Vancouver in Jerusalem

In the past few days I have had the good fortune of connecting with our YVR-Israel partnerships. 

On Shabbat, I spent Friday night visiting our new sister congregation in Tsur Hadassah. I had coffee with their wonderful rabbi, Stacey Blank, a few weeks ago and she invited me to come visit for Kabbalat Shabbat. 

Tsur Hadassah is a lovely town, about a 30 minute drive from Jerusalem. The Reform congregation has been there for many years and has a significant presence in the community. They have a small building that was provided by government funding (which is a major political victory for a Reform congregation) and regular Shabbat services, adult education and an active Noar Telem youth group.  
Before the service, Rabbi Stacey invited me to join her on a survey walk with about a dozen others through the nature park right next to the synagogue. A number of Tsur Hadassah residents (including many members of the congregation) have begun to organize themselves to think about its future use for education, conservation, and community benefit. 

The first kalaniyot (anemones) appear

 
It was a beautiful walk in nature, to be certain. But also interesting to see how the rabbi and the congregation played a role in these broader communal efforts. 

The Kabbalat Shabbat service was very nice, with an incredibly warm and welcoming congregation. I even had the honor of giving the Drash (in Hebrew, no less!)

I am very pleased that our two congregations have created our new partnership. They are a community that really value relationships and I think that our  Temple Sholom community will form wonderful connections with them. Next time you are in Israel, be sure to visit. Their families would love to host you for Shabbat dinner!

Earlier this week, I joined Cathy Lowenstein, Jenn Shecter, and Lissa Weinberger for two days of interviews with candidates for the upcoming cohort of ShinShinim in Vancouver. We have been blessed this year with the presence of our Shinshinit, Ophir, in our congregation. 

 

At the Jewish Agency in Kiriyat Moriah

 
It was inspiring to meet with so many terrific candidates this week. We are still in the process of finding out our match, but I know from our meetings that whomever we match with will bring a dynamic connection to Israel to our community. 

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Israel is blossoming and mourning

There is always excitement in Israel at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Shevat. Children, especially, prepare for the mid-month holiday of Tu BiShevat.  It’s fun to see this relatively minor holiday getting prime retail space at the supermarkets and even in the shopping mall:

tu bishevat grocery

The display at the entrance to the Supersol in Talpiot

tu bishevat mall

A pop up stand in the middle of the Hadar Mall

The most popular and well-known children’s song about Tu BiShevat – Hashkediyah Porachat – describes the blossoming of the almond trees that we first start to see around Tu BiShevat.  Sure enough, the trees and plants are beginning to blossom.  The past few days in Jerusalem have been gloriously sunny and the colours have begun to come out all over the city.

The winds have come in strong today and the winter temperatures have returned. Sadness as well has descended upon Israel, as yet another Israeli was stabbed to death by a terrorist.  Dafna Meir, a mother of 6 children, was killed in her home in front of her children.  She was a nurse at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva.

As I am writing this, I just received an alert on my phone that another woman, pregnant and in her 30s was stabbed as well.

Both of these women live in settlements in the West Bank.  There is complexity, to be certain, about the status of the settlements.  But there can be no moral equivalency made in the face of the brutal murder of a mother in her home in front of her children.  This violence is barbaric and inexcusable.

Our first two weeks here were accompanied by a relative lull in the violence. I pray that quiet returns soon.

 

The First Shabbat

Shabbat in Jerusalem is unlike Shabbat in any other place on earth.  One of the reasons that we chose Jerusalem over Tel Aviv or Haifa as our sabbatical location was because we wanted to give our children the experience of Jerusalem Shabbatot. Everything feels different in the city on Shabbat – there is very little traffic, the stores are shuttered, and nobody is rushing.  We wanted them to know that the communal feeling of Shabbat can be achieved not only at Jewish summer camp, but in an all encompassing way in this sacred city.

For our first Shabbat we began with a wonderful Shabbat dinner at the home of friends from my student days at Hebrew University in the late 90s.  It is terrific each time I come back to Israel to connect with them and for us to encounter one another as our families are growing.

We spent Shabbat morning at the Shira Hadasha minyan, which is just around the corner from our apartment.  Shira Hadasha is an orthodox congregation that pushes the boundaries to allow as much female participation and leadership as is halachically possible.  They call themselves an “orthodox-feminist” minyan.  There is a mechitza (divider), but it is slid open whenever daveninig is suspended for announcements, a d’var torah, etc. Women lead the brachot for an aliyah, a woman was the gabai’it, and a woman read the haftarah.  While I am myself a strong advocate for egalitarian Judaism, I do applaud the leaders of this minyan for their courage in taking these steps within an orthodox framework.

When Israelis from outside Jerusalem talk about the city, they often wince at the perception of it being an ultra-orthodox stranglehold.  There is certainly a strong hareidi presence in the city and religious coercion issues that are annoying at best and infuriating at worst.  But there are also many who are working to bring progressive Jewish life into Jerusalem (like the Shira Hadasha minyan) and those who are trying to make sure that Jerusalem is a city that can be a home for Jews of every persuasion.

As we walked around on Shabbat afternoon, we stumbled upon the new-ish Tachana HaRishona – The “First Station,” which is an old railroad station that has been transformed into a terrific open market with restaurants, shops, a performance stage, and children’s attractions.  It was full of people enjoying Shabbat in their own way.  I hadn’t expected this kind of a secular Shabbat scene in Jerusalem and I was really glad to see that the city had made room for people of all types of observance to enjoy Shabbat.

Below is a video of a flash dance mob at the Tachana HaRishona from a few weeks ago.  Enjoy!