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Convention

Shining a Light into the Darkness

As American life becomes darker for many, as hatred, bigotry, and anger gains an  historic foothold in public discourse and public interactions, we gathered – more than 550 Reform Jewish rabbis – seeking to comprehend this moment in history. At the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Atlanta, we discovered once again that the lessons of the past often offer insight into the present. Perhaps, as the teaching goes, this insight can help point the way for us into the uncertain future.

Thus we listened with rapt attention as one of this generations great prophets, Joseph J. Levin Jr., co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, gave us a peek into the background of some of the extremism and hatred that has claimed a place in American life. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the great watchtower of American life, based in Montgomery, Georgia, speaks truth to power, shining a light into the darkness.

Mr. Levin, a nice Jewish boy, told us his back story: about how as the grandchild of immigrants who fled the czar’s ethnic cleansing nationalistic movement, he was a young man who struggled through an American life buffeted by the winds of racial bias and bigotry. It was a time of poisonous hatred when the Ku Klux Klan was active and burning crosses, and when Jews had to have their separate country clubs. Back then  the ideal of purity and separation of the races permeated so much of American southern life; it found the voice among the predecessors of today’s alt-right, white supremacist groups. Back then, “states rights” was the acceptable code word for those who wanted to pursue anti-federal segregationist policies.

Mr. Levin reminded us that bigotry and hate, even the ascendent anti-Semitism of today, that we thought had been relegated to the far edges of American life, grow out of the olden days of his upbringing. He drew lines between the toolkit of the Jim Crow era and the overt bigotry in today’s discourse.

We shook our heads in disbelief as he recounted recent public statements of today’s hate groups, easily located through links on the SPLC’s website, which might have well have come from yesterday’s racist hate groups. We shook our heads in agreement as he urged us to consider that questions about whether this national leader or that might actually be a racist is not the point. Rather he suggested, such discussions serve only hide the deeper, more dangerous problem: that the hatred of today being articulated today, publicly and openly, is eroding the pluralistic, all embracing, open society that Jewish values imagine and which should characterize America life.

The nechemta (the solace and hope) came in the firm of a rousing combines chorale concert of singers from the Temple and the Ebenezer Church, whose integrated singing and music reminded us that when good people reach out and work together, the harmony and melody are sweet, healing and hopeful.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes serves Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California.

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Convention

B’dibur Echad

 I tried to leave the room without making any noise at 6:40 this morning. Nevertheless, my husband called out, “Where are you going so early?”

“To the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion Alumni Breakfast” I responded.

“Why so early?” “Do you really need to be there?”

While I had no good answer to the first question, the second was easy.

Yes, I need to be there! The Alumni breakfast is my favorite part of the CCAR Conference. It’s not because of the scholarship (which was great – thank you Aaron Panken).

No, it’s the roll call. It always strikes a chord that reverberates in my soul.

Rabbi Walter Jacob, Class of 1955

As colleagues Chuck Briskin and Jim Prosnit called out each class year, starting with current students and then transitioning to the most recent ordinees, my heart filled with anticipation. 2016. 2015, 2014…. Every class has its own character. When my year (1997) came, we stood up and cheered.

Then I sat back and watched. As each class ascended, I thought of the legacies created and the lives moved. I reflected on our shared experiences as well as the unique visions. I was mindful of the journeys we had endured. And I was thankful for the scholars that inspired us.

The roll call ended with Walter Jacob, Class of 1955. As he stood (to a rousing ovation), I wondered …. When Walter attended his first CCAR conference, what luminaries stood at roll call whose careers spanned over 60 years? Were there rabbis ordained by Isaac Mayer Wise?

We are a living bridge to both yesterday and tomorrow. That’s why I got up at 6am to attend this breakfast. I take my place with such honor as part of this chain. It’s a sacred and shared, somewhat ironic responsibility. After all, we transform the world while keeping it stable – b’dibur echad.

Rabbi Zach Shapiro serves Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA.
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Convention

Do Not Be Afraid: Stand Firm and Witness Deliverance

Most years I want to go to the CCAR convention.  But this year, this year I had to go. I needed to see my friends and colleagues. I needed  to pray with them and  to learn with them.  I needed my soul to be nourished and to be in a place where I could sit still long enough to hear the still small voice give me words of hope. And I knew that for that to happen, I had to be with my chevrei in Atlanta.

