Leaders of a host of Jewish organizations, mostly from the Diaspora, called in the Knesset Tuesday for a revision of the traditional Hebrew calendar that would reflect a grassroots push for more worldwide Jewish social action.
These organizations want to transform the Hebrew month of Heshvan, traditionally called Mar [bitter] Heshvan because it is devoid of holidays, into "Social Action Heshvan."
Yosi Abramowitz, a member of KolDor, a global network of Jewish activists behind the initiative, presented the idea to a special joint session of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, headed by MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, and the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Michael Nudelman.
"I am a child of the Soviet Jewry and anti-apartheid movements," said Abramowitz during his speech. "Jews from all kinds of backgrounds, including the unaffiliated, were involved. We have seen history bend to our will when collective action became normalized among so many.
"By transforming Heshvan into Jewish Social Action Month we are recreating some of the factors leading to collective action among all kinds of Jews worldwide. Through an act of empowerment we transform Jewish time. When time is marked or celebrated globally and intersects with Jewish values and actions, then the Jewish people are only limited in what we can accomplish by our imagination - or our pettiness."
In an official letter to KolDor, which is supported by the World Jewish Congress, United Jewish Communities, Hadassah, Hillel, the American Jewish Committee, UJA/Federations of New York and Chicago, the World Union of Jewish Students and dozens of other organizations, Minister Ya'acov Edri, who is responsible for liaison between the Knesset, voiced his support for the initiative.
Jewish communities in the US, Canada, Mexico, Britain, South Africa and Australia are planning various social action activities for the month of Heshvan.
In Israel, a number of activities are planned: A concert at Beit Hatefutsoth will bring together popular and religious musicians and singers.
The Tel Aviv Hillel House will launch a Jewish Social Involvement Course and 10 students will begin a year-long leadership program teaching and assisting in a school in the impoverished Pardes Katz neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
About 100 eighth graders at the Experimental School-Wizo Hadassim will be taught about the crisis in Darfur. Ninth graders at the school will launch ongoing social responsibility projects for the year.
Bnei Akiva branches, local community garden groups and others will be working with local residents to clean up neighborhoods in Jerusalem as part of the International Clean Up the World effort.
BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Israel Culture's Secular Yeshiva will study Jewish and general texts that will lead to action involving thousands of residents of south Tel Aviv.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel will also organize projects for the preservation of the environment.