2021 End of Year Reflections

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A Call To Collaborate 

          The gap developing between American and Israeli Jews is no secret. We might not feel it in our everyday life, since many of us have relatives, friends and colleagues overseas. But if we listen closely to voices raised on various university campuses, as well as from students at Rabbinic Seminaries, we’ll hear thoughts expressed that weren’t there two decades ago.

I believe that it is our moral duty to listen, understand and have an honest discourse with these voices. It is up to us to build a strong bridge to connect with each other, standing on three thousand years of our mutual heritage. Our differences are very small in comparison to what we share.

Jewish networking existed in the days of Talmud and even before. We have written evidence of those relationships, documented not only on our shared classic Jewish bookshelves, but also in actual numerous letters that were preserved. We have more texts in these Responsa than in all other Jewish literature – books and scrolls together.

I invite you, on behalf of Magen Avraham, to take part in preserving that tradition of physically living far away, but staying spiritually close. Let’s study together, talk about Jewish and current affairs, Zoom, and listen together to Jewish voices different than the ones we are used to hearing.

 I’m confident we can all benefit from this experience. Let’s build that bridge, together. Feel free to contact me directly.

 

Rabbi Yosef Baruch Fromer

rabbi@magenav.org 

Moving Forward – Coping with COVID

           Tackling COVID-19 in Israel has had us on an emotional, physical and policy roller coaster. For the past two years Israel has dealt with COVID in an aggressive manner, using the extreme measure of business and household lockdowns, as well as an active vaccination policy.

Though these policies brought us to 2021 in a relatively healthy and safer Israel, they generated some serious collateral damages, emotionally, socially and community wise. For example: About ninety thousand kids found themselves out of the education system.

At Magen Avraham, though our regular Shabbat minyan hasn’t yet recovered number wise, we were blessed to see our Shul full again on several occasions, including the Tishrei High Holidays and Bar/Bat mitzvahs. The main feedback we got from attendees was “It’s good to be back”. 

However, we seem to be going two steps forward and one step backward. News of the Omicron variant entering Israel has the government setting new restrictions. Mask wearing has become the norm and proof of vaccinations is needed to enter many public gatherings, including at Magen Avraham.

It seems we should learn to restrain our expectation that COVID will leave us as quickly as it came, and embrace a more tolerant adaptive approach – protect ourselves and our communities as much as we can, but remember that our communal and social lives also carry a very significant health value, spiritually and physically.

Being reminded how important and critical community and friendships are to our health and happiness might be the very awkward gift this pandemic has given us.

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“Batim Madlikim” - Community Candle Lighting at Homes.

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Stay in touch

If you have an idea for collaboration, a topic you’d like to study together, questions about Magen Avraham, Conservative issues in Israel, other Israeli/Jewish topics, or if you’re coming to Israel and would like to visit us or need some recommendations – please feel free to contact and ask us directly.

Gal Haikin, President - president@magenav.org

Rabbi Yosef Baruch Fromer - rabbi@gmail.com

Mirit Matityahu, Coordinator - mirit@magenav.org

Magen Avraham does not receive any government support and all its operations are funded by membership dues and contributions. If you wish to help support our activities, you may do so using our website or by writing directly to our office at info@magenav.org  or calling  +972-8-6460424

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Claire Homans Bouzaglo -

From Staff to Volunteer

Claire was our congregation’s coordinator for the last 8.5 years. For our members, she was the face they met in the office, the voice of the congregation on the phone, the one people turned to when they wanted to celebrate a Bat/Bar Mitzva, Aufruf or Yahrzeit.

When Claire decided to accept a generous job offer from Ben Gurion University, people wanted to come and say “Thank you”. So, one October night we all gathered outside Magen Avraham for a pot luck dinner, (COVID restrictions still applied) to greet her, hug her, sing with and for her, and tell her how much we all love and cherish her. The congregation’s band played and sang “Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles, as well as some Hebrew songs whose main motive was “You Can’t Just Walk Away LikeThis” (By “Hachalonot Hagvohim”).

 

In her farewell speech, Claire said:

"I always said that I was only doing my job, but I could not do it without the amazing staff I worked with. I never had a dream job I wanted to do, but after a few different jobs I had, I was happy to arrive at Magen Avraham. I didn't know how much it would affect my life.

“Rabbi Graetz once gave a wonderful sermon at which he said: "spirituality can appear in different ways, not only by praying but also in doing good things and giving.” When I left the office at the end of a working day or at the end of an event I would fill up with gratification and happiness for having helped others.

Every person is accepted in this community with a smile. No matter where he works, how much he earns and what car he is driving. Everyone is welcome to participate, contribute, to be himself, to belong.

I am not saying goodbye or leaving, I will find a way to continue to contribute to this special place.”

Three weeks after the farewell party, Claire called Gal, our Chairman, and told him she wanted to continue as a volunteer. She is now leading the Adult Cultural Events committee. We feel blessed to have her with us again.

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Hacham Yehoshua Drori is a Jerusalem educator and community leader. His theory is that rabbis and communities should leave the synagogues and go home. Behind this strong statement stands the belief that the communal aspect of traditional Judaism was shaped in homes rather than in Shuls. There were short prayers, Kabbalat Shabbat in our living rooms, eating together and studying together around our private tables, thus keeping things less formal and more familiar.

Though I have a soft spot for large Shuls with many participants, Drori’s perspective is dear to my heart too. How can we keep that warm familiar feeling in our shuls?

Hanukkah felt like a natural opportunity to invite our members to open their homes to other community members as well as non-members, for candle lighting. After locating the families that were willing to host candle lighting, we printed a colorful sign that they could hang on their front gate, as well as invitations that they could give to their neighbors. Then we called all the members who live close to the hosting homes, and invited them to the candle lighting. Neighbors who are not members met with Magen Avraham members. A good time was had by all. We hope a new tradition has begun.

The next event in the Jewish calendar is the “Tu Bishvat” Seder, traditionally involving drinking 4 glasses of wine. It’s another opportunity to invite others to share in a more intimate environment.

Reopening the gates for kids' parents

Two years ago, parents of the children in our after-school program would enter the front gate of Magen Avraham, and even enter the Rosen-Spitz building for drop off and pick up. It was a time to

socialize with each other, talk to the rabbi and meet members of our congregation.  Because of government restrictions, the gate was locked and the children were brought out to the parents.

Although restrictions have eased, some parents are still reluctant to enter through the gates and wait outside.  To bring them back spiritually and physically we offered two special Hanukkah activities.

There was candle lighting during pick up hours and the gate was opened. Some parents still stood outside the decorated plaza which offered seating. We went outside and explained that it was alright to come in. We handed out Hanukkah song sheets and dozens of kids, parents and grandparents sat in a big circle singing. Everyone was thrilled to be ‘back’.

We also held a Latkes baking workshop indoors and more than forty families participated.

In addition, we offer special classes which include Chess, Hiking, Guitar, Young Medics and Lego Engineering. The children seem very happy and enthusiastic participating in activities that involve other kids. They like using their hands and feet instead of gazing at a screen. We hope this is a sign of times to come.