On the eve of 5775, more than 50 Jewish thought leaders and communal activists from around the country gathered at a retreat near Baltimore last week for 48 hours to talk about whatever was on their mind. Not surprisingly, their frank discussions covered a wide range of themes and interests. But bottom-line, the common thread was a deep concern about Jewish unity — more precisely, the lack of it — over the policies of the State of Israel, and the denominational divides that underscore the dearth of religious and communal leadership at home.
Did you, like me and many other supporters of Israel, cringe on reading the other day that the Jerusalem government had laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank, presumably for settlement expansion?
When I asked Rabbi Andy Bachman what he plans to speak about in his sermons during this, his last, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services as senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim, I thought he would bring up the importance of closing the gap between the wealthy and the needy in this country.
Each summer the Jewish Agency for Israel sends hundreds of shlichim, or emissaries, to Jewish camps throughout the U.S. Their dual goal is to bring the spirit and reality of Israel to youngsters here, and to deepen the relationship between young American and Israeli Jews.
The woman to my left said she felt “overwhelmed” and “emotional” in dealing with the news about Israel’s war in Gaza. The heavy volume of postings on her Facebook page were so upsetting, with their criticism of Israeli actions, that she was considering “unfriending” some of her online correspondents.