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Rabbi Rich Kirschen


Group photo of NFTY in Israel teens at the Western Wall

More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, it is Shabbat that has kept the Jewish people. -- Ahad HaAm, Zionist thinker

Recently, some Reform Jewish teens spent Shabbat in Krakow, Poland; others experienced morning prayer in the Negev desert. Still other teens recited Kiddush surrounded by the rolling hills of the Galilee, and those teens who were visiting Israel’s Mediterranean coast said HaMotzi, the prayer over the challah, there. In so doing, our participants truly represent the breadth and depth of the Jewish experience, connecting ancient prayers, texts, and stories...

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Five NFTY in Israel leaders, two young men and three young women, all smiling

As director of NFTY in Israel and a resident of Jerusalem, I was asked recently to write a blog post about Israel. With that in mind, I am going back to a topic I know well – or at least one I care about deeply: the complicated relationship between North American and Israeli Jews.

Having made aliyah (moving to Israel to live) 15 years ago, I have one foot firmly planted in the North American Jewish community and one foot firmly planted in the Israeli Jewish community. In my daily life, I can’t speak English without throwing in Hebrew words. Yet my Hebrew is filled with grammatical...

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A row of smiling Israeli teens

My wife and I moved from Providence, Rhode Island, to Israel with our three small children in 2004. With the Second Intifada still raging, “timing” wasn’t one of our strong points. However, relatively quickly after our arrival in Jerusalem, Yasser Arafat died, and the Second Intifada ran out of steam.

So, for the last 14 years, although there have been ups and downs, overall, we have been happy with our decision to make aliyah (move to Israel to live) and to raise our children as Israelis. Albeit, there have been many times when we did enact the “PR machine” to justify to our...

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Recently, together with new Israeli friends who joined them for a week, participants in the URJ’s NFTY in Israel program learned the story of the modern state of Israel. There are so many amazing parts of this country that are connected to living in a public culture that is Jewish and so many ways that Jewishness shapes the realms of language, literature, film, TV, social media, and more. In Israel, public space is Jewish space, and having a public culture that reflects this reality is one of the most important reasons the Jewish people needs its own country (like all other peoples)....

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