Last week, a handful of AARC members attended a lecture by Rabbi Rebecca Alpert titled ‘Reconstructionism without Zionism.’ The event was the beginning of a series of lectures hosted by a coalition of Rabbis and members of the Reconstructionist community that are concerned about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The series was not hosted by the Reconstructing Judaism official body or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. The lectures will occur bi-weekly and cover a range of topics including Decolonizing Jewish Liturgy, Rethinking Israel Education: Teaching Jewish Kids to Think Critically about Israel/Palestine, Becoming an Abolitionist: Antiracism and Antizionism and more. To learn more about the upcoming lectures, check out the coalition’s website here.
The lecture was opened with an appeal for all participants to sit with their uncomfortable feelings about Israel, be curious about what feels challenging, and remain open to hearing divergent viewpoints. Rabbi Brian Walt invited everyone to take part in a prayer to open the lecture:
Barukh atah Adonai Elo heinu melekh ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lirdof tzedek v’shalom l’chol yoshvei tevel.
Blessed is the Source of Life that makes us holy through mitzvot, calling us to pursue justice and peace for all.
If you want to read Rabbi Alpert’s lecture, you can find the source info here from an article she published on Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog. In her lecture, Rabbi Alpert argued that we need to redefine what it means to be Jews in diaspora. She maintained that how Mordechai Kaplan related to Israel in the post-WWII era needs to be subject to ‘transvaluation’ in the same way that we have transvalued (or redefined) other concepts within Judaism such as the assertion of Jews as the ‘chosen people.’ Rabbi Alpert concluded by urging the Jewish community to consider the ethical implications of war and occupation.
Upon the conclusion of her lecture, the floor was opened up for 45 minutes questions. It was clear during the Q & A that participants had a lot to say about the subject of Zionism, and Rabbi Alpert’s opinion on the subject. The level of emotion and the fact that over 280 people attended the lecture demonstrates our communities’ need to grapple with this issue. The coalition hosting the lecture provided this space for discussion in the form of a Google group after the lecture.
If last week’s lecture is an example of the level of passion on the topic, we are in for an engaging series of lectures and discussions!
To attend next week’s lecture, sign up here.