Posted on August 13th, 2014

Operation Protective Edge – A Virtual Conversation

As I write this article, Israel and Gaza are in the midst of a seemingly successful 72-hour cease-fire. (May it continue to be so!) We have a couple days to catch our breaths, to perhaps slow down and relax from the barrage of news, endless posts back and forth on Facebook and Twitter, and from the alerts ringing on our phones.

This was not the case on Friday, August 1st, when 50 people gathered together in virtual conversation with Rabbi Josh Weinberg, ARZA President and Lori Sagarin, RJE, educator at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, IL and a past president of NATE, to talk about the situation in Israel and how we can address this topic with the students and families in our institutions.

Rabbi Weinberg shared with us his perspective on the current “matzav” (situation) in Israel, the work the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism is doing to provide respite activities for people living in the south of Israel, and how we can be of help to those efforts. Lori reflected on her recent trip to Israel as a participant in a WZO/iCenter conference for Israel.

Additionally, she provided us with some language and tools for colleagues to use when speaking and teaching about what is going on and shared with us some of the latest resources from the iCenter regarding the conflict. Everyone came away from this conversation with some food for thought and valuable resources:

  • Unity without uniformity. The members of our communities have deep held feelings and opinions about Israel. We should not aim to bring anyone into alignment on those, but rather create a sense of shared commitment to Israel, despite our differences of opinion on how we might get Israel to a place of peace. Rabbi Weinberg encouraged us to read Loving the Real Israel: An educational agenda for liberal Zionism by Alex Sinclair.
  •  Step away from the computer and into real dialogue. Many of us, in the recent weeks have spent way too much time reading posts online rather than engaging in real-live dialogue with colleagues, friends and community members. Dialogue is hard, but it is important. We need to sit together and discuss our feelings and fears, our hopes and desires, and consider ways that we can come to deeper understandings about Israel and the current conflict.
  • ARZA has put together two sets of resources for ARJE Educators and others. Talking About Israel includes some guidelines for crafting meaningful conversations about Israel in our communities. Israel and Operation Protective Edge – A Resource Packet includes answers to commonly asked questions, as well as an online resource guide and recommendations for responsible news and media sources that span the political spectrum. Both of these are available on the ARJE website.
  • The iCenter continues to develop resources and materials that educators and parents can use in addressing this situation with children and in educational settings. Lori encouraged us to check the iCenter website regularly for new items that are being posted and shared. She particularly highlighted Natalie Blitt’s article, “Talking To Your Children About the Situation,” Rabbi Jan Katzew’s article, “It’s Time to Think Slowly,” and Rabbi Josh Feigelson’s article, “Three Questions to Ask During a War (and During Peacetime, Too).”

These resources, as well as a recording of the webinar are all available on the ARJE website. I hope you will take the opportunity to review them and let us know how you have made use of them.

At times like these we can feel very isolated in our communities. It is my hope that this webinar, and the conversations that have emerged out of it, will allow each of us to feel a greater sense of connection to our people, Am Yisrael, as we support our students and families and as we pray for peace in the coming days.