Two Voices

In this week’s two voices, we ask how strong are UK diaspora relations with Israel ahead of two general elections? 

Graham Carpenter says…

Graham CarpenterI cannot escape the topic of Israel, because non-Jewish friends turn to me to gain a real person’s opinion rather than what they see in the media.

I cannot escape thinking about Israel because, particularly after France and Copenhagen, the world’s gaze is slowly encapsulating it in a broigus of extremism, anti-Semitism and terrorism.

I cannot stop thinking about Israel because, having completed a fabulous year of movement work for Liberal Judaism’s youth movement LJY-Netzer, I now work for the New Israel Fund – a charity which directly supports grassroots NGOs and charities in Israel for a better society.

I cannot escape my relationship with Israel as it is becoming more and more tied in with my Liberal Jewish identity.

This is a time when we must question our relationships with Israel. It is certainly clear to me that the days of being able to say ‘I have no relationship’ are long gone.

Liberal Judaism has a complicated but great, intense and open relationship with Israel. Many members are Israeli. We say a prayer for it at the end of every shacharit service and our rabbis and members are not afraid to discuss and debate it.

We send 30 or so 16-year-olds to Israel for a month every summer, 18-year-olds for a gap year programme every year and have many olim.

What’s more, Israel will be the topic for our biggest event of 2015 – the Day of Celebration.

• Graham Carpenter is a programme officer for the New Israel Fund

Rabbi Charley BaginskyRabbi Charley Baginsky says…

Israel may not seem an obvious choice of theme for Liberal Judaism’s Day of Celebration on Sunday 7 June at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. After all, the title of the conference indicates this is a day for celebrating Liberal Judaism and Liberal Jews.

There have been moments in the past year, longer even, when many have felt that ’celebrating’ and ‘Israel’ do not go went hand in hand.

However, this is exactly the time when we must celebrate. The only reason Israel demands the extra time in the car park is because the relationship affects us all.

We must explore new ways of talking about Israel, investigate new paradigms for our relationship as the diaspora with Israel and tell each other of people and projects changing lives and realities.

We can travel the gamut of multiple expressions and feelings and still celebrate.

The event’s keynote speakers will be Rabbi Miri Gold, who serves Kibbutz Gezer and is the first non-Orthodox rabbi in Israel to have her salary paid by the government; Rabbi Ofek Meir of Leo Baeck Education Centre; a senior Israeli VIP and Reut Michaeli, chief executive of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.

All four promise to ensure the Day of Celebration will be an inspiring event, which will challenge us to develop our unique relationship with Israel.

•Charley Baginsky is rabbi at Kingston Liberal Synagogue and chair of the Day of Celebration committee