The Tanach tells many stories of encounters with God, where individuals hear the Divine call and responded “Hineini!” – Here I am. Those were important encounters, but there is only one moment that transformed us as a people and gave us our purpose, and that is when we stood together at Sinai. Sinai happened because we were willing to come together for a purpose larger than ourselves. At Sinai we were called upon not only to be in a covenantal relationship with God, but a communal relationship with each other as well.  Sinai required us to stand united for a goal that was greater than any single one of us, greater than any one generation. Sinai required us to see ourselves as acting beyond the now, and understand that we are part of a legacy that requires that we forever remember before whom we stand.

I thought of Sinai this morning as I sat in a session with Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, and Reverend Raphael Warnock and Rev. Natosha Reid Rice of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  They spoke of justice, the need for moral leadership and moral clarity. They spoke about redemption, hope and courage.  And most of all, they spoke of the need for us to stand together and to speak up for each other and with each other.

Rev. Warnock said: “Interfaith work is uniquely important in this moment. …. When we stand together on principle we gain moral credibility and authority. And we’re strong when we stand together. We need to stand together more often, and get to know each other.  And even those who don’t believe, we need the witness of atheists too. …Because in a real sense what they bear witness against is the false God.”  Rev. Warnock reminded us what we learned at Sinai, we can accomplish more together than by ourselves.

Rev. Reid Rice urged us that now is the time to “Put words into action. Put faith into action. Private faith requires public action.”  Revelation happened outside for the heavens and the earth to witness for a reason. Faith is not supposed to be private, it needs to be lived out loud and in the world.

When Rev. Warnock reminded us of the powerful words written by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to his fellow clergy in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” I was struck by how relevant and true his words continue to be. Like the prophets of old, Rev. King’s words call out to us:  “We are tied together in a single garment of destiny.”

I came to Atlanta to be with my chevrei. But what was revealed to me was that I also needed to hear Mayor Reed, Rev. Warnock and Rev. Reid Rice, because the Torah they were teaching was the same torah of hope and courage that I remembered hearing when we stood together at Sinai.

Rabbi Mona Alfi serves Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, California

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Convention

On Being a First Timer

What is it like being a first timer at Convention 2017?

It’s thrilling because I have so many new colleagues (and there are so many of you here, I cannot believe there are more!).

It’s profound because, let’s face it — being in the presence of so many gifted teachers, preachers, and leaders is heady, challenging, and soul-stirring all at once.

And it’s humbling. Because I am discovering how I fit in to this new group. I am a second career rabbi, bringing to my rabbinate a unique intertwining of wisdom and training.

But is it enough?  Will I be enough? To paraphrase a midrash shared with convention attendees on Monday morning  by incoming CCAR President David Stern, when our holy work springs from the essence of who we are, the Divine is revealed.

My holy work is publishing text. In doing this work, my goal is to support each and every one of you and your communities. I do it, as part of the amazing CCAR Press team, by creating worship and practice resources, and by thinking ahead to the ways in which Judaism’s sacred inheritance can be best taught and interpreted for today’s world.

Being a first timer is to be filled with gratitude for the privilege to serve, and to do this work.

Rabbi Beth Lieberman serves as executive editor at CCAR Press.

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News

CCAR 2017 Convention: “We Need Some Midwives Right Now!”

There’s a saying attributed to Rabbi Elliot Kleinman that the weather at convention is always “72 and fluorescent” (I’d say it’s closer to 65—bring a sweater) because there is so little time to explore the city in which the conference is held.  But from the moment we got started this morning, I knew that this year was going to be different.

We are in a city with such a rich, varied, and complicated history.  So it made sense that we began our journey with an exploration of Atlanta’s historical landmarks, in an Etgar 36 tour called “The Long Arc of Civil Rights Through the Eyes of Jewish Atlanta.”

We began at the Pencil Factory, the site of a murder that was wrongly pinned on Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who was convicted and then lynched in 1915.  We visited the Naming Project, makers of the AIDS quilt. At both sites, we spoke about how easy it was for the “other” to be victimized, whether by acts of violence, in the case of the former, or by “shame, stigma, and silence” in the case of the latter.

