September 2007

Hag Sukkot Sameach

Tishrei 5768

Welcome to the MERCAZ USA E-Letter being sent to MERCAZ members and supporters from the 2006 World Zionist Congress elections. 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 (re)join for the new 2007-2008 fiscal year.



Looking to join an organized trip to Israel? Click here for a list of upcoming Conservative Movement synagogue trips for 2007-2008.

MERCAZ USA, together with the Aliyah Committee, USCJ's Project Reconnect, the Jewish Agency and the Israel Aliyah Centers, will once again be coordinating the visit of two Aliyah-promotion Shlichim this coming Fall in the Seaboard and Pacific Southwest Regions, bringing back to the United States two former Americans who had made aliyah and are now associated with the Israeli Masorti Movement:

Rabbi Peretz Rodman, a well-known Jerusalem-based educator and immediate past president of the Rabbinical Assembly-Israel Region, will be visiting the Pacific Southwest Region from October 18th to 28th. Click here to learn more about Peretz.

Rabbi Paul Arberman, the rabbi of the Masorti congregation in Modiin, will be touring the Seaboard Region from November 8th to 18th. Click here to learn more about Rabbi Arberman.

Details about the itineraries for both speakers will be posted on the MERCAZ USA website

The Israel Commission of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has launched "Today's Israel", a new interactive digital magazine which focuses on Israeli's daily lives and on what is happening within the United Synagogue in Israel. Click here to access the new e-publication.

Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, President of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, and Rabbi Jerome Epstein, Executive Vice-President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, blasted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi, for attributing the fact that Israeli soldiers were killed in last summer's war in Lebanon to the fact that "[they] don't observe the Torah, don't pray every day and don't put on tefillin every day".

Rabbi Schlesinger reminded the spiritual leader of the SHAS Party that the verse "Hidden things may pertain to God our Lord, but that which has been revealed applies to us and our children forever" (Deuteronomy 29:28) teaches that it is forbidden for any person to serve as the Almighty's spokesperson, since God's ways are hidden, while Rabbi Epstein urged Yosef to hear the sound of the shofar during the month of Elul and "grow beyond your narrow, bigoted tunnel vision to a greater understanding of God's world."

Masorti kehillot in two Negev communities have recently encountered difficulities at the hands of local religious groups. In Arad, the Masorti congregation has had to install a new security system to counter multiple acts of vandalism, purportedly at the hands of local Hassidic Jews, while in Omer, where there has been a vibrant Masorti kehilla for a number of years, the local Orthodox rabbi had all of the locks on the local mikveh changed without the knowledge of the municipal authorities, in order to prevent the Masorti community from using the facility for conversions. The movement continues its legal fight to ensure access to publicly funded mikvaot.

Despite these local challenges, the Masorti Movement continues to grow and strengthen. Recently, the movement's first Sephardi kehilla, Degel Yehuda, was founded in Jerusalem. Named in memory of Dr. Daniel Judah Elazar, who co-authored a few years ago the study, "The Conservative Movement in Judaism: Dilemmas and Opportunities", the new congregation preserves the liturgical traditions of Middle Eastern and North African Jewry within the spirit of egalitarianism.

At the same time, established Masorti congregations in Kiryat Bialik, Modiin, Herzliya and Zichron Yaacov have received municipal authorization to build or expand their facilities. Since the allocation of public land is controlled by local governments which have historically bowed to religious pressure against facilitating non-Orthodox initiatives, the fact that these kehillot are receiving official sanction for their growth and expansion is testimony to the movement's growing influence.

The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel calls on its supporters to continue to support the Israeli Masorti Movement. Please send contributions to the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832, New York, NY 10115 or go to and contribute online.


By Dr. David Breakstone, International Vice President, MERCAZ & Masorti Olami

The traditional Hebrew adage "lo l'arbev simcha b'simcha" (literally, "not to mix simcha with simcha") enjoins us from muddling the joy of one event with that of another. But this year, the people of Israel appear ready to make an exception. Still in the midst of festivities marking 40 years of the reunification of Jerusalem, we have already begun gearing up to celebrate 60 years of Israel's independence. The anniversaries of these two momentous events in our history give tangible expression to the reward our generation has been privileged to collect as recompense for our ancestors' steadfast loyalty to the Land of Israel throughout centuries of Galut (exile).

Now, at the beginning of a New Year in which these two occasions overlap, it is appropriate for every member of MERCAZ Olami to take stock of what little bit more he or she might be doing to live a life a trifle truer to the sentiment expressed by our psalmist, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem...".

The following is a list of 10 concrete actions to choose from to make certain that even in lives lived by the rivers of Babylon, however soothing they may be, no joy shall take precedent over our yearning for the eternal capital of the Jewish people, now returned unto its ancient land.

1) Begin planning your next trip to Israel. If you've already got one scheduled, suggest to a friend or relative to plan one as well. Or get involved in organizing a trip for your synagogue or children's school.

2) Make one of Israel's on-line newspapers your internet homepage. (Some options:,,,,

3) Read Israel: An Echo of Eternity, Abraham Joshua's ode on the meaning of a Jewish state on an ancient land in modern times. Almost 40 years old, but still inspiring.

4) At the end of the Yom Kippur liturgy, after a full day of fasting and against the background of the blast of the shofar, ask yourself what you really mean when uttering the words, "Next year in Jerusalem."

5) Connect to contemporary Israeli culture. Go out and get an Israeli DVD, CD, or novel.

6) Pick up a siddur and spend some quality time with the prayers for the State of Israel and the Welfare of Israel's Soldiers, considering the emotions they evoke.

7) At the next wedding you attend, after the wine goblet is broken in commemoration of the destruction of the Temple, take a pause and a deep breath before joining in with the clapping and dancing.

8) Increase your contribution to one of the institutions promoting Masorti Judaism in Israel, and inquire as to how else you might become involved in promoting its agenda. Contact your local chapter of MERCAZ (For details, click here.)

9) Find an excuse to plant a tree in Israel — preferably in person, alternatively via the internet ( or

10) Improve your Hebrew. Commit yourself to improving your vocabulary one word at a time. Register for an ulpan. Choose a prayer you will learn to read and understand in the original.

Together, may we all enhance the meaning of the Zionist enterprise in this milestone year by allowing its great successes and religious significance to enrich our lives as individuals and as a community.


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