September 9, 2012
20 Years and Counting – Kehillat Mevasseret Zion: A Reform Synagogue Model in Israel
The following is my contribution to the "Memory Book" of Kehillat Mevasseret Zion (KMZ) on the occasion of their 20th anniversary as a congregation. KMZ is the Reform Synagogue in Mevasseret Zion and is located 15 minutes down the road from Jerusalem on the way to Tel Aviv.
In 1997 I joined my friend and then Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) Rabbi Ammi Hirsch and 30 North American Reform Rabbis in a mission to Israel. One day we journeyed to Mevasseret Zion to meet with your Rabbi Maya Leibovich and the leaders of the municipality to show our support for their approval of KMZ’s request that 900 dunam of land be set aside in order for the congregation to build a new Reform synagogue in the town. There had been strong resistance before that from the Orthodox of the community and a fire bombing of the synagogue's Gan (Kindergarten) was perpetrated by unknown arsonists. Ammi believed it important to show the Mayor and other city officials that American and Canadian Reform Rabbis representing 1.2 million North American Jews supported this project and the right of Jews regardless of "stream" to not only worship unfettered in the State of Israel but to be supported by the government in the same way that orthodox synagogues and communities were supported.
It was then that I first met Maya and learned more fully the story of your community. It did not take much for me to become one of Maya’s chassidim and proud supporters.
During the following High Holidays when I gave my annual appeal for funds from my congregation I requested that my members increase their gift by 10% so that we could support Kehillat Mevasseret Zion (KMZ) in your building what would become the jewel of a synagogue that is your home. My congregants responded joyfully, happily, passionately, and generously.
I continued asking them for funds for a number of years in that annual High Holiday Appeal, and whenever I would bring my congregants to Israel I would always schedule a visit to KMZ for Kabbalat Shabbat. You welcomed us with open hearts and arms. My families shared Shabbat dinner with your families. Friendships were formed and as a result your community has become Temple Israel’s synagogue home in the State of Israel.
Speaking personally, I am grateful to count not only your Rabbi and her family, but a number of your leaders as among my dear friends.
Our bodies may be at the extreme edges of the west, but our hearts are in the east with you (Yehuda HaLevi).
In your 20th year we at TIOH (Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles) send dash chamah and hopes that you will continue to grow in heart, mind and soul and touch not only the lives of your members and community, but to serve as a beacon light of yahadut mitkademet, tzedek, g'milut chassadim, and ahavah (Progressive Judaism, justice, loving-kindness, and love) in the State of Israel.
L'shanah tovah u'm'tukah!
A good and sweet New Year!