The highlight of our visit was stopping by the grave of Dr. King and then attending worship services at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father had served as preachers. This morning, the preacher was Reverend Dr. Traci deVon Blackmon, who gave a passionate “drash” connecting the story of the Hebrew midwives in Egypt, which she called “Sheroes of the Exodus,” to our modern-day struggle for justice. (Full disclosure: I wrote my thesis on this story, so I geeked out pretty hard at this).

The Pharaoh’s command to the midwives to kill the Hebrew baby boys, she said, was one of the first recorded incidents of “racial profiling.” The Pharaoh, not realizing the contributions that the Hebrews had made to his nation in the past, demonized the Hebrews and tried to break them. “Only fearful leaders create oppressive policies,” Reverend Blackmon said, “but often the thing that was meant to break you is what makes you stronger.”

The midwives would not be broken, and they would not do the acts of violence that Pharaoh asked of them, because they feared God, and “when you fear God, there are some things you just won’t do.” Reverend Blackmon also gave an interesting interpretation that the reason the midwives told Pharaoh that they missed the births of the Hebrew women was not because they were lying, but because they would spend that time praying, so that they could determine what God wanted them to do.

“It’s decision time,” Reverend Blackmon said. Like the midwives, she said, we have to decide whom we are going to serve, because, “It doesn’t matter who is in office, as long as God is on the throne!”

Reverend Blackmon then went through a long list of people she considered “midwives for justice”: Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis, and members of the church itself. She urged the congregation to join their ranks, saying, “We need some midwives right now!”

The theme of this year’s conference is, “Being a Rabbi in Turbulent Times,” and will feature conversations about social justice and professional ethics. Reverend Blackmon’s words helped us to ground our own pursuit of justice in the story of the Exodus, and asked us to consider who it is we serve, what it is we will (or won’t) do, and how we will be partners in bringing life into the world.

Rabbi Leah Berkowitz serves Vassar Temple in Poughkeepsie, NY .

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Convention

What I’ve Learned from 27 Years of CCAR Conventions

I remember my first CCAR convention vividly. It was 1991, the first year after my ordination. I was serving a congregation in Melbourne Australia, where there were fewer rabbis in the entire country than in my ordination class, and (at that time) no other women. The convention was in South Florida and my strongest memory is of a long afternoon by the pool with some of my classmates. I remember walking into a plenary knowing almost no one and feeling joy that I could retreat to the community of friends I knew best.

Fast forward many years. My rabbinic network is much larger. The WRN, regional kallot, several moves, my local rabbinic community, my work on CCAR conventions and the CCAR board have resulted in relationships I never imagined I would have. And one of the great blessings of my work as the CCAR Manager of Member Services has been the chance to meet and get to know even more of you.

And yet, there is still something about walking into a room full of rabbis at convention and thinking ahead to lunch and dinner that brings me back to the moment of entering my junior high cafeteria and feeling anxiety about finding a spot at a lunch table. That feeling that everyone must have “plans” and if I don’t make them I’ll be alone has never quite disappeared, despite my growing network. And asking to join even a good friend who has plans for dinner somehow makes me feel like a gate-crasher, despite being warmly welcomed.

In conversation with many of you, I have come to learn that I am not the only one who carries these feelings walking into convention. These feelings persist despite the great strides that the CCAR has made in nurturing a culture that truly embraces a desire to facilitate relationships. And over the years since my first convention in 1991 I have seen these changes. When I walk into an elevator, people look me in the eye and greet me. When I sit down in a plenary or workshop, the people sitting next to me introduce themselves and begin conversation. Programs deliberately work to create opportunities for meaningful dialogue not just with the friends that surround us, but with those whom we do not yet know. CCAR board members offer opportunities to members to go out to dinner together; these are sincere offers, reflecting a true desire to meet and get to know the members they serve.

The CCAR, however, is both an organization and a group made up of individuals.  We have to ask ourselves what our role is in helping to create an environment in which no one feels alone in a crowd. We can ask “What kind of work do you do?” instead of “How large is your congregation?” Put down the phone when someone sits next to us and after the introductions, consider asking, “What are you working on that excites you?” “How are you being impacted by the current political climate?” “What do you like to do outside of your work?”  If you go to the bar late at night and see someone walk in alone, ask them to join you.

