Supporting Israel as a Conservative Jew
On Hanukkah, we celebrate the freedom of our people in the Land of Israel from both political and religious oppression. It is the land of miracles for our people bayamim hahem bazman hazeh “in those days at this time.” Knowing that we are free and that God is the source of the miracle of Israel is paramount, but sadly the lights of Hanukkah are lost on some.
A number of years ago, Lisa and I had decided to try an “au pair” program to help with our twin children. We interviewed and hired an Israeli, hoping she would teach the children Hebrew, share in our traditions and understand our need to keep a kosher kitchen. She agreed, and moved in the first day of Hanukkah.
When we were preparing to light the Chanukkiah (The Chanukah Menorah), I asked her if she would like one of her own. She became visibly angry, said “absolutely not!,” and left the room. Needless to say, it didn’t work out, but how could an Israeli have such a visceral anti-Jewish reaction to something as benign as a Hanukkah candle-lighting?
Israel is not just a refuge from political and economic oppression. Israel is not a nation for poor or downtrodden Jews of the Diaspora to flee to in safety. Israel is a vibrant, multifaceted, democratic Jewish state living and breathing daily like any other people on the face of the earth. And Israel’s core identity is in danger.
Israel has always been a mix of many different types of Jew, but over time the society has seen a growing gap between “secular” and “religious” Jews. It is a disturbing trend.
When Shimon Peres lost the election for prime minister to Binyamin Netenyahu in the ‘90s, he declared “The Jews won” and “The Israelis lost.” The sentiment was echoed in victory on the other side. How dangerous such a sentiment is.
Religious Judaism in Israel has been associated with a worldview that denies religious pluralism within our people. And many secular Israelis have found little or nothing appealing in Jewish rituals, literature, or tradition – seeing them expressed in ways that they find unapproachable and foreign.
Our religion needs to be a spectrum, a flexible reed, to hold the society together. We need our funding through the World Zionist Organization to support religious institutions of all the movements equally so that Judaism can be diverse and vibrant for all Israelis. We need programs that teach new immigrants a moderate Judaism – one that loves and values both the literature and the religious customs of our people. We need schools where regular Israeli kids can discover and define their own relationship with our traditions with respect and without coercion.
At this time of miracles, we celebrate all of Judaism, and are grateful for the miracle of our people in the land.
Rabbi Robert Tobin
Happening at B’nai Shalom this month:
Service times are as follows:
Friday, Dec. 9 –Candle lighting at 4:11 p.m.
Evening Services - 6:15 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 10
Parshat Vayishlach, Genesis 32:4-36:43
9 a.m. – Shabbat Services
11 a.m. - Minyan Meyuchad – a service for adults with special needs
Shabbat Fun for children under 5 years and their families
Torah and Tefillah for 5-7 year olds
Junior Congregation for students 8-12 years
Kiddush sponsored by Sisterhood’s Zehava members
12:30 p.m.- Women’s Tallit Forum with Rabbi Tobin
Mincha / Ma’ariv at 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 13
5-6 p.m.: Sisterhood Gift Shop Hanukkah Bazaar. Open for students.
Wednesday, Dec. 14
Noon: Hazak Seniors – Pre-Hanukkah Celebration,with latkes and treats. Hirschhorn Presenter: Bette Birnbaum on “Chanukah and Its Gift"
Thursday, Dec. 15
8:30 p.m.: Talmud Class with Rabbi Mayer Rabinowtiz - Discuss the laws concerning Gittin.
Saturday, Dec. 17
Parshat Vayeishev, Genesis 37:1–40:23
9 a.m. – Teen Shabbat USY and Kadimah members participate in leading Shabbat services.
10 a.m. – Torah Study with Janice – Discuss Parashat Vayeshev.
11 a.m. – AIPAC speaker, Mike Sachs on Upheaval in the Middle East: Implications for America and Israel.
6:30 p.m. -Drumtales – A DeLightful Hanukkah Interactive Drumming Experience* for families with young children (3-10 years) Hanukkah treats after the show, courtesy of B’nai Shalom Sisterhood
Bring your children, grandchildren and friends. (Reserve tickets $18 per family in advance, $10 per child and $8 per adult at the door)
*Also bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the soup kitchen.
Sunday – Dec. 18
9:30 p.m. - Primary Hanukkah Workshop for children 5-7 years old, with holiday crafts and latkes. RSVP to Rena (973) 731-0160, ext. 208
Tuesday, Dec. 20
First Night of Hanukkah
Religious School Students light the B’nai Shalom Chanukiah at 4:30 p.m. on Pleasant Valley Way followed by a Hanukkah Celebration with games, holiday snacks and fun.
Wednesday, Dec. 21
Hazak trip to the Folksbiene Theatre to see “Shlemiel the First” – Reserve a spot soon for this first day of Hanukkah treat!
2nd Hanukkah Candle - 5:15 p.m.
7:30 p.m. - Teen Torah Reading Academy with Hanukkah treats
USY "Chanukah Bash" 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 24
Parshat Mikeitz, Genesis 41:1-44:17
9 a.m. - Shabbat morning services and special Chanukah Kiddush
5th Night of Chanukah after 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 25
10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.: B’nai Shalom’s Social Action Soup Kitchen Event at Christine’s Kitchen- A festive meal is prepared and served by volunteers to the needy in our community.
6th night of Chanukah after 5:20 p.m.
Happy Chanukah to All!
Sunday: 9 a.m.
Morning: Monday through Friday: 7 a.m.
Evening: Sunday through Thursday: 8 p.m.