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Israel is calling – let’s go!

12 Feb

by Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

Register for the TBE Family Trip to Israel by March 6, 2015!
Trip dates: June 21 – July 2, 2015

Link to trip details and registration information: Click here

With all of the news about Israel we often lose sight of the best aspects of our relationship with Israel as Jews – the senses of wonder, home, belonging, and connection to our extended Jewish family that we get when we visit.

My first trip to Israel as an adult was in 1990 and my romance with the place continues after more than three years of living there at three separate times, through multiple trips with congregations, leading three Birthright trips, and the opportunities to dwell in diverse parts of the country: Jerusalem, on a Kibbutz in the north, and in Arad, a small city in the Negev desert.

Through work in kiwi fields, study in both modern university and yeshiva settings, time learning from the vivid and evocative locations – every place in Israel speaks to us – and exploring the tangled difficulties of creating a Jewish democracy, I feel my life even more intertwined with the destiny of our people through my relationship with Israel.

Join me and many Temple Beth El families this summer for an amazing tour of Israel. We will go many places, touching on the most important highlights as a trip for first-time visitors. We will also spend enough energy and attention in each of our destinations so we can get a profound glimpse at the layers of the people and history that saturate our Jewish homeland.

Please register soon, as the deadline approaches:

March 6, 2015 is our deadline

and the link to register is here: TBE Family Trip Registration


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Our Jewish Values in Israel – Vote Now!

28 Jan

by Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

In a world where we feel that we need Israel more than ever, as a homeland, a source of pride and inspiration for all Jews everywhere, and in the worst situations (God forbid), a refuge for us all, our voices have never been more important in helping to determine the Jewish values of our shared national home.

Judaism asks all of us to stand up for the rights of the oppressed, and to stand up for our own rights to a place that is for all Jews. The values of Reform Judaism deserve a home in Israel too.

Please join Temple Beth El in casting your vote for Reform values in Israel – here is the easy way to do so.


Cast a Vote for Reform Values in Israel

The 2015 World Zionist Congress elections are vital to the future of progressive Judaism in Israel. ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, is asking every American Jew who holds the values of religious pluralism, gender equality and support of the peace process dear to stand with us by voting for the ARZA slate which includes both Rabbi Judy and me in the current election. You support is important and you are encouraged to do three simple things:

  1. Vote today: Register with the American Zionist Movement and vote at for the ARZA-Representing reform Judaism today.
  1. Spread the word:  Share this link ( with your friends on Facebook. Let them know that it is important to you and that you voted.
  1. Send a copy of your Thank you for voting! page along with your name and address to  Please let us know if the registration fee of $10.00 for those over 30, and $5 for those between the ages of 18-30, is a hardship for you.

Our Temple Beth El goal is 100% participation.  Register, vote, share and send us your voting confirmation so that we may track and report our progress!


Waking Up to a New Year By Rabbi Judith Schindler

31 Dec

We close our eyes to 2014.
So much to leave behind.

Lost planes,
Lost lives.

Shots ringing out –
In Syria, in schools,
across Israel’s borders.

Rising tides of anti-Semitism

Rising distrust of police
and rising frustration with politicians.

Radicals destroying faith
wreaking destruction

We open our eyes to the dawn of a new year
filled with light.

This year may we see and be the good.

Daily acts of compassion
that outshine others’ acts of contention

Generosity that streams steadily forth
from hearts and hands

Religion that heals souls
and lifts communities

Schools of safety
Police that protect
Palestinians who want peace
and an Israel that inspires the world

This Shabbat,
we turn from one book of the Torah
to the next and say:

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek
Be strong,
Be strong
And let us strengthen one another.

This day,
we turn from one secular year
to the next and say:

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek

Be strong, in faith

Be strong, in goodness and in your resolve
to cast light even in the darkness

And let us strengthen one another
by giving each other
faith in humanity,
and hope for our future.


Marathon for Peace – Stories for Peace

5 Nov

by Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

This week at Temple Beth El University we begin a three week series about the current situation in Israel and what we can do about it.

Here are all the details: link to full TBEU description.

If you haven’t registered already, come by on Wednesday evenings, November 5, 12, and 19, and you can still attend.