I know that this feels artificial, like a youth group mixer.  And many of us are cynical about the impact of these efforts. As a congregational rabbi, I image that this is how members of my congregation feel when I encourage them not to just talk to their friends at the Oneg Shabbat, to go up to the individual standing alone near the door, who may be having the junior high school flash back. But there are really only two choices:  working to break down barriers, or being at least partially responsible for the loneliness that persists amongst those who are supposed to understand us best.

We’re all familiar with the response of the Israelites at Sinai – na’aseh v’nishmah (Exodus 19:8).  Let’s overcome our cynicism, shift our comfort zone and reach out with open hearts; the meaning and understanding of these actions will unfold and shape us for years to come.

Betsy Torop is the CCAR Manager of Member Services and a congregational rabbi in Brandon, Florida.

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Convention

Atlanta Here We Come!

Atlanta here we come! In just a few weeks we will gather for our annual convention. I can’t believe that it has been two years since my installation in Philadelphia.  The months have literally flown by as I have traveled not only across the U.S. but also visiting our colleagues in South America, Europe and Israel! The CCAR is truly a global organization.  What an incredible privilege it has been to serve our Conference and all of you.  I am looking forward to greeting you in the Peach State and to celebrating the accomplishments of our CCAR and welcoming and installing our new President, David Stern.

Our annual convention is the highlight of every year and this year will be no different. I know that our Program Committee under the leadership of Wendi Geffen and our local Atlanta colleagues alongside CCAR Program Manager, Victor Appell, have worked to ensure that this gathering will be memorable. I am very excited about the emphasis on civil rights and social justice that awaits us in Atlanta; touring The Center for Civil and Human Rights; hearing from the President of the Southern Poverty Law Center and NAACP; meeting with pastors from the historic Ebenezer Church and of course a visit to The Temple! Our convention will help us frame and reframe for our rabbinates the call of our prophetic tradition to speak truth to power and to lift up the dignity of every person.

Click to register for Convention.

But even more than the workshops, tours, and professional development that will be offered this year I think there is one more component that will be more needed than ever: Chevruta.

I know that since the November U.S. election you all have worked tirelessly to support your many congregants who have so many questions. You have held their disappointments and anger. You have been torn between often speaking up about our Jewish moral tradition and worry that your more politically conservative members and donors will be alienated or that political incivility will tear apart the congregational bonds.  Many of you have written to me of your own personal worries and difficulties during this time.  I have received emails and phone calls about some colleague’s sense of isolation from their communities as if they are the lone voice in the wilderness. I know that Steve Fox and our staff have also received calls and emails about this and talked with many of you.

View the Convention Snapshot.

That is why our convention gathering will be so important. Because together in Atlanta we will comfort each other, lift each other up, inspire each other, teach each other, laugh with each other, breathe with each other and renew one another spirits. More than ever we need to be together.

So if you are hesitating about whether or not to come, just do it! Register and join us for a celebration of everything that is so good and holy about being rabbis.  Join us so we can strengthen our resolve to engage in our holy work of Torah that includes lifting up the souls and strengthening the moral fiber of the Jewish people!

I have been asked what I liked best about being President of the CCAR. And I always have the same answer.  I like rabbis.  I have met so many of you that I didn’t know before.  I have seen how you toil for God, Torah and Israel. I have deep admiration for the holy work you do, wherever you do so.  Whether in the hospital, or military, college campus, day school, congregation or organization, you, my colleagues have inspired me to see that the Jewish people lives and is strong and will be not just survive but continues to thrive.  I hope you will come to Atlanta so we can share in that communal strength with one another.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA and is President of the CCAR. 

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Convention Social Justice

A Turning Point in History: The Temple Bombing

We are excited to welcome over 500 colleagues to The Temple during our upcoming CCAR Convention in Atlanta. This year marks the 150th anniversary of our congregation. As part of the festivities, the Alliance Theater has commissioned a theatrical production of Melissa Faye Greene’s book, The Temple Bombing. We are thrilled to be performing the show, at The Temple, as part of the Convention.

