In just one week, on the 18th of the month of Sivan 5778. June 1st, 2018, the biennial of the Israel Reform Movement will begin at Kibbutz Shefayim. The excitement is in the air. Each biennial is a reason to rejoice, an opportunity to recharge with the energy necessary so that we can continue our push to drive a rapidly developing Movement, forward. The Movement in Israel does so despite the difficulties piled before it by the governmental bodies which are tainted in favor of the orthodox establishment since the creation of the State. At this biennial we expect an attendance of some one thousand and five hundred participants who will come from Rosh Pina, Carmiel and Naharia in the north all the way to Lutan and Yahel in the Arava. They will be arriving from the west, the east, the north and south to celebrate two years of hard work and achievements as well as planning for many years to come of multi-faceted, exciting and ground-breaking work.
Two years ago we initiated the international track of the IMPJ biennial, hoping that our friends and colleagues will find the biennial in Israel an integral part of the Reform worldwide calendar. A meaningful venue that one must participate in, sound one’s voice and listen to voices. This year the international track grew over six fold and a rich and invigorating program shall be offered in the English language. Speakers of Hebrew will find what I consider an overwhelming program that covers many aspects of the conference’s motto, “Between Liberty and Social Responsibility”, and where we celebrate Israel’s 70th year of independence. You will find tens of discussion forums, lectures and panels on these and other topics. The most likely problem will be to determine which one to choose at any given time slot. And there will of course be a myriad of music of all sorts and forms – can one imagine a biennial without music?! The music will fill the halls and lawns of Shefayim, and sounds will be heard from both voices and instruments.
Just to give you a taste of what to expect let us look at the time slot between 4-5 pm on Friday. Should one attend the discussion with some of the prominent young members of Knesset debating their vision for Israel? Or maybe prefer over that the talk between Dov Elboim and Rabbi Professor Yehoyada Amir discussing the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel as a Sacred Text? But there is also the lecture in memory of the late Dr. Moshe Negbi on the challenges of our democracy in Israel, where Orly Erez-Likhovski, of the Israel Reform Action Center (IRAC) talks with the honorable Supreme Court Judge (ret.) Edna Arbel? May it be more to your liking to consider finding out who actually wrote the blessing for the State of Israel participated by Dr. Yoel Rappel and Professor Dalia Marx? And there are more but we cannot cover them all in this short address. There will also be an opportunity to challenge our very own board of governors, the Hanhala, at a late night Meeting at the Bar, with refreshments served.
It is fair to ask what all of this has to do with this week’s portion of the Torah. This is because we read the following: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.” Approaching the date of our Veida there is no better blessing to bestow upon its participants from near and far. It is a blessing well rooted in the Jewish tradition but is forward-looking, acknowledging the dangers of a long voyage, and provides its receivers with the confidence needed on a rocky voyage. An ability to confront that an unknown future has in store for us. It is with that which we shall continue our march together towards this biennial gathering and will walk out of it strengthened and strengthening.
Shabbat Shalom. Lehitraot.
Reuven Marko, 25 may 2018, 12 Sivan, 5778