Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,

We hope you are well.


The past couple of weeks brought with them great opportunities to have a glimpse into some of the meaningful aspects of what we do here- 

The first was a visit to one of the volunteering placements- "babysitter". This is basically an apartment, that hosts about 40-60 six months to 3 year old kids of migrant workers and asylum seekers, with about 3-4 staff people watching over all of them. There are roughly about 70 of these centers scattered in south Tel- Aviv. Coming into the apartment is a bit overwhelming- you see so many kids, a few of them are running around, a few are crying, a few are fighting, and most are gazing at the TV screen. You wish things would be different, you feel like hugging each of them and tell them they are special. You wish your kids never experience something like this. And our girls are there, and they are amazing. They come with shining smiles, open arms and lots of warmth. They take the kids out to the park, they hug them and let them play with their hair. They separate kids who fight, and let an occasional kid to fall asleep comfortably in their loving arms. I'm so proud of them for doing something that important. 

The second opportunity was a visit to Machaneh Chavayah- the Israeli Netzer summer camp, lasting two weeks and hosting about 180 kids from grade 3 to grade 9. Grades 10-12 are the staff of the camp, and to them our three lovelies- Maxine, Rachel and Ella joined. This camp is the highlight of the year for the kids, just like in so many countries around the world. The vibes are high, the fun is everywhere, and when you arrive in the morning you can see the different groups sit in circels on the green grass, praying shacharit. On lunch they do "Ruach" (spirit/ motivational songs), and the cheder ochel (dining hall) is filled with kids laughter. Seeing our girls taking part of this enterprise, gaining first- hand experience as leaders on camp, polishing their Hadracha skills, and bringing Netzer Australia's traditions into camp- that is simply amazing. 

Third opportunity was two weekends ago, when I was invited as an Hebrew Union College (HUC) Alumni to participate in a morning celebration at the HUCcampus. After the Shacharit Shabbat, all gathered in the beautiful garden for Kiddush, followed by lunch. There I met an ex-shnatti I led five years ago, Jeff, who just started his Rabbinate training in Jerusalem J Later, I met one of the Rabbis who came to tell me about his son whom I've led in 2009 and how important this year was for him. This is such a privilege to see the influence this program has on people and the contribution it brings in changing the world.    

Yesterday morning I had yet another opportunity to see our shnattim in action with "Israel Tour"- 16 year old Netzerniks from the UK spending the summer in Israel. As part of their tour, they visit us in Beit- Shmuel, the headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and we take them on a short tour in the campus, and a couple of our southern shnattim run a program for them about Shnat and Netzer etc. Another great leading opportunity for our shnattim to be active!

So many things are happening, and each of them opens a door for activism, influence and involvement for us and for out shnattim. Yesterday afternoon, the Jerusalem Pride Parade took place- another door to go out and support the freedom of people. The police expected about 5000 participants, and ended up with the biggest Pride Parade in Jerusalem ever, with some 25,000 participants!!! Our shnattim and staff were there- 

And while all this is happening, our shnattim run a crazy schedule for themselves- in addition to the volunteering and chinuch day every Sunday, they run for themselves weekly ma'amadim, fun peulot, educational nights and communal gathering. These is a lot to look forward to! Wishing Max and Rach the best few days on Machaneh Chavaya; wishing Ella the best of luck on her exams and sending our love and appreciation to all our shnattim for their hard work!

+ Southern Corner

Weekly update by Mia, Ben and Mikaela

Writing the weekly update sitting by the Mediterranean Sea, with old Jaffa to our left and the cosmopolitan world of Tel aviv to our right, and the faint sound of avatiach ice creams being sold in the back ground, you could say we are living the dream. And that is an understatement. Our kvutsah is officially rat AND cockroach free...for now, and we are settling in to the complicated nature of communal living. Let's just say it isn't as easy as we all thought, however we are figuring our own way to produce a prosperous community. Our Ma'ayan community.

The sense of fulfilment each of us are receiving from our volunteering placements provide a sense of purpose unlike anything we have ever experienced because to feel wanted and needed is truly an amazing feeling. We typically wind down our days by the beach following a quick visit to the Jaffa shuk, where immersing ourselves into the culture of where we live makes us feel as though we really have a home here.
On top of the bohemian lifestyle we are carving out of the Yafo Mechina, many of us also took part in the Jerusalem Pride parade, which marks one year since the fatal attack which lead to the death of Shira Banki. Yet the march itself represented the resilience of the LGBTQI community and Reform community alike. During the march a tribute could be found for Ms Banki, a walking wedding was had, chuppah and all. Yet most remarkably of all was a march that was expected to involve 5,000 marches ended up with over 25,000.

It is not that there was no opposition to the march, the street at points was lined with picketing religious groups. Rather, like with the wider reform community, the march was a stand against current regressive politics, and a symbol of continued aspirations for a better Israel for all. We are very excited for the rest.

