Uniting and not dividing: rabbinic reflections on the AIPAC Policy Conference
I am proud to be a Rabbi of a congregation of pro-Israel supporters and activists.
I am proud of our mission statement that includes 'a love of Israel'.
I am proud of the Israel advocacy we demonstrate in word and deed through numerous educational programs and a transformative congregational trip to Israel attended every two years by 75-100 synagogue members.
I am proud of the leadership we have demonstrated in the number of our 8th grade students that travel to Israel with Ta'am Yisrael each year.
I am proud of the remarkable partnership we have created over the years with our Israel committee and its passionate leader Steve Sukenik and our inspirational guide and teacher Etty Dolgin.
I am proud that just a few weeks ago that Temple Chai had the second largest synagogue delegation in the Chicago area to the AIPAC Policy Conference.
I left this year's AIPAC policy conference with three vivid images. My time in Washington DC left me uplifted, inspired and yes...deeply disturbed. I was inspired and uplifted by the presence of 18,000 pro-Israel supports and activists who brought me nearly to tears in the singing of our national anthem and HaTikvah. My heart was uplifted as I listened to the testimonials and stories of true difference makers in the story of Israel and the strong alliance built between our country and the state of Israel.
As we approached the speeches of the presidential candidates, many opinions were shared by the rabbinic community as the best way to respond. A special meeting of the reform rabbis was called to discuss potential responses, from boycotts, to walking out as speakers were introduced and offering special study sessions just outside the arena. By choice, I sat during each of the speeches with our congregational delegation. Although strongly opposed to the rhetoric I knew I would hear, I thought it was important to be a personal witness to the words about to be spoken, so I did not leave the room or participate in alternative activities.
The divisive political rhetoric of that day they left me very unsettled. Instead of Israel being a rallying point of collective pride and honor, it became just another venue for political divide...right and left...conservative and liberal...republican and democrat. Standing ovations and lengthy applause as contrary policies were condemned and maligned left me deeply saddened...a reminder of how the fractured and divisive nature of our political discourse during this season of the year has impacted our ability to stand together as one community and honor, strengthen and grow our advocacy for the Jewish State and it's alliance to our country.
At a rabbinic lunch attended by several hundred rabbis of all the denominations, our guest speaker shared the following words: 'there will be no AIPAC without Jews'. It was a stark reminder of the work that lies before us. With dwindling commitments to synagogues throughout North America, the continuing and ongoing challenge of B'nai Mitzvah dropout and creating a vibrant and relevant Jewish community, this is a time that we must speak with one voice...not as liberals or conservatives, republicans or democrats, but rather as committed members of the Jewish community, with words that that unite rather than divide, that the State of Israel, its continued vibrancy and wellbeing, as a center of Jewish culture and pluralistic Jewish expression, is at the center and core of our Jewish soul and spirit. This is my fondest hope and prayer for the Jewish people and for all the important work that lies before us as a congregation.
With thoughts of peace and blessing,
PATHWAYS TO MEMBERSHIP AT TEMPLE CHAI
Inspiring Jewish Journeys
Temple Chai is seeking ways to make it easier for people to get connected and inspired on their Jewish journeys. As outlined in our Mission Statement, we are an inclusive and nurturing community embracing a culture of belonging and participation. To further this goal, we have developed 4 pathways to membership at Temple Chai:
1. STEP PROGRAM FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN:
Families with young children can now enjoy the deep discounted beenfits of our Step 1 membership level until their oldest child finishes kindergarten. Step 2, when your oldest child is in 1st grade, is still deeply discounted with only 1/3 of membership dues and 1/3 of building fund required. Step 3, when your oldest child is in 2nd grade, you pay only 2/3 of membership dues and building fund. When your child starts 3rd grade, you will be considered a full member.
2. NEW MEMBER DISCOUNT:
Any first-time Temple Chai member (excluding those covered by the above Step Program) will receive 33% off their membership dues.
3. MEMBER TO NEW MEMBER DISCOUNT:
Refer friends and family to be members of Temple Chai and receive 10% of the value of your friend's second-year membership dues. Refer as many friends as you want to receive multiple discounts credited to your temple account.
4. SUNDAY PRE-SCHOOL DISCOUNT:
The Membership Committee of Temple Chai is offering an additional $50 incentive for first-time members to be used toward this year's Sunday pre-school program for 3- and 4-year-olds.