Monday, December 11, 2017

T'shuvah- Turning & Returning - From Erev Yom Kippur

Tonight Jews around the world will gather in synagogues to recite Kol Nidre. For 25 hours we will stand together, reciting our t'fillot. Our prayers are recited in the plural, stressing our responsibility to each other as a community. We will examine the last year, and look to the future with hope.

Certainly the past year yielded many moments of frustration. As a Zionist and Masorti Jew, I often find myself at odds, loving Israel, but also tired of the constant struggle. In these moments perspective is important. Though the news shows the drama - the Israeli government abrogating the Kotel agreement it so widely touted two years ago, or supporting ultra-Orthodox manoeuvres to solidify their power over conversion, marriage, and even the bedroom through mikvayot. What we don't see in the news, what only those involved know, is the progress and promise of Masorti in Israel and around the world.

MERCAZ-Canada is one of 17 MERCAZ chapters around the world, covering over 800 kehillot in 36 countries. In Israel, Masorti is growing in leaps and bounds. Twenty years ago Masorti was barely a blip in the Israeli consciousness. Today there are almost 80 kehillot, up from 63 five years ago. Each year more than 850 children celebrate bar and bat mitzvah at Masorti services each year, plus another 200 who participate in the nation-wide Masorti b'nei mitzvah program for children with disabilities. Ramah-Noam sets new participation records each summer at its award winning camp. 50,000 students, in 325 schools, receive participate in TALI Jewish studies. Though not State recognized, more brides and grooms choose Masorti wedding ceremonies each year. And yes, the Masorti Kotel attracts 20,000 visitors, more than 700 minyanim each year. This growth is what pushes the ultra-Orthodox to push back so strongly. And this is what gives me hope.

The drama of the Kotel struggle may receive the attention. But when all is said and done, Masorti can make the difference between an Israel for all Jews and an Israel where observance is regimented and coercive.

Tonight, as I begin my t'fillot with hope for the future, I will pray for an open and pluralistic Israel, and after the holiday, I will again begin working towards it.