Israel moves to front of the community agenda
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Israel moves to front of the community agenda

This week, rabbis all over the area used one of their High Holy Day sermons to talk about Israel — how to strengthen the America-Israel connection, educate our children about that country, and integrate the reality of Israel into the life of the congregation. For some, these sermons kicked off the celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary, which will be celebrated throughout the community all year.

While the mood of most Israel@60 events will be upbeat, many rabbis said they planned to acknowledge more serious concerns as well. "It’s a complex anniversary and needs to be acknowledged as one," said Jarah Greenfield, student rabbi of Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood and a board member of the Israel-based group, Rabbis for Human Rights, which is developing social-justice materials for the year-long celebration.

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah saw the anniversary as an opportunity to talk about hope, specifically "what the concept of hope means to both Israel and to American Jews in today’s complicated world."

Below is a sampling of Israel@60 activities scheduled for 5768. The Jewish Standard will provide updates as information becomes available.

Jewish communal organizations have scheduled a wide variety of events, beginning this month. The YM-YWHA of North Jersey in Wayne will host a multi-media presentation on Sunday, Sept. 30, entitled, "Hope for Peace in the Middle East: Understanding Israel," highlighting the Mideast conflict from a Jewish perspective.

The Y will also co-sponsor programs with area synagogues and the Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland, and will partner with the YJCC in Washington Township and the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly to run special events at their respective campuses. Wayne Y activities will target Israeli history and culture — including cooking classes, book discussions, tree planting, and a simulated Israeli Army boot camp.

In November, the Bergen County YJCC will launch its Israel programming, hosting high school dancers from Nahariya. During their weeklong visit, the dancers will offer workshops and New York theater performances and will visit local high schools. The YJCC’s third annual birthday party for Israel will be held on May 8.

Israeli culture will be highlighted at the JCC on the Palisades as part of its celebration, including a retrospective film series, multicultural children’s art exhibit, and performances by the Israeli band Kobi Oz & Teapacks and various solo artists.

Trips to Israel — a proven way to deepen personal connections to the Jewish state — are also being planned. The Bergen YJCC’s annual Israel Family Experience has scheduled its 17th trip for March, and Temple Emanu-El in Closter will send Rabbi David Kirshner, Cantor Israel Singer, and a shul contingent on a Men’s Poland-Israel Mission in early May. Members of Temple Sholom in River Edge, Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, and United Synagogue of Hoboken have scheduled summer trips.

Hebrew schools throughout the region will also sharpen their Israel connections. Temples Sholom (River Edge), Beth Or (Washington Township), Emanuel of the Pascack Valley (Woodcliff Lake), and the Jewish Community Center of Paramus are launching a year-long educational venture — the Kehillah Partnership — with the YJCC, targeting sixth-grade students. Temple Emanu-El’s students will participate in the synagogue’s "30 Days of Celebration" throughout the month of Iyar (May-June), and a children’s pen pal program is planned at the Reconstructionist synagogue in Maywood.

Temple Sholom’s fifth- and sixth-grade students will also participate in School to School, a cross-cultural program linking them with children in Nahariya. The program will culminate in a May teleconference.

Also throughout the year, organizations all over the area will host lecturers on Israeli politics, culture, and history. On Nov. 11, Israeli Ambassador Asher Naim will speak at the Jewish Community Center of Bayonne. Naim was instrumental in carrying out Operation Solomon, which brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel. On Dec. ‘, Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser, one of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, will speak at Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes.

While the JCCP plans to have a major speaker, Rabbi Arthur Weiner, religious leader of that congregation and head of the Bergen County Jewish Learning Project, was impressed by the speech in January by Dr. Arnold Eisen, new chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Eisen will speak at the Bergen YJCC on "Israel at 60 and Us: The Meaning of Zionism for the Contemporary American Jew." Three weeks of classes will follow, led by area rabbis, studying themes raised in Eisen’s lecture.

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