As supporters of the YES Fund, it was wonderful to get to see first-hand just how WRJ changes lives through its philanthropic efforts. The WRJ Women’s Journey to Israel gave each of us a great opportunity to see our work in action. We began by meeting with several female Rabbis who have benefited from YES Fund Grants while attending Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. With our help, these amazing women are having an impact on Progressive Judaism through their work with conversion programs, bar/bat mitzvah programs and interfaith dialogues.
We were excited to go to Remot Menashe and meet with mothers and daughters who are part of the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) Mother/Daughter Bat Mitzvah Project, funded by WRJ, through a grant we give to IMPJ. We saw first-hand the bonds we are helping to create between these mothers and daughters, as they learn to embrace different aspects of Progressive Judaism.
It was such an honor, meeting Anat Hoffman and Lesley Sachs, who gave us an update on the status of Women of the Wall. WRJ is proud to support WOW, through the printing of their Rosh Chodesh siddurim (prayer books). And attending Rosh Chodesh services at the Kotel with Women of the Wall and our WRJ sisters was a personal highlight for both of us. It was thrilling to listen to some of our sisters help lead the service, chant Torah and be called up for aliyot.
We were fortunate to spend Shabbat with another YES Fund recipient. Rabbi Tamir Nir, led a beautiful service and shared his appreciation for our support during Rabbinical School. As a newly ordained Rabbi, he is now bringing Progressive Judaism to a new congregation, along with his innovative community garden and composting projects.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) joined us for an enlightening conversation explaining the IMPJ’s approach to reforms needed in Israel. He discussed the importance of our partnership and how we are helping them accomplish their goals. With help from our YES Fund they are able to train Rabbis, support necessary legal work, and build kehilot (communities) inside Israel, bringing Progressive Judaism directly to the neighborhoods of secular Jews. Israel currently has approximately 50 Reform Congregations and Rabbi Kariv expects that number to continue to grow each year.
On this trip, we learned not only how WRJ is changing lives here in Israel, but we also developed a deeper understanding of why we do what we do with WRJ and the YES Fund. We are so proud to take part in these efforts. WRJ and YES Fund are making a big difference. Like our motto says, we truly are ‘stronger together.’
Vivian Blumstein is President of the Northeast District of WRJ, as well as a member of the WRJ Board.
Susan Singer currently serves as WRJ Central District Treasurer and President of Temple Israel Sisterhood – West Bloomfield, Michigan. This was Susan’s first visit to Israel, but certainly not her last.