When I joined you for this past Shabbat I had just returned from some two weeks in Israel. (Yes, I made sure to bring along the inevitable halva from The Halva King in the Machane Yehuda Shuk in Jerusalem!) This particular trip was a mission sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York, for the rabbis of Brownstone Brooklyn. There were twelve of us in all: seven rabbis, two lay directors of the Kings Bay “Y,” two lay directors of the Hannah Senesh Day School, and Orly Nitzan, the director of the Brownstone Brooklyn Shlichut program. We spent four remarkable days together.
My own stay in Israel continued, however, for an extra week, for my annual Winter Study Retreat at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. This is the third and final year of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative at Hartman, in which I have been privileged to participate. It has been an intensive course of summer and winter onsite study, bi-weekly webinar learning, and weekly hevruta study (paired study with colleagues). My hevruta partner is a rabbi is St. Louis. (What did we do before Skype?!) This summer, as this intensive program concludes, my 26 colleagues and I will become Senior Fellows at the Hartman Institute, which is a singular honor for all of us, and we are all grateful for having been afforded this opportunity.
The primary purpose of the UJA Mission was to help us as religious leaders of Brownstone Brooklyn to engage each other in a deeper and more candid and meaningful dialogue about conflicts in Israel, so that we can more effectively address these issues as a group and as individuals with our congregants and the wider community.
In this endeavor, which will be ongoing, UJA-Federation is sponsoring a collaborative series of three lectures , beginning next week, emanating from the Hartman Institute. I can’t say enough to encourage you to attend the Images of Israel lectures at CBE, Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, and Union Temple, all of which begin at 8:00PM. They are free of charge for members of the various Brownstone congregations, but UJA-Federation and Hartman need to track the attendance. I know you understand that a robust attendance will encourage them to fund future lectures of this caliber. I hope you attend as many as possible. Universal agreement on content is not the intent; engagement is. Use the code UT16 when registering.
A word about the speakers:
Dr. Ruth Calderon (at CBE on Wednesday, February 17) is a former Member of Knesset in the Yesh Atid party, where she was Deputy Speaker. She earned a Ph.D. in Talmud from Hebrew University. A teacher and novelist, she is the founder and director of ALMA, a pluralistic, egalitarian yeshiva in the heart of Tel Aviv, and is also a faculty member at the Hartman Institute.
Dr. Tal Becker (at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue on Wednesday, March 16) holds a Ph.D. in International Law from Columbia University. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hartman Institute, and one of the driving forces of the iEngage program, now in its third segment. Tal has been a key member of Israel’s negotiating team since the Oslo Accords.
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer (at Union Temple on Wednesday, April 13) is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from Harvard University and along with Tal Becker, is one of the architects of the iEngage program