After more than thirty years working in Jewish and Israel-oriented organizations in Boston, Washington DC and New York, in late January I began as the new Executive Director of the Masorti Foundation.
Within days of arriving I launched into a whirlwind visit to Israel that was deeply inspiring – The Masorti Mission. Rabbis and lay activists of the Masorti (Conservative) movement, against the odds of an entrenched religious and political establishment, are creating vibrant kehilliot in communities large and small across the country, an energized youth movement NOAM with over 2000 kids, NOAM-Ramah camping, and activist organizations like Jewish Pluralism Watch and the Religious Affairs Bureau to organize generations of Israelis in the struggle (from the ground up) for pluralism and democracy for all. Masorti is also leading the way for Jews of all backgrounds to have access to the Kotel – Azarat Yisrael or the Masorti Kotel (aka Robinson’s Arch). The pioneering spirit and flowering creativity of Israel is on vivid display throughout Masorti.
Not only did I see the growing Masorti Movement creating rooted and modern Israeli Jewish spirituality and struggling for religious pluralism, but they are applying this core value of inclusion throughout all of their work in Israeli society. Masorti and the ADRABA Shirley Lowy Center help disabled children and adults, including the only program focused on ensuring that kids with disabilities can celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvahs becoming full Jewish adults. Masorti stands for the full inclusion of women in Judaism and is lead by some of the most amazing female Rabbis and laypeople that I have encountered. And Masorti is leading the campaign in the halls of power, the courts and public opinion for the rights of the doubly discriminated against Masorti converts to Judaism from Uganda, Kenya and other parts of the world, and for the essential Jewish value that the state not oppress the “stranger” and expel 40,000 mostly Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers.
During the final events of the Masorti Mission, we joined with hundreds of Israeli and world Masorti Jews and friends for a 40th Anniversary Day of Study and Gala celebration. Here is a link to a teaching session from Rabbi Gordon Tucker (Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel Center of White Plains and a key member of the Masorti Foundation Board of Directors) – Beyond the Boundaries of Halacha: Theology, Zionism and Masorti Judaism. There are nearly infinite gems of wisdom in Rabbi Tucker’s talk.