“This was a painful, surprising betrayal by a culture on which I had pinned all of my hopes, to which I had devoted all of my admiration, my heartfelt ardor.”
- Albert Memmi, A Pillar of Salt read more »
Softly, softly! Let’s be silent!
Graves are growing here
- Shmerl Kaczerginsky, Vilna Ghetto April 1943
“Where are you from?” the Chabad Lubavitcher asks me as he wraps the phylacteries around my arm. He hands me a pink sheet with the prayers to do tefillen. read more »
“New Jersey,” I say. Behind us is the Western Wall. It is a cold and rainy day and the Wall is mostly bare and empty of anyone besides my Birthright group. Soggy paper prayers collect in tangled piles at the base of the Wall.
“New Jersey!” he says, his smile growing underneath his scraggly black beard. “Cherry Hill?”
Living more than 5,000 miles away and following the lives of Israelis through the lens of the media gives us a two-dimensional view of life in that very contentious part of the world. read more »
Just over a week ago, Carl Sheingold, JRF’s executive vice president, and I returned from 10 days in Israel, where we were able to gather a much fuller understanding of both the politics and lives of our Israeli brethren.
On February 14, members from two JRF congregations in New England set out on a joint trip to Israel. The trip ends on February 25. Each congregation has set up a blog to report on the trip: Temple Hillel Bnai Torah from Newton, Massachusetts and Agudas Achim from Atleboro, Massachusetts.
The engines roar as the plane cuts through the clear sky, but I have ceased listening to these engines; my ears have adapted and now I see only the clear night and the Atlantic peaking through from beneath the clouds. read more »
The Israeli sitting to my right pushes his arm into mine as he rolls, grumbling, in his sleep. His head is shaved and it tosses and turns with his body. I pull my arm closer to my side and push my head back into the small airline pillow that gruffly scratches the base of my neck.
A national group of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy and leaders of religious organizations met today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The group, under the banner of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, is urging our government to take a more consistent, high-level stand regarding peacemaking in the Middle East. Signatories of a joint statement issued by the group include JRF Executive Vice President, Carl A. Sheingold and RRA past president Rabbi Amy Small--a member of the group’s steering committee, along with leaders from the Conservative movement and top Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim clerics.
A man in a distant field, no hearthfires near,
will hide a fresh brand in his bed of embers
to keep a spark alive for the next day
- Homer, The Odyssey
The local residents said that monuments had frequently been set over their graves, but they were all destroyed at night; however, I do not know whether this is true.
- Anonymous Disciple of the Rabbi Obadiah, 14951
There is something about the land that possesses. We are reminded of this constantly in Scripture—we think of lands claimed on divine promise. There is exile too; that soon-taboo word, “Diaspora,” an entire history of not-possessing. read more »
There are the spiritual exiles, the sudden ascensions into the other realm—Mohammed rising from the ruin of the Temple Mount. Words are tied to this land. To go to Israel to live is to make “Aliyah,” to “rise up.” A word for “east” in Hebrew also alludes to “past,” (kedma/yamei kedem) an allusion to the direction of origin and the home of Abraham. We face east when praying, facing towards Jerusalem, towards return, towards the past. There is the recent past: 1948 Independence, wars: ’56, ’67, ’73—the occupancy of Lebanon, the recent Intafada, the Gaza pull-out. The land is overwhelmed with boundaries—with border fences, ancient and modern walls, check-points, mountains, canyons, deserts.
As soon as I stepped off the plane in Tel Aviv, I was disoriented. The escalators in one part of the airport reminded me of pictures I had seen of the Western Wall. The hand-dryer in the men’s bathroom was made in Iowa. Outside, strung across the grass there was a Nokia ad, proclaiming, “We connect people.” “Welcome home,” was the first words I heard from an Israeli. read more »
A Birthright Israel trip is a disorienting thing.
10 installments in response to a December, 2005 Birthright Israel trip.
Joe Getzoff is a 23-old recent grad of Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA) where he majored in English and Religion. In January, 2006 Joe participated in a Birthright Israel trip. He is currently the Receptionist/Administrative Assistant here at the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. read more »
Birthright Israel (taglit in Hebrew) was launched in 2000 with impetus and funding from Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinheart. Its main goal is to get young Jews to visit Israel at no cost to the participants. The trips are ten days long. Birthright has sent over 100,000 young Jews to Israel at a cost of more than $250 million to the program. Quite a feat!