WRJ-Israel Mission Final Day - Germinating Seeds

March 12, 2012Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

Sitting at Ben Gurion Airport, awaiting my return flight, I finally have a few quiet moments to reflect on our many visits, consider all that I learned, and once again bid farewell to our homeland, now filled with so many new friends. Among our final opportunities was participation in a national steering committee meeting of WRJ-Israel at the home of our wonderful host, Resa Davids. Resa has single-handedly built WRJ-Israel, bringing her experience and training from North America to a new cohort of women’s groups in the growing Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). As soon as a new congregation is envisioned, Resa is there, encouraging and cajoling, inspiring and training, scouting out and grooming potential leadership. Of course, food is often involved! She is a force to be reckoned with and has willed WRJ-Israel into being – 25 women’s groups from a pool of 35 congregations. We all owe Resa a tremendous debt for what she has done to expand the reach of WRJ, and, by doing so, building a stronger and healthier Reform Movement in Israel. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"90161","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"300","height":"202","alt":""}}]]During the course of their meeting, the women gathered from all over Israel shared their triumphs and disappointments, discussed new opportunities and program ideas, and, of course, made time to socialize, share family updates and check in with one another. It felt very much like a sisterhood or district planning meeting in North America. While most of the women sitting around the table were, in fact, American ex-pats, there is a growing cadre of Israeli-born women ready to step into leadership roles. They will bring their own style and interests to WRJ-Israel as it continues to grow and expand. What they are creating is certainly modeled after our North American WRJ; however, it has a unique Israeli flavor. They have much to teach us as they establish a new network of women’s groups and discover what will inspire Israeli women in the 21st Century. This was the gist of the final conversation of our trip with Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the IMPJ. He is very supportive of WRJ-Israel because he knows that strong women’s groups will strengthen the congregations they serve as well as the growing Reform Movement in Israel at large. WRJ has supported IMPJ’s efforts in recent years to expand and enhance the Israeli congregations’ outreach to women and girls by funding a special initiative to increase opportunities for Bat Mitzvah. With our grant, the IMPJ has created a curriculum for adult women to share a Bat Mitzvah with their daughters, trained congregational leaders in the use of this curriculum, and reached into the public school arena with a progra for 6th grade girls to explore their role in religious life. These are new ideas and concepts in Israeli cultural life. Through such endeavors, the IMPJ, with our support, is providing a modern, progressive religious option for Israelis. I depart Israel very proud of the work of WRJ. Through our YES Fund grants we are germinating the seeds of Reform Judaism in Israel and watching them bloom. We are bringing to fruition many opportunities for women, and empowering them to defend their rights and strive for equality and justice. The women of WRJ-Israel are following in the proud tradition of our foremothers and we are blessed to have them as our partners.  I hope many of you will join us in March 2013 for our Centennial trip to Israel and Berlin. The women of WRJ-Israel will be joining us for that program and I have no doubt that you will come away from that gathering with the sure knowledge that we are, indeed, STRONGER TOGETHER. Rabbi Marla J. Feldman WRJ Executive Director  

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