by Rabbi Adrienne P. Scott, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX and a member of our GFC faculty.
On a recent congregational trip to Israel, I heard from Rabbi Gilad Kariv. Rabbi Kariv is the President and CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Rabbi Kariv spoke very openly on the important relationships between the Israeli and American Reform congregations. Not unfamiliar to many of us, he emphasized the importance of relational Judaism. Rabbi Kariv emphasized the need for Israelis to discover their own Jewish practices and beliefs. He believes that the best entry point for Israeli teens is through the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) camping movement.
Spending time at Greene Family Camp has been an important part of my portfolio as an associate rabbi in Houston. For over 10 summers, I have valued my time in Bruceville, Texas. Despite the heat and living amongst some interesting insects, it’s the feeling of camp that can’t be replicated at any other time during the year. GFC places a high emphasis on bring together the Mishlachat, the contingent of Israeli counselors, unit heads and specialists that come to share in the joy, spirit and community that is so familiar to many of us.
This summer has been a particularly important time to take notice of these ties. In its 70 years of an independent state, Israel continues to seek the support of its North American communities. Our work is far from over and Israelis continue to learn about the wonderful aspects of the Reform movement in the states.
While at GFC you can see Israelis interacting with Americans on a regular basis. You find them discussing everything from politics to religious observance to pop culture. And, it doesn’t end at camp. Many of these same Israelis become shlichim (emissaries) in communities around North America during the year, sponsored by both Jewish Federations, local Jewish communities, and the Jewish Agency in Israel. And, the Americans are more inclined than ever to travel to Israel during a study abroad program, study for a gap year or even to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They have built relationships together which they want to maintain. No longer is Israel a place of war and fear, but a place ripe with opportunity to live a Jewish life that is different than that in the United States – one that is equally rich and fulfilling. And, the United States becomes a place of passionate progressive Jews who find meaning both in their home communities and while at camp, living a Jewish life that is devoted to Torah, Tikkun Olam and extended family ties.
We are taught in Pirkei Avot, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.” The Jewish camping movement enables us to start the important task of bringing Jews together from two unique places and fostering strong bonds one individual at a time.
May we always remain connected to our Jewish values as we say, “Am Yisrael Chai-The Jewish people live!”