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Why I’m Going On the CCAR “Start Up Israel” Trip

In January, the CCAR is leading a rabbinic trip to Israel focusing on the culture of entrepreneurship in the country.  This trip is part of CCAR’s Leadership Travel Series and provides a learning opportunity for rabbis so that they can return and teach their communities.   

When I hear about the brilliant technical advances being made every day in Israel, I am fascinated how such a little country can be such a powerhouse when it comes to problem-solving and innovation. For example, ever since my year-in-Israel, I couldn’t understand why every house and apartment building in America didn’t have a dud shemesh (solar-powered water heater) on its roof to heat its water … which means I am excited to meet our colleague Rabbi Susan Silverman’s husband Yossi Abramowitz, President of Arava Power Company, Israel’s leading solar developer which is working to bring solar power to developing nations.  (I’m also looking forward to meeting him because I used his and Susan’s book, Jewish Family & Life:  Traditions, Holidays, and Values as my Intro text for years.)

I’m also taking this trip because it includes a trip to Ramallah, which I was never able to visit during my year-in-Israel because of the second Intifada.  I’m excited because we will speaking with an entrepreneur who founded a chain of coffee shops to discuss her challenges and successes, as well as a side trip to the first master-planned Palestinian city, Rawabi, which will ultimately consist of 10,000 housing units for 40,000 people.  Having lived in several master-planned communities (and several that weren’t), I look forward to seeing how the planners prioritized different aspects of communal living and learning about their challenges and successes as well.

74019_455668595821_4837872_nLastly, I’m going on this trip because I want to come back to my synagogue with a plan for leading an “out of the box” trip that won’t be focused on “first-timers.”  As someone who works with a congregation where many of my congregants have been to Israel multiple times (who have seen and done all the “usual things”), I believe that this trip, with its focus on technology and innovation, will connect me with Israel in a way few get to and I will be able to bring this back to my community … “or chadash al Tzion ta-ir” – I will get to share the many ways a new light shines on Zion.  Won’t you join me?

Rabbi Cookie Lea Olshein is rabbi of Temple Israel of West Palm Beach, FL

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