Celebrating Jewish Voices in Israel
Shabbat T’kuma — the Shabbat between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Yom Ha’atzmaut — is an evening that deeply moves me each year. We begin the evening at Beit Daniel by welcoming over 20 members from our community, whose native language is not Hebrew, to light and bless the Shabbat candles in their mother tongue.
This mosaic of voices reflects the diversity within our community and that of the greater Israeli society as well. They are voices of renewal, of those who chose to build their homes as Jews in the Promised Land; the land filled with dreams, hopes and challenges. Their voices bring to light their pasts and show us all their and Israel’s bright future.
I listen to these diverse voices in amazement, humbled that just a little over 70 years ago Jews were surrounded by fences in Auschwitz and Majdanek, and millions of Jews were spread across the Arab world. Today, we raise our voices as Jews in Hebrew, Filipino, Spanish, English, Romanian, Russian and more in the first Hebrew city: Tel Aviv. This is the spectacular journey that the Jewish people have taken over the past centuries.
This journey is far from over. The challenges we face as a diverse nation are enormous. It does not simply involve strengthening our army that defends us, or our economy that bolsters us. It requires a deep dedication to promote and continue our work in the spirit of the prophets to build a just Jewish state that is welcoming and inclusive. This is the role of Reform Judaism, which is needed in Israel now more than ever.
Beit Daniel’s special Shabbat T’kuma is just one way that we answer this challenge of welcoming new voices into our society. I am proud of our conversion school which provides a platform for families to build Jewish lives in Israel, and of our receipt of the 2016 Genesis Grant for advancing engagement of intermarried families, which has opened the doors further to families seeking inclusive B’nei Mitzvah.
I look forward to this Friday evening and our upcoming Yom Ha’atzmaut to celebrate the journeys taken by Jews from around the world to arrive here, in Israel.
Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach,
Rabbi Meir Azari