Our purpose in bringing this conversation about Israel to TBE is to shift our focus on the debate between competing ideas of nations, and instead move towards a dialogue between peoples. In speaking with Israelis and Palestinians, most of whom seem to have opinions in the middle of the spectrum, there seems to be an overwhelming desire for real co-existence.

I believe that peaceful co-existence may be achievable, perhaps even necessary, before a formalized peace is finalized. People may need to see the fruits of working together – in terms of concrete improvements to the lives of Israelis and Palestinians – before the leaders of either people may feel forced to make the necessary compromises for peace between nations.

So, in addition to having conversations about this idea in November, I am also running our local Charlotte Marathon, Thunder Road, on November 15, in support of the Peres Center for Peace, which promotes projects of collaboration and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Please take a moment to spread the word about this effort to complete my 6th marathon, and also raise resources and awareness for peace between Palestinians and Israelis: click here to support the Rabbi Run for Peace.

Here is a fun and inspiring video from the Peres Center.

My Heart is in Israel by Susan Jacobs, Director of Education

24 Jul

My first visit to Israel was in 1971. I was a rising senior in high school and I spent the summer along with 50 other teens on a USY teen trip. Israel in 1971 was invincible. The country was filled with a pioneer spirit. Young soldiers hitchhiked everywhere. There was no Intifada. We were able to travel to every corner of the country. There were a few minor skirmishes that summer but nothing that made us feel unsafe or even cautious. At the time, I thought it was a life altering experience. Forty three years later, I know it was a life altering experience. That summer indelibly imprinted my passion for all things Israel in my heart and soul. My deeply rooted Jewish identity was and remains tied up in a strong bond with the people and the land.

I have traveled to Israel a dozen times since then. I’ve gone on Federation missions, chaperoned TBE teen trips, taken my own family, participated in Partnership projects and most recently had the opportunity to join the interfaith trip with our friends from Myers Park Baptist Church. The excitement and anticipation I feel is always the same. For me, it is going home. I know who I will visit and what I need to bring them. I know where I will eat, sleep and shop. I have special spots that I love to take first-timers to visit because it is the perfect view or smell or taste. I know where I want to pray and that I will be overcome with closeness to God and to my fellow Jews in ways only possible in Israel. I feel relieved to walk the streets and to hear the tumult. I am almost giddy because I know my way around the streets of Jerusalem like someone who lives there or that the best falafel can be found on Ha Nasi Street in Hadera! I am at peace and filled with happiness. And, yes, I have been there when there was chaos and commotion. I have visited at the height of the Intifada when Israelis poured out of their shops and homes to thank us for coming. They were moved to tears that we had not forgotten them. I was not frightened. Until now.

Israel has always been held to impossible standards in world opinion but I have never felt such vehemence and hatred as I have these past few weeks. Maybe it is the barrage of 24 hour news channels reporting with such anti-Israel bias or the constant Facebook, Twitter and other social media feeds portraying the Palestinians as innocent victims but it seems as though the entire world has turned against us. I am frightened because I don’t want my people to feel alone and abandoned while they send their loved ones back into military duty or sleep with their children in safe rooms. I worry about my friends who live there and my friends who are visiting even in the midst of the struggle. I know that I need to do something to help. I know I need to make sure that I support Israel in any way that I can.

So I will be attending the Stand with Israel Community Rally on Sunday, July 27th at 2:00pm at Romare Bearden Park. I want to demonstrate my support and show my pride and love of Israel to our community and the world. I am hopeful that every Jew and non-Jewish supporter will join me. This is the time to come together as a community. This is a time to make sure that our voices are heard. I will also be making a pledge to “Stop the Sirens”. Our North American Reform Movement is working to help support millions of Israelis in harm’s way. The Reform Movement has joined with the Conservative Movement and JFNA (the Jewish Federations of North America) to raise and distribute funds to provide emergency aid and alleviate the pain and suffering of our Israeli brothers and sisters. At times such as these we especially feel connected to our people and I hope you will all join me by contributing generously.

I will go back to Israel as soon as I can. There is nothing that will keep me from setting foot in my Homeland. I have no doubt that it will be as wonderful as always. Until then, I will pray for Israel and for peace.