5 October 2012
19 Tishrei 5773 – Chol HaMoed Sukkot
Moadim L’Simcha—May your holiday of Sukkot be filled with joy!
With much gratitude to CJP’s Boston-Haifa Connection, we have welcomed to our community this week our brothers and sisters from the Ironi Hey High School in Haifa, Israel. For the past several years, we have been working to deepen the connection between our schools, primarily through enhancing the quality and depth of our mifgash, the intensive, in-person encounter between our students. For the first time, a group of Gann educators traveled to Haifa this past summer to meet and strengthen their partnership with their colleagues at Ironi Hey by exploring for themselves themes of Jewish Peoplehood and identity and to plan for this year’s mifgashim.
On Wednesday, shortly after the Ironi Hey students arrived, four rabbis and leaders in our community, each from a different Jewish denomination (Reform, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, and Conservative), met in small groups with the students to share their perspectives on a range of Jewish issues. In the words of one of our educators, “I loved how each of them brought not only their movement’s take on Judaism but also their own personalities and experiences as members of the Jewish people.”
Yesterday, the students learned and volunteered at various sites, including Hebrew Senior Life, the Rashi School, Mayyim Hayyim (the community mikveh), and the BIMA and Genesis High School Program at Brandeis University. Seeing the richness and diversity of American Jewish life in this way is meant to expose our students to the range and beauty of different expressions of Jewish living, to challenge their conceptions of what it means to live a serious and meaningful Jewish life, and to expand their thinking about their own Jewish identities and the Jewish People. Experiencing this with their Israeli peers gives them the opportunity to explore their assumptions about the differences and similarities between American and Israeli Jewish identity and to learn more about each other and themselves.
One of our educators sent me a video showing one of our students with his Israeli peers reading to Rashi kindergarten students and residents of Hebrew Senior Life. This beautiful image captures not only the power of this mifgash but also one of the most meaningful aspects of Sukkot, even though the weather this week has not made sitting in our school’s sukkah particularly comfortable. However, there is something profoundly inclusive, universal, and redemptive about the metaphor of the sukkah. On a practical level, it is a place for gathering and celebration of family, friends, guests . . . in the words of Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:11, “You shall rejoice (on Sukkot) . . . with your sons and daughters, your servants, the Levite in your gates, the stranger, orphan and widow in your midst.” On a spiritual level, as we dwell under the metaphorical ananei hakavod (Clouds of Glory), the protective wings of the Divine Presence, we feel our oneness with not only the entire Jewish People but all of humanity, as well.
The cross-cultural, intergenerational image of our students alongside their Israeli peers, connecting personally and simultaneously with three or four generations of Jews, is a snapshot of what Jewish Peoplehood, Jewish education, our Ironi Hey mifgash, and the holiday of Sukkot are all about.
As we enter the final days of Sukkot and this holiday season, may this image inspire us to broaden and deepen our connections with our history and tradition, with Israel and our extended family living there, with our local Jewish community and the Jewish People, and, of course, with each other.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,
Rabbi Marc Baker