(Courtesy of YIWH) Next week, Rabbi Tuvia Brander, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of West Hartford, will head to Israel to help lead a new initiative on behalf of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the leading membership organization of Orthodox rabbis in North America, and the Barkai Center for Rabbinics in Israel. First, Rabbi Brander will present at a conference for rabbis from across Israel and Europe addressing issues impacting the global Jewish community. At the same time, Rabbi Brander and five other rabbis from North American communities have been paired with six rabbis of Israeli communities. Over the course of the conference, these 12 rabbis will share about their work and learn about each other’s communities. Each of the North American rabbis will join their Israeli colleagues for Shabbat, January 4, when they will serve as scholars-in-residence within their synagogues. Rabbi Brander will spend Shabbat with Rabbi Yoni Lavi in Petach Tikva. Then, later this year, these Israeli rabbis will come to participate in the annual RCA Rabbinical conference and then join their counterparts for Shabbat in their North American communities. The Greater Hartford Jewish community and the Young Israel will be hosting Rabbi Yoni Lavi on the weekend of May 9.
The relationship between Israel and North America is essential to the Jewish people. Recent controversies have led some to question the strength of these bonds. The Rabbinical Council of America recognizes the need to deepen our understanding of Israeli religious life and in turn to enhance awareness and familiarity for our Israeli colleagues of North American religious life. In addition, our communities can and indeed must learn from and teach one other. Most Dati Leumi (National Religious) Israelis are not aware of the riches, sophistication and intricacies of North American Jewish communal life. In fact, the model of community-centered Judaism is just starting to take root in Israel, and North American Jews have the potential to contribute greatly to this growing positive development. At the same time, while many Orthodox Americans are very connected to Israel and have visited many times, most are unaware of the real issues with which Dati Leumi communities struggle. This initiative will bring Israeli and American communities together as equals in meaningful dialogue with one another. Unlike most rabbinic meetings between Israeli and American rabbis, which take place around hot-button national and international matters and lack the opportunity for true dialogue, this initiative applies a different model: an open dialogue on the grassroots level where rabbis from each side of the ocean can speak openly, share best practices and genuinely connect on a personal, professional and communal level. This initiative will undoubtedly greatly enhance community living on both continents by increasing awareness, knowledge and synergy between, about and within the Israeli and North American communities.