In this week’s two voices, we discuss why is it crucial for Progressive Jews to keep talking about Israel?
Rabbi Charley Baginsky says…
As a rabbi, a graduate of Liberal Judaism’s youth movement LJY-Netzer and someone who has spent substantial time in Israel, the country’s relationship with the Diaspora is an immensely personal topic for me.
Living in Israel helped me discover what it meant to live a Jewish life 24/7, within the rhythms of a Jewish calendar. But returning to life in Diaspora, and particularly back into Liberal Jewish communities, also taught me about a Judaism that is dynamic, egalitarian and inclusive. When it was time to pick a theme for the last week’s Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration – its biggest event of the year – we chose this topic. It met with some scepticism: why would we choose to celebrate Israel? Isn’t it better to choose something less controversial?
Liberal Judaism has never shied away from difficult topics and has celebrated diversity of views and embraced the need to confront head-on things we struggle with. And the choice of discussing Israel was proven right. An atmosphere was created where we could talk, learn, inspire, challenge and begin to think of the next steps. I believe we need to keep talking about Israel. We need to seek a relationship that has at its core mutuality. A sense not only that we need each other but that this relationship has the potential to be mutually beneficial and creative.
• Rabbi Baginsky chaired the Day of Celebration organising committee
Daisy Bogod says…
It is not just important, but essential, that Progressive Jews of all ages keep talking about Israel. This is why, at the Day of Celebration, there was an entire youth programme focused around the country called ‘Israel Tour in a Day’.
Reform Zionism is one of LJY-Netzer’s pillars as a youth movement, so obviously we educate on Israel. Trying to pinpoint why it is necessary for young people to engage with Israel education beyond that is more complex.
If, as Anat Hoffman says, “love is what remains after you know the truth”, the only way we can truly love Israel is if we engage with it from a critical perspective, and then actively try and make it a better place in line with the inspirational values of peace, justice and freedom for all citizens laid out in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Informed decision making is a big part of both LJY-Netzer and Liberal Judaism, and this must mean educating about both the good and bad of Israel. We also want to prepare our young people to educate others, and determine when it is appropriate to defend Israel and talk about how amazing a country it is.
However, we are a movement of Liberal Jews who have chosen to have a relationship with Israel, who self-define as Zionists. It would go against everything we believe in to blindly adopt this title without teaching ourselves and our members what it means.
• Daisy Bogod is a LJY-Netzer leader