On October 12, 1958, a bundle of dynamite blew through the wall of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue. Following 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision, Rabbi Rothschild had become a public advocate for the progress of Civil Rights. The explosion and national support for The Temple community bolstered Atlanta city leaders’ resolve to investigate and prosecute the crime, paving the way for dramatic social change. This theatricalization celebrates a city that came together in the face of hatred to live the lessons of the civil rights era, lessons that still resonate 58 years after that fateful day.

Jimmy Maize’s The Temple Bombing transports us to a time in American history of unparalleled moral courage. In 1958, several Southern synagogues were bombed, causing many of the south’s 548,650 Jews to wonder whether they would soon become targets of religious bigotry. Maize paints an honest picture, drawing upon real biographies, of what it must have been like when our congregation and our rabbi were threatened.

Primarily, The Temple Bombing offers the world a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of our Rabbi, Jacob M. Rothschild: it is a portrait of moral courage. Rabbi Rothschild was a strong believer in interfaith dialogue, a champion of racial justice and integration, and one of the most respected religious leaders in the South.

As the play draws to a close, one can’t help but ponder a singular truth: Rabbi Rothschild knew then what we know today – that we must all stand up to bigotry and hatred. It is the height of gullibility to hope that the truly democratic forces, if left to work on their own at their normal pace, will correct the inequities so prevalent in our society.

The Temple Bombing is a wake-up call and an invitation to become an integral part of this turning point in history – to fulfill the promise of Rabbi Rothschild. Each of us has within us the God-given spark of creativity –the ability to transcend, to bring order to chaos, beauty to ugliness. Each of us has the power in our lives to give meaning or to withhold it. This task is, in no small part, the last, greatest hope in our humanity.

Rabbi Peter S. Berg serves The Temple in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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Convention Reform Judaism

Reform Rabbis Worldwide Renew and Recommit to a Jewish Democratic Pluralistic Israel

Over 300 Reform Rabbis – North American, Israeli, European, Australian, Russian and from elsewhere – gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the CCAR Israel convention. With renewed vigor, we speak in a clear voice, about our commitment to Israel, Judaism, Israeli democracy, Jewish pluralism and peace. Our resolutions expressing love and support for Israel and condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, make it clear that we are ohavei Yisrael (lovers of Israel), Zionist, passionate and pluralistic, realist pursuers of peace.FullSizeRender-6-1-300x151

As Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I arrived in Israel with an expansive mission:  To paraphrase the words of the Ahavah Rabbahprayer, we Reform Rabbis gathered in Israel l’havin ul’haskil, lishmo-a, lilmod ul’lameid, lishmor v’laasot ul’kayeim – to understand and discern, to heed, learn, and teach, and, lovingly, to observe, perform, and fulfill our eternal commitment to this Jewish state.

egalitarian_kotelTogether and in smaller groups, we traveled yamah v’kedmah tzafonah v’negbah (west, east, north and south) to explore, understand and advocate. We prayed together – men and women, in tallit, kipah and for some, with tefillin – at the Kotel’s newly designated Ezrat Yisrael, an egalitarian space. We studied together with some of Israel’s greatest thinkers. We marched in support of a tolerance, embracing the gifts of each religion. We spoke with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other religious and secular Israelis. With the disenfranchised and the disillusioned. With people of all political persuasions, who live all over Israel and on both sides of the Green line. With Palestinians whose messages were sharp and unwavering.

Our hearts were filled with Ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel), and with Tikvah (hope) for Israel’s vibrant future.

Beyond the listening and learning, we shared clear messages:

We are ohavei Yisrael (lovers of Israel) and our support for Israel is unconditioned and unconditional.

We are Zionists, committed to nurturing a vibrant, Jewish democratic state that lives up to the highest ideals of democracy and social justice.

We are passionate Jews, staking out claim to a pluralistic vision of an Israel where there is more than one way of being Jewish.

We are politically active Jews, prepared to open our mouths, flex out muscles, and commit our money to further the dream of a democratic Jewish pluralistic socially just state for all its citizens.

We are realists, recognizing that a strong secure Israel, while living in a very dangerous neighborhood, can nonetheless work diligently and forthrightly toward helping effectuate the dream of Palestinians for a separate state alongside the Jewish state.

