August 2013 MERCAZ USA New Year's E-Letter Elul 5773 

WELCOME to the new MERCAZ USA E-Letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters. Information to Unsubscribe is available below.

MERCAZ USA is the Zionist membership organization of the Conservative Movement, the voice of Conservative Jewry within the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Zionist Movement and the Jewish National Fund to support religious pluralism in Israel and strengthen the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. Click here to learn how MERCAZ USA's involvement in the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency for Israel benefits the entire Conservative Movement. Click here to (re)join for the current 2013-2014 fiscal year.


Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2013-2014.

On October 20-21, the American Zionist Movement will be holding dual public and leadership programs on Zionism: From Ideology to Implementation. Sunday, October 20th will be a public conference with lots of time for discussion and input on the meaning and relevance of Zionism today. Top confirmed speakers include Professor Gil Troy and Dr. Benny Ish-Shalom. For more information, go to

New for this year, Masorti Olami will be holding two Tribute Events. The first will take place in Chicago on Sunday, December 8th and will honor Alan Silberman, Rabbi Jacob Herber and Cantor Steve Stoehr. Three days later, a special evening of comedy will be held in New York. Click here for more information,

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Jewish Theological Seminary have signed a five-year study abroad agreement, giving JTS graduate students the opportunity to spend a semester in BGU’s Israel Studies International Program. Studies will take place at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism at BGU’s Sede Boqer campus.

This year’s Ramah Israel Bike Ride and Hiking Trip was a great success, raising over $380,000 from more than 2,800 donors. The net proceeds will be used to support each Ramah camp's programs, as well as to support staff training programs for the National Ramah Special Needs Network, National Ramah efforts to market and promote all our programs for special needs, accommodating more teens with disabilities in our Israel programs, and the seeding of new programs. For more information, please visit

In light of recent United Synagogue Board decisions mandating that the Fuchsberg Center and its programs, including the Conservative Yeshiva, become financially self-sufficient in the near-term, the position of Rosh Yeshiva has been eliminated and veteran teacher Rabbi Shmuel (Richie) Lewis’s contract terminated. In a statement issued by the USCJ leadership, Rabbi Lewis, "Reb Shmuel", was acknowledged as "a respected talmid chacham who invested a great deal of energy and teaching to support countless students on their Jewish journeys during his tenure at the Yeshiva."

Additionally, Rabbi Daniel Goldfarb has retired after thirteen years as Director of the Conservative Yeshiva and has been replaced by Rabbi Joel Levy, a graduate of the Hartman Institute in 2000, who has most recently served as spiritual leader of the Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue in Edgeware, England.



[On June 9-10, MERCAZ USA held its 4th Israel Advocacy Seminar. Serving on the conference’s professional staff was Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Executive Director of MERCAZ-Canada, who delivered the following D’var Torah]

"I’m going to start with a fact you all know. From June 5-June 10, 1967, just 19 years after its rebirth, Israel fought its third war for survival. In six days, 275,000 Israeli soldiers had beaten the better-armed 456,000 enemy forces. Despite the imbalance, in just six days’ time, Israel had not only won, she had reopened the holy cities of Hebron and Jerusalem to the worldwide Jewish community. It was a decided victory and a miracle, but in the modern world many miracles come with a cost. Israel was left with 759 soldiers dead and close to 3000 wounded. Arab casualties and deaths were significantly higher. In addition, Israel’s advancing armies gave us the terms "The ’67 Borders" and the "Green Line," which have been used by both Israel’s supporters and detractors ever since.

Later that year, Israel’s Navy Band performed a song that had been written by Rachel Shapira in memory Elad Krug, a young man from her kibbutz who had been killed in the war. Mah Avarech asks "Mah avarech lo bameh y’vorach zeh hayeled she’al hamalach." An angel asks, "How will I bless him, with what shall I bless this child." The song recounts blessing after blessing — a smile bright as light, wide eyes to take in all of life, and legs to dance. The child grows, and the angel continues to ask, "With what shall I bless this youth? With what shall I bless this man?" The blessings change. Instead of legs with which to dance, legs that are strong and mighty. Instead of a voice that sings out in song, a voice that calls out in cadence. Unfortunately, the blessings are for naught. The boy becomes an angel. The lyrics end "Elohim Elohim Elohim, lu ach berachta lo chayim." "Dear God, If only You had blessed him with life." It’s a difficult message wrapped in a beautiful tune.

It’s an interesting choice for a military band to play. I have heard many a military band. They play songs like "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "Oh Canada." Mah Avarech is not a typical tune for a military band, but we understand it is no less patriotic. Kohelet teaches us, v’ha’chai yitein libo; and the living shall take it to heart. It is said in reference to mourning. Those of us left behind must learn from the ones we have lost. It may be that we have lost someone close to us, whose lessons we know well. It may be that we have lost someone we barely knew, or did not know at all, but they still have lessons to teach.

Israel, like all things, is not perfect, but it is our land. It is a land of holiness, of amazement, and of miracles. It is also a land that has learned its lessons in very difficult ways. As a result, the State of Israel and we, as Jews, understand that we must always ask for that blessing of life. This requires knowledge of and support for Israel to ensure its survival in the world. We must never allow Israel to become that boy, that youth, that man, only an angel who can never again dance, explore, wonder or smile."

[To hear Mah Avarech sung by the Tzahal Navy click here. See the MERCAZ website for information about future seminars]

Click here for more information about the MERCAZ Israel Advocacy Training Seminar. Contact MERCAZ at 212-533-2061 or with any questions or concerns regarding future seminars.