9 - Yad Vashem & Shabbat

June 20, 2014 - Yad Vashem, Machanei Yehudah, and Shabbat in the Train Station and at Kol Haneshama

It may be impossible for an American who has not been to Israel to grasp the importance of the Shoah, the Holocaust, to the Israeli psyche. While Holocaust education has made huge strides in America, in Israel it means something entirely more immediate and real. Israelis grow up knowing not only the importance of the destruction of European Jewry, but also understanding fully that the intention of the Nazis during World War II, and the Arab armies afterwards, was the genocidal annihilation of the Jewish population of Israel. This was not a theoretical danger but a very real one. And most Israelis lost close relatives, and most of their extended families, to the Nazis.

When the 2-minute long siren goes off on Yom HaShoah across the whole of Israel there is no doubt that Israelis feel the relevance of the Holocaust more profoundly than their American cousins do.

Read more: Report #9 - Yad Vashem & Shabbat

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