Yes, with undying devotion, we Reform Jews love Israel. We oppose BDS. We support the right of women to pray and practice in a non-coercive Judaism. We oppose the coercive control of the Rabbinate over Jewish life. We discern that Jewish democracy is the way forward. We embrace the humanity of Palestinians and believe in peace.

We return home – until our next trip – passionately rejuvenated in our passion for this beautiful Jewish homeland.

And we pray:

Oseh shalom bimromav hu yaaseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teivel, v’imru amen. 

May the One who brings peace to the High Heavens, bring peace to us, to all Israel, to all who dwell on this earth. And let us say… Amen. 

Rabbi Paul Kipnes is Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and serves Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California.

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Convention Israel

An Eternal Optimist in the Land of Israel

What a powerful week of study, friendship, camaraderie and spirituality.  During the CCAR convention this week, over 300 rabbis, spouses and friends gathered together to learn, pray and (re)experience the joys of Israel.  In our final day, we traveled to the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.   We began the morning with a panel moderated by Rabbi Rick Block.  This panel, in which we were able to learn from Professor Uriel Reichman, IDC Herzliya President and founder and Amnon Rubinstein, former Minister of Justice and Education, discussed 10 questions facing Israel today, focusing on Israel and Democracy. Shortly after the panel, we were addressed by Ron Prosor, the Permanent Israeli Ambassador to the UN, who gave us an overview of some of the challenges of being an Ambassador for Israel to the UN.  These morning sessions really helped to give an “inside look” not only at the political situation Israel finds herself in, but also to the positive possibilities that lie ahead for Israel and her neighbors.

After a short coffee break, we were broken up into 3 tracks: 1) Start Up Nation and the Israeli Entrepreneurship Spirit, 2) The Crisis of Governance in the Middle East: Implications for Israel and 3) Between Positive Psychology and Education.  As I am really interested in how Israel is able to maneuver as the only Democracy in the Middle East, I chose to go to the section option: looking at the Crisis of Governance in the Middle East.  The presenter, Amichai Magen, is a senior lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.  In his lecture, Magen began by presenting a triangle of the Modern International Order.  This triangle, with Peace in the middle, had as its three points: International Organizations, Economic Interdependence and Democracy, with arrows going from every point to every other point.  According to Magen, true peace can only be obtained when the governance structures really do have relationships that lead to and depend on each other.IMG_0606

Israel, a very young country, is actually one of the oldest Democracies on Earth.  This is significant, as she is surrounded in Northern Africa and the rest of the Middle East by nations that are neither democratic and are not served by major world institutions such as the Euro League.  The situation really does begin to fall apart and becomes extremely fragile when those institutions that are specifically created to help to proctor peace are either not in existence or under-utilized, whichever the case may be.  There are major consequences of this crisis of governance in the MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) region which include conditions of instability, understated uncertainty in the area regarding diplomacy among others, threats to regional security, and of course humanitarian problems.

While this area of the world does seem to be in a constant state of flux and can sometimes be scary and/or at least frustrating for Israelis, there are also some areas of good, some areas of hope.  To start with, there is some room for alignment (even it is luke-warm at best) of key interests between Israel and the pragmatic Arab states of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia towards an “Axis of Stability” in the region.  With the rise of Kurdish autonomy and possible statehood, there is a chance for Turkish-Israeli rapprochement.  This would certainly give Israel another potential partner in the region– a plus for anyone who supports and loves Israel.

This convention challenged each and every one of us in so many ways, and I leave Israel to head back to my community with more knowledge – with lots of ideas and ways to help educate and inform my congregation.  Israel is not perfect; however, she is a beacon of hope in a region that unfortunately has very little hope.  As the only democracy in the region, Israel must continue to lead the way in so many areas – in her democracy and human rights to begin with.  While I believe this region has a long road ahead, I do believe that peace will come…with God’s help, sooner or later.  Dr. Magen ended his presentation with the following quote, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist,” by David Ben-Gurion.  Yes, this is why Dr. Magen, and I as well, remain an eternal optimist with respects to Israel and her neighbors.

Rabbi Erin Boxt  serves Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia.  This is his third time at a CCAR Convention.