+ Israel Update by Ady

Written by Ady Blum
Ady, our beloved Etgar director, is currently in the reserve army, doing a three week service. This is what he sent to us this week (follow up from last week's update):

Last week the Rabbi and head of Mechinat Eli - the flagship of the religious Zionist movement in the education sphere- had a speech where he complaint about the tolerance in the army and in Israel for homosexuals, rather than "calling them what they really are - perverts". I won't go further into what was his aim when he said that. It is suffice to say that he was condemned by many other rabbis within the religious community. But this opened a discussion with my army room-mate who is a settler, that went like this- when I asked him for his opinion about that, he looked at me with some elusive look and said: "listen, I wouldn't say it the way he did, but the bottom line is that someone who follows Judaism (??#1) cannot accept homosexuality as a normal and acceptable behaviour (??#2)."

Ok, since we were having a honest and sincere conversations, I couldn't follow my Judaism and throw my shoe at him. But at this point I disagreed with at least two of his arguments (see above). So I asked in return- well, lets put the public sphere aside for a second, how would you regard a religious boy, perhaps a student in Mechinat Eli, that realises he is gay? Is he a sinner? Does he have a place in your community? He replied that the hallacha demands that one would overcome some of their desires. So he would say to this guy that everybody finds different mitzvot as challenging- some need to make a serious effort to keep Shabbat, some to be kosher, and others to wake up really early in the morning just for praying. So this is just another challenge a Jewish person should overcome.

Really?!?! Yes really. Even though he understands that it's a much harder challenge and not everybody will be able to succeed in that. How considering...

I said I can't believe he would actually prefer someone to deny his own self, his feelings, passions, his very self, and live in the shadows, or closet, in order to be a good observant Jew. And how come he doesn't see the contradiction between being Jewish and denying one's self? And why on earth he thinks someone will make this kind of choice? He looked at me with a sincere face. And he gave me the ultimate "religion vs secularism" argument. "Listen", he said, "I'm not saying it's easy, nor that one has to make that choice. But unlike secular people, in my life there is something greater than "what is good for me". I came to a world where "good" already exists, has already been given by someone greater than me, that transcends this world, this humanity. God, via the Torah (via the rabbis, but he didn't mention that) has already told us how to live RIGHT. It has nothing to do with the question of whether this is good for me, comfortable or else. This is how I am obeyed to live because this is the right way according to god. And homosexuality is not part of it".

Ok, lets stop here. Two white, straight males are talking about how it is good/right to live. Fine, we can rest our case here and dismiss his whole argument and perception of life (and he is not aware of it at all, as many bogrim of the religious mechinot) . But that's easy. Here is the more problematic issue- Having a sense of a greater truth, A truth that transcends human desires and interest. I can totally respect that. Moreover, I highly appreciate this perception, and hold it myself. I believe that it is insufficient to justify one's choices or to define them as "good" on the basis of "free and authentic will". Secular and Reform people are sometimes confuse with that and putting all their moral meaning on the freedom of choice. But free people do not necessarily do good things. The only way to insure they will make good decisions is to realise that "good" is something greater than us and our desires. We only got the right to choose between good and life or evil and death. Unfortunately the Progressive movement sometimes gives up on that and narrows its moral demands to the "freedom of choice" criteria.

But as opposed to my settler roommate, I think that humanity has to discuss and THINK about what is good and evil. The Jewish text can help us quite a lot with that. As they record generations of moral debates that are still relevant in today's life. But they cannot determine for us, we have to discover it together, over and over again. My friend, on the other side, mentioned that he believes the Hallacha already got the essence of the Torah and the wisdom of the talmud and set the practical way of the "good" and "right" life according to them. You can try and understand the reason behind the mitzvot but it is unnecessary for acting good.

That's why what is good for man or mankind is not the aim of moral life under this perspective anymore. Because the book is already written, and people should follow it regardless of where it finds them. Time based and timeless context is not a relevant distinction. This belief actually detach the idea of good from human life. But the Torah never accepted this- It says: "I give before you the life and good and the death and evil, and you shall choose LIFE". Oppression in any form can never be good. Good must go together with life, it must be good for the living people as well. Denial of who we are, of people's need, of what life really obtains and summons for us, is never good. Ignoring that, is creating a post-humanist Judaism. Judaism that is detached from real life people and that is not aiming its moral essence back to them, to all of them. This Judaism is immoral and will not sustain for long anyway.

+ Israel Update

Understanding the Kotel: What’s at Stake for Progressive Jews

With so many news outlets reporting updates about the Kotel – from AP to Times of Israel to The Washington Post – it’s easy to get distracted from what the struggle is really about. The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), just posted the introductory video below to help explain what’s at stake and what we’re fighting for.

Click here to watch it in full. Watch this video to learn more about the issues Progressive Jews are fighting for at the Kotel

We also invite you to read this overview from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), issued immediately after the Israeli Government sanctioned the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, and including statements from the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), the Union for Reform Judaism(URJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).

+ The Weekly Portion

In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion-

+ Shabbat Treat

It's that time of year when we get to send shnattim to lead on our overseas camp, and see our ex-shnattim leading on camps. Wanted to wish Bec and Nancye the best time, and send lots of love to Orit, our Rosh Chinuch, who is visiting the UK. So great to see ex- shnattim with current shnattim, movement workers and Netzer Olami working together - הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד – or as we sing in Netzer- How good, how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together in peach and in harmony.

Some photos: here, and here

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, 

Lior and the Netzer staff




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