“Hope is a commandment. Hope is a mitzvah … even in times when we don’t see the future looking bright, or we don’t know if we’ll ever see a victory, we have to work as though it will happen.”
Rabbi Miri Gold, URJ Webinar, May 30, 2012

Last month, here in The Messenger, I shared the good news that the State of Israel had authorized payments to non-orthodox rabbis for the first time in history. This historic event occurred only four months ago, on May 29th, when it was announced that Rabbi Miri Gold, a Reform/Progressive rabbi in Israel would be paid for some of her services as a rabbi. The following day, I participated in a URJ Webinar with Rabbi Gold, Anat Hoffman of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). 
 
This month, I have more good and exciting news. Rabbi Miri Gold will be coming to speak at Oak Park Temple. In a turn of events that I did not anticipate, due to Oak Park Temple’s strong support for the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and for our enthusiasm about these recent events in Israel, we were offered the opportunity to host Rabbi Gold on Sunday, October 21st at 7:00 p.m. This is a remarkable privilege and a wonderful chance for us to hear, firsthand, from Rabbi Gold about the important work to create “true religious pluralism and democracy in Israel.” 

Make no mistake about it. This is a very small, but important, step in a long process. Reform and Conservative, i.e., non-orthodox, rabbis in Israel will still not be permitted to perform many typical rabbinic duties, including officiating at weddings. As a matter of fact, between five to ten Israeli couples fly to Cyprus every day because the Jewish state does not allow mixed marriages. Some Jewish couples make the trip because they object to lack of separation between state and religion in Israel. 

For many of us in the Reform movement in the United States, this is hard to understand. But, as Rabbi Gold pointed out in the webinar, the orthodox respond to these changes with fear that would be comparable to seeing someone who has not attended medical school putting out a sign to open a medical practice. Speaking of her “Orthodox colleagues,” Rabbi Gold said, “remember that they, too, are created in the image of God and let’s try to keep our sanity and compassion in what is for them a very difficult and shocking time…” We would all be wise to emulate her humanity as we approach those with whom we passionately disagree.

I feel fortunate to be a member of a congregation in which we are able to hear directly from people who are changing the world. In October, we welcome Rabbi Miri Gold. In February, we will host Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). Let us be inspired in our work of repairing the world, tikkun olam, by these pioneers.

L’shalom,

Jeff Blaine

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