MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Spring 2008
Visiting Israel "The Conservative Way"
With the countdown to the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's independence in progress, world Jewry is being urged to join the celebration by traveling to Israel in this festive year.
But for Conservative Jews who are planning to visit the Jewish State, whether for the first time or the hundredth time, a tour that is limited to the typical tourist venues is not enough. While the standard tourist sites — Masada, Old City, etc — are important, Conservative Jews have their own personal connection to the Jewish State, through the many institutions of Conservative/Masorti Judaism that can be found in Israel. In this year of Israel's anniversary, Conservative Jewry is encouraged to visit Israel "the Conservative Way".
A good starting place for a Conservative tour of Israel might be the Masorti Kotel, the site at the southwestern end of the Western Wall by Robinson's Arch in the Old City of Jerusalem, which has been designated by the Israeli government for egalitarian prayer services.
The Masorti Movement oversees the Masorti Kotel, which is located within the Davidson Archeological Park. As concluded last year, individuals and groups entering the site for prayer services before 10:00am no longer have to pay an entrance fee. While individuals are free to enter for private prayer at any time during the morning, groups looking to conduct services at the site need to register in advance and are assigned to one of three set service times: 8:00am, 9:15am and 10:30am.
A Torah scroll, table and siddurim, which are stored at the Davidson Center, are available for use by visiting groups. There is no charge for their use, but a donation to the Masorti Movement would be welcome. It should be noted that as the Masorti Kotel is located within an archeological park, no food, including candy for throwing, is allowed at the site. For further information, contact Masorti Kotel Coordinator Eliav Rodman, +972-54-435-4288 or email@example.com.
Leaving the Old City for New Jerusalem, the next stop on a Conservative/Masorti itinerary would be the United Synagogue's Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, which is located in the heart of Jerusalem, at the intersection of King George/Keren HaYesod Streets and Agron Street, opposite "Terra Sancta" and "Heichal Shlomo" and adjacent to the Sheraton Plaza and Kings Hotels.
Started back in 1972 with the World Council of Conservative Synagogues' Moreshet Yisrael synagogue, the site has been expanded and transformed over the last decade by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Today, the Center runs programs and provides services in five adjacent buildings on the Fuchsberg campus, including the long term residence facility for USY Pilgrimage and the Nativ college leadership program, classroom and library space for the Conservative Yeshiva and Project Oded's Jewish Studies Enrichment Program, the "three-star" Tichnor Residence Hall and Learning Center and the Moreshet Israel synagogue building.
Individuals and families visiting Jerusalem are encouraged to tour the Center and attend one of the Project Oded classes offered during the week, including the Monday evening lecture program. Visitors can also arrange to participate in a variety of volunteer projects through the Fuchsberg Center's Gemilut Hesed Project, or experience traditional "hevruta" study at the Conservative Yeshiva.
In addition, visiting groups can arrange for customized educational programs, lasting anywhere from one hour to a full day, with members of the academic staff of Project Oded or the Yeshiva, as well as for catered meals in one of the Center's dining rooms. Moreover, both individuals and groups can book accommodations in the Tichnor Residence Hall, a three-star guesthouse.
For more information about tours, educational offerings and volunteer projects at the Fuchsberg Center, contact the Center's office at Israel@uscj.org, +972-2-625-6386. For study opportunities at the Conservative Yeshiva, contact Yeshiva@uscj.org, +972-2-622-3116. Catered meals and hotel accommodations may be arranged at firstname.lastname@example.org, +972-2-625-8286. When making reservations, please identify yourself as a United Synagogue member.
Moving further west towards the area of the Knesset and Israel Museum is the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. Housed here at the educational center for Conservative/Masorti Judaism in Israel are a graduate school, a rabbinical school and the central offices of the TALI Education Fund and Midreshet Yerushalayim, the latter an educational network working both in Israel and Eastern Europe.
Tours of the facility, which is currently undergoing expansion with the construction of a new classroom building, are available for individuals and groups. In addition, groups may arrange for a lecture/study program and/or a visit to a TALI school, lasting anywhere from one hour to half a day. An honorarium of $25 per participant is requested. A small luncheonette operates on the premises, which can also cater meals for groups by advanced reservation.
For further information about arranging visits and programs at the Schechter Institute, contact Linda Price, Director of Communications, +972-747-800-675, email@example.com or Schechter Institutes, Inc., 215-830-1119, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, both within Jerusalem and throughout the country is the network of Masorti congregations. With more than fifty kehillot in Israel, from Kfar Vradim and Carmiel in the north to Eilat in the south, there is bound to be a Masorti community wherever one goes.
The office of Kehillot Development within the Masorti Movement office is prepared to arrange the visit of any group to a Masorti congregation, including organizing tours, meetings with synagogue leadership, catered meals, etc. An honorarium of $400-600 would be appropriate. For more information, contact Olya Weinstein at +972-2-668-6516, email@example.com.
Individuals interested in visiting a Masorti community are encouraged to be in direct contact with the congregational rabbi or lay chairperson. Contact information for every congregation is available on the Masorti Movement website, www.masorti.org/congregations.html.
As MERCAZ President Dr. Stephen Wolnek said, "our mission statement notes that 'Zionism [is] an invaluable tool for strengthening Jewish identity and combating assimilation... [by] linking Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora with Israel through tourism.' In this special year of celebration, we should commit ourselves not only to visit Israel but also become better acquainted with the institution of Masorti Judaism that are growing and developing in our people's homeland."
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