There is something magical about Shabbat in Israel. The frenetic pace of the six other days of the week comes to a crawl, it is as though one can feel the angels of Shabbat descending upon this land. As part of the CCAR Israel convention, my colleagues and I separated and were guests of 13 Reform communities throughout the country. From Haifa to Gezer to Nahal Oz, we joined in prayer with congregations affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.
I was delighted to attend Kehillat Halev in central Tel Aviv. We walked into the space, a senior day center the congregation rents from the municipality of Tel Aviv, and were welcomed warmly. Israelis from newborn to senior come each week to this congregation and bring in Shabbat with energy, kindness, joy, and amazing music. Rabbi Rotem offered beautiful words of Torah that spoke to my soul, stirring my own prayer, and from the feeling in the room, the prayer of each person.
Children were sitting on the laps of their parents, quietly playing with toys on the floor, or being danced around in the arms of family and friends who are like family.
The community uses a daf T’filah, a handout of the traditional prayers, contemporary reflections, and modern Israeli poetry. Music ranged from Taubman’s Hashkiveinu setting, niggunim, new Israeli songs, and traditional nusach.
The service concluded and I was simultaneously sad and ecstatic. Sad because I don’t know when I will get to celebrate Shabbat with this community again. Ecstatic because this community exists, is thriving, and my soul was filled with the spirit of Shabbat.
I hope you will join me in supporting the communities of the Israeli Reform Movement with our dollars and our Israel trips.
And thank you to Kehillat Halev for a gorgeous Shabbat. I’m sending in my synagogue membership when I get home.
Rabbi Eleanor Steinman is the Director of Religious Education at Temple Beth Hillel in Valley Village, CA.