By Stuart Weinblatt, RA Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy
Last Thursday, the RA hosted a delegation of Israeli reporters and staff of members of Knesset.
In many respects, it was our movement at its best. RA Vice President Gerry Skolnik conducted the meeting opening in beautiful Hebrew; he told of his personal ties and connections to the land of Israel (watch his speech). RA Executive Vice President Julie Schonfeld opened the meeting with an impassioned plea in Hebrew to understand the needs of our movement, as well as of our desire and interest to participate in open honest dialogue as members of a world Jewish family (watch her speech | read the translation). They both set an excellent tone and impressed upon the individuals visiting from Israel how important and how central Israel is to our work as rabbis and our vision, mission and purpose.
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen spoke about our Ramah camping program and the role played by Israeli madrichim, as well as the importance of the Hebrew language and Israel programs in our camp movement. Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove taught a shiur about the different customs for displaying the Chanukah menorah in Israel and the Diaspora as evidenced in Rabbi Isserles’ commentary on the Shulhan Aruch. At our tables we discussed the implications of the variations in halakha and fluidity of Jewish practice.
As Director of Israel Policy and Advocacy, I explained some of the things that we do on a national level on behalf of Israel. This includes our participation and the leadership roles we play in Zionist and pro-Israel advocacy groups, Israel Bonds campaigns and other efforts on behalf of Israel. I shared information about the wide variety of Israeli programs offered in our synagogues which connect our members to Israel.
We raised concerns about the need to open up opportunities for greater religious expression in Israel and the lack of funding for our movement. The primary purpose of our gathering was not to hammer home these points which are important to us, but to introduce us to these important decision makers and to create the atmosphere for a better understanding of the importance of our contribution to Jewish life and support for Israel in the Diaspora, as well as in Israel.
The full list of participants follows below:
Rabbi Jan Caryl Kaufman
Rabbi Mitchell Cohen
Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove
Rabbi Robert Golub
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg
Rabbi Harry Pell
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
Rabbi Larry Sebert
Rabbi Gerald Skolnik
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
Rabbi Steven Wernick