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Rabbi Reuven Greenvald

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Three smiling male teens holding an Israeli flags

Last I week, I had the great privilege of being on faculty at URJ Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS. One of the highlights of the week at this wonderful camp – and, there were so many – was the 90-minute engaging conversation with the Chalutzim unit about understanding Israel through today’s pop, hip-hop, and rap music. These teens were so thoughtful and insightful. I think the best compliment I got the next day from a camper: “Rabbi, you have good taste in music!” I do this session often with teens, and I am gearing up to repeat this dialogue next week at NFTY Mechina at URJ Kutz Camp.

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Asylum-seeking woman preparing coffee for a coffee ceremony

“I Have Only Known”

I have only known how to tell of myself. My world is narrow like that of an ant I carry my burden like it too heavy for my weak shoulders…

>A hidden fear of the hand of giants Mocks all my paths, causing me to cry Why did you call to me, wonderous land? Why did you deceive me, distant lights?

Rahel (Rahel Bluwstein, 1890 – 1931) Translation by Reuven Greenvald

On the edge of south Tel Aviv, next to the Ayalon highway, stands a rundown, gray industrial building. From the street, passers-by might miss it entirely and certainly could...

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Group of small yellow candles; flames of background candles are slightly out of focus

Two weeks ago, I watched an interview with a high school student from Parkland, Florida, on television. She described sitting in a Holocaust studies class, hearing the gun shots in the hall, being barricaded in the classroom, huddling with classmates in fear for their lives. My brain and my heart can’t process this tragic confluence of subject matter and experience. If I offer any response, it’s to keep that unimaginable image with me as a motivator to become more involved and concerned about preventing gun violence.

It’s that same kind of thinking I bring to Yom HaShoah, which...

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Restaurant owner talking to the blog post author and another man (Rabbi Aaron Panken, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion)

Last month, for the fourth time in 18 months, I was in the Palestinian city of Ramallah with a group of American Jewish leaders. Ramallah is an interesting, bustling, and complicated city. Although only six miles from Jerusalem, the drive feels much longer. For one thing, the roads were not designed for heavy traffic; for another, there’s usually a long wait at the Israeli military checkpoint at Qalandia, the access point to and from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

But once inside the city limits, there is surface-level familiarity; the architecture, street vendors,...

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Ahad Ha'am's grave in Tel Aviv

At the end of my most recent trip to Israel in December, I added on a few days for personal time and exploration in Tel Aviv. The weather was unseasonably warm, even for this Mediterranean city, so I explored by taking long walks. With time on my hands, I walked down side streets and let them lead me to unexpected places. During these walks, I stumbled upon sites I had forgotten about and discovered new pieces of Tel Aviv history, as well as reminders, from architectural and other clues, of the city’s ethnic and historical distinctions, that once were more pronounced.    

On one...

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