Reconnecting with Israel and our Jewish pride

A few weeks ago, I received a response to one of my Fed Friday emails. It came from a woman who has taught at religious schools in this community for many years. We met yesterday and had a long conversation about the importance of Jewish education and Jewish educators. This woman is passionate about being Jewish and she is dedicated to transmitting her love for Judaism to her students. She is convinced that the most important aspect of Jewish identity is a sense of pride of being Jewish. She recalled how Israel's victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 brought an enormous surge of that pride among Jews in the U.S. and around the world. Perhaps for the first time in centuries Diaspora Jews recognized the unseverable ties that bind us together as one people with one destiny.

That sense of common destiny and pride has eroded over the years and is at a low point today. The reasons for it are too numerous and complicated to discuss in a short email. However, I believe that one of the main reasons is the waning of the attachment to and love for Israel.  

The Land of Israel and the State of Israel have been at the center of Jewish identity for countless generations of Diaspora Jews. Not so anymore. For many Jews, and especially for younger people who did not live through the Six-Day War or even through the Yom Kippur War, Israel is just another country in the Middle East.

The fact is that the generation bringing up young children today has not experienced those seminal moments. G-d forbid we should rely on another crisis to bring us closer to Israel. There are many things we can do right now to restore that pride and joy and sense of belonging. Community Israeli emissaries, Independence Day celebrations, visits by Israeli soldiers and speakers are all very impactful, but visiting Israel is the most powerful tool in our arsenal. This is what Taglit Birthright Israel, the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project (JWRP), and many other organizations, federations among them, have been doing.

Federations have been bringing people of all ages to Israel for decades. In the past two years, we have sent two groups of Jewish women to Israel with the JWRP, and the results are very encouraging. The women have a renewed interest in Jewish life and community involvement and demonstrate it in concrete ways. They are becoming familiar faces at many community events. Most of them attended Choices and made a financial commitment to the Federation. Several women have assumed leadership positions in the community. On Tuesday, I met with a group of 20 women who will go to Israel in November. They vary in ages, affiliations and Jewish backgrounds. Many of them have never been to Israel; others had visited a long time ago. And all of them look to this trip as a way to rekindle Jewish pride and love for Israel.

I am also thrilled to announce that the Federation will be bringing a mission to Israel next spring to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. We have just started working on it. If you are interested, give me a call or send an email.

In the next few days, we will begin marking a seminal event in Israel's history, the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day war and reunification of Jerusalem. The Federation will have a designated page on our website with a series of videos documenting the events. Watching those images always brings tears to my eyes. This coming Tuesday, many movie theaters around the country, and several in Orlando, will have a one-day showing of a new documentary about the battle for Jerusalem, In Our Hands, and I encourage you to attend and bring your children (of appropriate ages of course).

Let's rekindle that love, attachment and pride.


Shabbat Shalom