The following blog first appeared Friday, March 2, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I hope this note finds you well.
It has been a few weeks since our Interfaith Clergy Journey to Israel and the WhatsApp messages within the group have slowed down a bit (only 5-10 a day), and there is now a Facebook group which is pretty active good indicators of the impact of this trip on participants, but I want to share an example of what I believe is the real benefit of trips like this.
In the past couple of weeks, there has been a bit of a crisis in Jerusalem over a municipal plan to tax business ventures of religious institutions. Some quick background as you can guess, lots of property in Jerusalem is owned by religious authorities. And a relatively small percentage of the population pays taxes. The Jerusalem city government is asking why should a hotel owned by a church not pay taxes while another private hotel should. This plan has, however, provoked a strong reaction among religious authorities in Jerusalem and there was a “strike” at the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, one of the holiest sites in Christianity, closing the site earlier this week.
Now, it is easy to hop on the bandwagon of THIS IS A CHANGE IN THE STATUS QUO as many have painting Israel as an aggressor doing bad things. Here is also where the importance of a trip like we just did comes in…. As you can imagine, clergy would be particularly concerned about this issue. One of the clergy on the trip posted an article on the Facebook group about this issue, expressing concern but also asking what’s the backstory since we all learned things are more complicated than they seem. Other clergy started doing their homework, posting other articles and analyses, and our tour educator from the trip chimed in with her own experience, background and perspective. It made for a great discussion and also moderated what could have been a bash-fest against Israel. These clergy recognized the complexity of these issues and of the reality on the ground and now are sharing that with their peers and congregants.
That’s a win and one example of the power of such meaningful engagement and educational experiences. It also shows what happens when you build bridges and relationships not only is there more context, you also tend to give and get benefit of the doubt.
In a day and age when people are quick to attack, draw red lines and jump to conclusions about others’ opinions and positions, I think this is a lesson that is important well beyond the bounds of the situation in Israel. But for sure this is also making a real difference in understanding of Israel. The more people, especially leaders and influencers in our community, recognize and share that the reality on the ground is complicated, the better.
Two other notes before some reads for the wet weekend.
1) Another follow up activity from this trip is taking place this weekend, when one of the Muslim clergy who participated is hosting one of the groups we visited in Israel at his gallery on Sunday as a way to educate and share some of what we learned during the trip. If you want more info, email me.
2) Speaking of travel to Israel we have just about 100 people who are committed to going so far. What about you???? More info sessions on the way and we have a deposit deadline of May 1st. Check out out: www.jewishheartnj.org/missions
With that, some reads:
- I think Leil Leibovitz is one of the best Jewish commentators out there: http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/256574/haman-the-magnificent-menace
- This weekend happens to be my favorite Torah Portion: http://rabbisacks.org/anger-uses-abuses-ki-tissa-5778/
- A video daily double totally cool: http://jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com/thousands-of-jews-and-muslims-sing-one-day-in-perfect-harmony/
- Part of our impact in terms of Israel: http://jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com/the-long-arm-of-the-law/
- What our sister Federation is doing following Parkland (note every Federation is independent, but I thought I should share): https://www.jfedgmw.org/the-corridor/why-did-our-jewish-federation-organize-an-anti-gun-violence-rally
Best for a Shabbat Shalom. And for those going to AIPAC this weekend, have a great time!