New Masorti Movement director: COVID-19 is huge challenge for communities

“We are experiencing a great societal and economic crisis, and the Masorti Movement must know how to help heal these.”

Incoming Masorti Movement director Rakefet Ginsberg.  (photo credit: MASORTI MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL)
Incoming Masorti Movement director Rakefet Ginsberg.
(photo credit: MASORTI MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL)
Rakefet Ginsberg, the Masorti (Conservative) Movement’s incoming director, has said that one of her primary challenges will be dealing with the effects the COVID-19 crisis has had on communal life in general and Masorti communities in particular.
Ginsberg, who will be the first woman to serve as the Masorti Movement’s executive director, said that both members of Masorti communities and the communal institutions themselves have been financially hit by the coronavirus epidemic in Israel.
Ginsberg will replace outgoing director Dr. Yizhar Hess who has served in the position for the last 13 years and who is now taking up the position of vice chairperson of the World Zionist Organization to which he was elected last week.
“We need to cope with the new reality. Congregations cannot pray together, celebrate holidays together or come together for events and celebrations,” said Ginsburg, who has served as deputy director and director of the congregations for the Masorti Movement.
She said that the situation wrought by COVID has caused a “societal crisis” throughout Israel and indeed in many countries around the world, and that it was the task of religious communities to help repair this damage.
"We are experiencing a great societal and economic crisis, and the Masorti Movement must know how to help heal these,” said Ginsberg.
“Our uniqueness is that the Masorti Movement can embrace tradition and renewal, [and] can talk about halacha [Jewish law] and democracy.
“In dealing with this crisis, we need to ensure we don’t lose who we are, we cannot change completely, but we also cannot remain as we were.”
She noted that just one of the responses to the crisis was to create an online “quiet channel” for the broadcast of prerecorded prayer services over the High Holidays to ensure that members could still listen in some way to the services despite not being able to attend synagogue and without violating Jewish law.
Ginsberg said that creative solutions like this were needed to fill the communal void caused by the global pandemic, adding that new, “non-geographic” based communities needed to be formed as part of the solution.
She noted that a large number of communal Masorti rabbis have had to go on furlough due to the financial impact of the public health crisis and a loss of revenue for communities.
And the incoming director added that she believed the number of dues-paying members would likely also decline, although she said that exact details on this would not be known for several months after the renewal period which takes place during the High Holy Day season.
Ginsberg also talked of another primary challenge which she said was the loss of “community spirit” among youth which she said has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Youth are at home the whole time, interacting through Zoom, and it is difficult to give them a  community experience.
“But communities are so important when they’re part of our societal resilience, and so we need to teach the next generation to be part of communities which provide support and help us deal with challenges and problems together.”
Ginsberg said that the fact that the Masorti Movement had appointed a woman as its professional head was a political and social statement, which demonstrates the denomination’s stance that “the status of women is equal to that of men, both when praying and how we act and operate.”
“We’re not just talking about equality, we’re doing it too. It’s a way of life. When so often there is talk about separation of men and women in the public domain, and exclusion of women, this demonstrates how in the Masorti Movement we both pray together and we run the organization together, men and women equally.”


Tags Masorti