A Warm Greeting from Masorti’s New Executive Director,
I wanted to begin by introducing myself. 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. Read the announcement here.
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.
I hope you’ll check out the first edition of our all new e-newsletter, Masorti Flower-HaPerach HaMasorti. About the name: of our newsletter: 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. In 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 was a gem of wisdom (among many!) that struck me. Rabbi Tucker discussed Israeli poet and thinker Chaim Nachman Bialik’s 1916 essay where he explored the relationship between Agada and Halacha. For Bialik and Tucker, the Agada is like a flower creating the fruit of Halachah, which in turn has within it the seed of another flower of Agada. I encourage you to watch Rabbi Tucker on our home page and to read Bialik’s essay.
For me, the Masorti Movement and the Masorti Foundation are striving to create just this type of Masorti Flower. Unity of Aggada and Halacha, of traditional Judaism and modern Israeli life, of Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.
I look forward to getting to know each of you and welcome you to our creative partnership with the Israeli Masorti Movement. Together we can provide the needed support to nurture this flower for the sake of Israel, for the Masorti/Conservative movement and for the essential values of Judaism.
Warm wishes for a joyful Purim holiday.