Galilee Diary: From vision to reality
...Your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
We just returned from a few days in Jerusalem, participating in the festivities surrounding the ordination of four new rabbis, graduates of the Israel Rabbinic Program of HUC-JIR (of which I am the director). If we had called central casting and asked for a cross section of Jewish Israel, we would have gotten something like this class: Gaby, son of immigrants from Morocco and Iran, who grew up in a development town and attended Orthodox yeshivot; Zohar, who still lives on the secular kibbutz where she was born, and has been active for over twenty years in Jewish Renewal programs; Haim, who grew up in the Reform movement in England and immigrated as a young adult; and Myra, whose life path was that of a "typical" urban secular Israeli. Four years ago they all found their way to HUC. A very different profile, I think, from that of the North American Reform rabbinate. And an interesting lesson in the reality and the challenge facing the movement here.
But one needs patience when one is looking at historical processes. Thestate is only 62 years old, and Israeli society is a work in progress. The rise of Jewish Renewal congregations, of non-religious Jewish studynetworks, of large and impressive Reform institutions in the bigcities, of networks of pluralistic schools and communities, of theability of HUC to attract such a diverse student body - are all signsthat the vision is still alive, and that when you get past the headlinesof the coalition manipulations of the ultra-Orthodox parties (and themainstream's consistent capitulation to them), this place is very richand varied in new models of Jewish learning, spiritual practice, andliturgical creativity. If the Reform movement can refrain from becomingan orthodoxy, if it can avoid falling into the standard Israeli publicdiscourse of competitive victimhood, if it has patience, and wisdom, andinclusiveness, and openness to new directions and new models, then Ibelieve it can become the way of the future here, and this year's cropof rabbis can be among the architects of that future.