Summer 2003

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Summer 2003

MERCAZ "Team Israel" Returns Israel To Synagogue Life

Thirty synagogue leaders representing a dozen synagogues in the United States and Canada took part in a special mission to Israel this past February that raised important questions about the extent to which the contemporary Conservative synagogue serves to further the ties between North American Jewry and Israel. Co-sponsored by MERCAZ USA and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, "Team Israel" brought lay and professional leaders together to explore, through lectures, discussions, trips to institutions of the Masorti Movement and visits with Israelis, how to improve synagogue life by enhancing Israel awareness on an ongoing basis.

Among the highlights of the 10-day mission was a full-day visit to a TALI school, home hospitality for Shabbat at one of six host Masorti synagogues around the country and a comprehensive tour of the Fuchsberg Center, including a study session at the Conservative Yeshiva with Rabbi Joel Roth. The group visited current confrontation sites around Jerusalem and toured Mt. Herzl, the National Military Cemetery and the Supreme Court building. Guest speakers included Rabbis Ehud Bandel, President of the Masorti Movement, and Reuven Hammer, President of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Co-chaired by MERCAZ Executive Director Rabbi Robert Golub and Rabbi Robert Abramson, United Synagogue's Director of Education, the mission, heavily subsidized by the Jewish Agency's Joint Program for Jewish Education and the WZO Department of Zionist Activities, enabled participants to develop a number of programmatic ideas for Israel-related activities and programs which could be implemented in various synagogue settings throughout the year. Additionally, a listserv has been created to enable Team Israel members to share insights and exchange information with fellow participants.

As one participant noted, "Overall, this trip brought me back to being 'at home' with my relationship to Israel . . . . I would love to expose each Conservative Jew to this learning experience. I don't feel that any Jew in America has the information which we have gained here . . . . I love feeling the 'halutz' spirit amongst the TALI and Masorti programs. It was 're-Jew-vanating'!"

"What was most impressive," noted Rabbi Golub, "was the fact that neither the continuing Intifada nor the countdown to war in Iraq caused any cancellations among the participants. Our group ran the gamut from those who had lived in Israel to those for whom this was a first experience in the Jewish State. Participating congregations ranged from those with 1000 families or more to those with under 300 families; yet, the bonding among Team members was fantastic, and there was a shared determination to make Israel a stronger reality in the synagogue."

A second Team Israel Mission for 2003 will be departing in early December, and approval-in-principle for groups in 2004 and 2005 has already been received. For more information about enrolling one's congregation in a future Team Israel mission, contact MERCAZ at 212-533-2061 or


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