Dasee Berkowitz, Jewish Life Cycle Consultant

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Your piece definitely makes me miss being on the Upper West Side and going to Romemu on Shabbat mornings!

A few comments:

  1. There’s a time and a place for everything… Israel doesn’t only represent the contemporary/modern state and political discord, but it also represents spiritual life/ history/ yearning, all of which can easily be incorporated into a Romemu service. The Rabbi might share something about the Jews of Safed searching for the Shabbat bride as the sun sets over Mount Meron (or something uplifting that is fitting for a religious experience like Friday night services.)  I think that Romemu would probably be very happy to highlight programs and people in Israel who are working to make it a better place (as are many other synagogues like BJ).
  2. If we were to consider methods of Israel Engagement on a spectrum – in which trips to Israel represent the “thickest” arena – then life cycle events and even religious services would represent the thinnest method… If one were searching for an “Israel Input” in life cycle and event religious services, one might include poetry/ prose /songs that are distinctly Israeli or written by Israelis that would resonate with the prayer service.
  3. It might be a tad reductionist to say that Israel is all about the collective, and the Diaspora is all about the individual.  There is individuality/ creative re-reading of songs from our traditions in Israel too (isn’t Makom’s celebration of the work of Kobi Oz a case in point?) just as there are original jewish songs created here.
  4. Universal/Particular – it is sometimes hard in these services to talk about the “Jewish mission” because there are so many intermarried families… Language of exclusion is often off-putting.  Language that reflects the depth of Jewish life and commitment (by linking sources about chesed to Jewish sources from the Talmud) and focuses on the universal messages of Jewish life makes Judaism more engaging for a lot of these families (and other congregants at Romemu who might otherwise be drawn to Buddhism or other spiritual paths.) 

I do agree that overall Israel engagement (with “political” Israel at least) is hard for some folks living outside of Israel, especially at times when they are looking to Jewish life for spiritual nourishment and inspiration.

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