The spirit and values of Judaism bind Jews as a people, whether they live in Israel or in the Diaspora.
We all share a religion, traditions and a way of life.
When I joined Kehillat Emet VeShalom (affiliated with Israel’s Reform and Progressive Movement) in Nahariya, I found that acting as a liaison between my congregation and Jews in the Diaspora spoke to me. I therefore joined in the effort to build connections with other congregations abroad to raise awareness of Israel and strengthen Jewish heritage.
With this in mind, I and the other women at Emet VeShalom embraced the formation of a chapter of Women in Reform Judaism Israel and twinning activities with WRJ Temple Emanu-El in Tucson, Arizona.
Despite being thousands of miles apart and having cultural differences as well, our WRJ groups share the common goals of empowering women, strengthening Jewish identity and the desire to build strong egalitarian communities.
In our twinning program we work toward these mutually beneficial goals. Since we are fortunate to live in a time when global connections are as easy as pushing a button, we partake in spirited discussions to share our thoughts and grow close.
From the start, both groups were committed to our twinning program; we each put forth energy and creativity to build a living bridge between us.
We continually exchange ideas about many topics, including ones particularly dear to us at Emet VeShalom such as women’s issues, current events in Israel, tikkun olam (“social action”) and the challenges of pluralism in Israel.
We also share in joint programs even though each of our groups approaches every project in a manner suitable to the needs of its own congregation.
As Israeli women, we believe it is important to raise awareness of Israel in Jewish communities abroad. Our twinning relationship and our dynamic dialogue with our WRJ Temple Emanu-El sisters fosters this goal.
We are proud to see the increased connection of WRJ Tucson women to the land of Israel and her inhabitants due to our relationship.
We inspired them to do a Tu Bishvat Seder and they incorporated Nahariya by preparing our holiday recipes, viewing a slideshow of our local flora and planting trees, through the Jewish National Fund, in honor of our relationship.
We believe that our twinning program, and the feeling of solidarity that it generates between our groups, is a successful framework for strengthening the Jewish people today and in the future.
In Israel the gender discrimination which is all too prevalent in both religious and secular life concerns us at Emet VeShalom. Our members also deeply care about the right to practice Judaism in an egalitarian and pluralistic manner. Twinning with WRJ Tucson women empowers us as women and gives us energy and inspiration to face the challenges of practicing Judaism as we choose in Israel.
Emet VeShalom is a small congregation in the periphery of Israel; we often feel that we fly under the radar of the local and worldwide Reform movement. WRJ Israel and our twinning program help us feel like an integral part of the global Reform Jewish movement. As icing on the cake, we are thrilled to be the first Israeli WRJ group, with our WRJ Temple Emanu-El sisters, to receive the distinguished WRJ Gold Or Ami award for our programming achievement during 2011-2013 for “Twinning B’Yachad/ Together: Making It Work – The Nahariya-Tucson Connection.”
The author, an attorney, made aliya 21 years ago and lives in Nahariya. She is an active member of Congregation Emet VeShalom, where she is on its WRJ steering committee and volunteers as international contact liaison.