For many years, Temple Beth El has endeavored to establish a love for Israel in the hearts and minds of our members. We have done this through phenomenal congregational trips, ongoing education for every age, and advocating on Israel’s behalf through organizations like AIPAC, AJC, ADL, JStreet, and the Federation of Greater Charlotte. Even the architecture of our building – with Jerusalem Stone, sanctuaries that face east, the artwork on the walls – reinforce a deep relationship with Israel. Indeed, fifty Temple members just returned from Israel had built an enduring connection to the land and her people.
Rabbi Miri Gold, from our Israeli sister-congregation Kehilat Birkat Shalom, visited Temple Beth El in early June. A week later, our congregants celebrated Shabbat at her synagogue, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The congregants of Birkat Shalom welcomed us with a beautiful Shabbat evening service, lively music, and a delicious dinner on the porch of their new synagogue building. Our only wish is that more members of our congregation could experience the warm welcome, joy, and embrace that our Israeli sister-congregation gave Temple Beth El.
Rabbi Gold was the third woman rabbi ordained in Israel. She has fought for the equal status of Reform and Progressive Judaism in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court has even ruled in favor of Rabbi Gold, in a case that required the State of Israel to recognize and support Reform Rabbis equally with Orthodox rabbis. We are proud to partner with Birkat Shalom and Rabbi Miri Gold because they are a shining example of the potential for Reform Judaism in Israel and because they have represented and fought for our interests.
This week, however, we learned disheartening news from the Israeli government. After years of negotiations and an accepted plan, the Israeli government has decided to scrap an agreement for a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall, known as the Kotel. The Israeli government made this arrangement with the Reform and Conservative movements. Prime Minister Netanyahu chose, instead, to cave to pressure from Ultra-Orthodox parties within his coalition. In so doing, the Prime Minister has maintained his political alliances at the expense of world Jewry and the over two-million Reform and Conservative Jews seeking an egalitarian prayer space, equal recognition, and respect.
We encourage you to read the linked articles below from leading news sources as well as statements from the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Our movement is working closely with many Jewish organizations to develop a coordinated advocacy response. We will let you know about the opportunities to make our voices heard. In the meantime, we will hold Israel close to our hearts, advocate for her well-being, and fight to realize the ideals articulated in her Declaration of Independence that the State will “guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture” for all.
Rabbi Asher Knight
Rabbi Dusty Klass
Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas
Rabbi Judy Schindler
News Articles and Explanation of the Issues
Reform Movement Press Releases