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Israel

Reconstructionist Judaism has long viewed Israel as an essential element of Jewish peoplehood. 

Starting with little, what Israelis have achieved in just a few generations is astonishing. Israel has absorbed millions of Jews seeking refuge; revived the Hebrew language; shared breakthrough agricultural, medical, computer science, and communications technologies with the world; created the freest press in the Middle East; and maintained a parliamentary democracy with peaceful transitions of power from one election to the next. There is nowhere safer in the Middle East to be openly gay, to demonstrate against the government, or to publicly criticize the opinions of religious leaders. This small country provides a safe haven for Jews in a world that, 75 years ago, was often either hunting them or else denying them entry as refugees.

In the North American Jewish community, many of us have spent time in Israel and have a visceral connection to the people, the land, and the society. Many of us also have family and friends there. Collectively, we’ve grown up with Israel, followed its triumphs and tragedies, felt both pride and disappointment in its actions, and tracked the news from Israel day to day. Israel can be complex, raw, engaging, controversial, maddening, and inspiring – sometimes all in the same day. Home now to almost half the world’s Jews, Israel is deep in our hearts.

Our love for Israel has not blinded us to the Israeli Occupation, to its daily impacts on the Palestinian people, or to the need for a just and lasting peaceful resolution to the conflict. As North American Jews, we understand our relationship to our governments – both Canadian and American – to be complex. And very often we celebrate our home country’s positive contributions to humanity and critique our home country’s moral failings – all in the course of having a loving, complex, honest, and even critical stance towards understanding our own societies.

As Reconstructionists, we are similarly called to engage with Israel in a mature and loving, complex and honest way. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan supported a Zionism grounded in three core values: Jewish survival, Jewish cultural and religious renaissance, and Jewish ethical nationhood. He promoted a vision in which two vibrant centers of Jewish life – Israel and the North American diaspora – would productively and fruitfully support, shape, and when needed, give feedback and critique to each other.

Today we continue to engage with Israel through Kaplan’s basic framework. Though political views differ among members of our movement, our Reconstructionist ideals tend to attract Jews who share Kaplan’s values. We are a movement of people who welcome the complexities, questions, concerns, dilemmas, debates, and critiques that come with the territory of caring deeply about a country and its society. 

We hope you’ll explore the Israel section of our website with eyes that are open to both Israel’s wonders and its flaws, and with an appreciation of our tradition’s love of presenting multiple viewpoints. Over time, we’ll share:

  • Resources for adult and youth education on Israel
  • Resources for planning individual or group trips to visit Israel
  • Links to remarkable cultural, religious, and advocacy organizations in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
  • Essays and op-eds by different individual members of Reconstructionist communities
  • Examples of liturgy about Israel and the hope for peace
  • Links to LGBT organizations and events in Israel
  • Links to liberal synagogues and havurot in Israel, as well as Israeli groups promoting Jewish religious pluralism in Israeli society

We’ll also post Israel-related public statements from RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities on the Israel home page, and maintain an archive of them here.

Finally, got a suggestion for a resource you didn’t find here? Or maybe you have a resource you’d like us to consider adding? Please let us know using this feedback form.

Israeli Jewish Renaissance

Recently in Israel, there has been an exciting new trend toward Jewish engagement among Israeli Jews who do not identify as Orthodox. This movement strives to connect a renewed interest in Jewish learning, celebration, and community building with values like democracy, tolerance, diversity, pluralism, and general concern for Israeli society and its future. We call this the Israeli-Jewish Renaissance. This Facebook community is the first stage in a larger project sponsored by RRC that will bring the sounds, words, images and ideas of the Israeli-Jewish renaissance to progressive North American Jews, and create a gateway for further understanding and collaboration between these two important groups.

Gathering of tour group in Israel

Israel Experts

Plan an Israel tour that goes beyond the basics with Israel Experts, in partnership with the Reconstructionist movement!

More on Israel

News and Blogs

Israel Mission Trip, March 2018: A Travelogue

When we began our Israel journey together in Tel Aviv on March 7th, we were 25 people representing 11 Reconstructionist communities who travelled there on the promise to go places and meet people that even veteran Israel travelers hadn’t visited or met. And on that promise, the Reconstructing Judaism Israel Mission Trip delivered.

News

Israel at 70: State of Hope, Conflict, and Possibilities

Reflections on Israel as it turns 70

Article
News and Blogs

Remembering How To Listen: A Reconstructionist Trip to Israel

Jennifer Ferentz recently returned from the first-ever Reconstructionist Birthright trip to Israel. She reflects on her experiences. 

News

Pregnant in Israel

During her first pregnancy, Rabbi Amy Klein shared this reflection on the experience of pregnancy in Israel.

Article
News and Blogs

The First Reconstructionist Birthright Journey

A participant on the first Reconstructionist Birthright trip reflects on her journey.

News

Lekh Lekha and the Promised Land: Text Study

This text study, prepared by Rabbi Nina Mandel, contains pairs of passages examining biblical and contemporary notions of what “Promised Land” means, and how it has been interpreted by Jewish thinkers over the millennia.

Document

A Zionism Worth Reconstructing

Klein examines how experiencing the contradictions of Israeli life can help young North American Jews feel connected to Israel.

Article

Where Next?

This 2004 report of the movement’s Israel Policies Task Force emerged from a movement-wide process that solicited thoughtful input from Reconstructionists across the country. While much has changed over the past decade-plus, most of this earlier report’s framework and recommendations are still compelling and sound.

Article

Values, Middle East Politics and the Future of Israel

Robert Prybutok critiques an idealistic approach to Israel's negotiations with its neighbors, and argues for tough-minded pragmatism in the service of ideals.

Article

Finding a New Narrative

Rabbi Toba Spitzer describes two competing narrative frames about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the need for new thinking to transcend them. 

Article

On Occupied Ground

Rabbi Rebecca Lillian reflects on the moral hazard posed by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Article

A History of Reconstructionist Zionism

Rabbi David Teutsch reviews an 80-year span of Reconstructionist approaches to Zionism and the State of Israel.

Article

Herzl Play, Monologue and Activities (Grades 4-7)

A play and activities on the life and values of Zionist pioneer Theodor Herzl

Document

Parsing the Meeting of Jacob and Esau

Text study and discussion questions on the reunion of Jacob and Esau after decades of separation

Article

Next Year in Jerusalem?

A resource for exploring values and commitments around Israel, seen through the lens of the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem” at the close of the Passover seder

Article