WRJ-Israel Mission: Making a Difference

March 12, 2012Lynn Magid Lazar

During our visit, a new study was released in Israel by the Guttman Center, which showed that there are more Israelis who identify as Reform or Conservative Jews than those who identify as ultra-Orthodox. This is interesting and important news! It shows that our Movement is growing and that Israelis are learning ways to develop their Jewish identities that are non-Orthodox. How and why this is happening is complicated and multi-faceted, but there is definitely one program that is making a huge impact.  That is the Israeli Rabbinic training program at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem. These men and women are serving our communities and helping to expand the influence of Reform Judaism all across Israel. Marla, Resa, and I had the opportunity and privilege to meet the current students, treat them to lunch, and engage in dialogue about WRJ in general and WRJ-Israel, specifically. What a delightful time we shared with this incredibly talented and passionate group of people who are dedicated to Reform Judaism in Israel. Although WRJ has been offering financial support to the Israeli Rabbinic Program for many years, it is only in the past two years that we have begun to deepen our personal relationship with the men and women in the program. We have learned that many of these students must work part-time and study part-time. Some are second career individuals who have found a ‘home’ in Reform Judaism, and some have come to HUC as a result of growing up in the Reform Movement in Israel. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"90166","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignleft","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"300","height":"231","alt":""}}]]Let me share three stories.

  1.  A young Israeli man in the 4th year of his studies told me how he discovered Reform Judaism while traveling with his wife in Scandinavia. It was erev Yom Kippur and they stopped at the community information office to inquire if there was a synagogue in the city. “Yes”, they were told, ‘but there is only Reform”. Not really knowing what that meant, they went to the synagogue for services. They walked in and saw a male rabbi AND a female rabbi! They heard wonderful music and participated in very meaningful services. He was so impressed with the concept that this could be Judaism that he returned to Israel, located HUC, and enrolled in rabbinic school! In a year, he will be serving one of our new congregations. This type of passion is difficult to even imagine!
  2. About twenty-five years ago, with some financial support from WRJ, HUC in Jerusalem started its first kindergarten (gan). Today, the school is incredibly successful and has support and certification from the Jerusalem city municipality. We met a young woman who is a first year rabbinic student who was a student in the first class of the gan!!! The first generation of our Israeli Movement has entered rabbinic school!
  3. For every rule there is an exception. Occasionally, a foreign student will study for the rabbinate in Jerusalem and then serve another WUPJ community. Such a young man is Jordan Rader, from Argentina, who is also the newest Rabbinic student to receive a WRJ scholarship. At the end of our lunch meeting here in Jerusalem, a young man approached me and said “I am very happy to be able to tell you in person – THANK YOU…..TODAH RABAH! You are making my studies possible, and I am Jordan Rader”!  What a thrill to meet this exceptionally talented young man, to give him a hug, and to relay to him that WRJ is so proud to be able to assist him.

The Reform Movement in Israel is making a difference.  WRJ is making a difference.  Each of you can help to make a difference. Support WRJ’s YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects) today.        

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