Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well.
This week has been one of the most quiet ones we had this year. As the staff of the Shnat Netzer program, we have participants in Israel at any given day of the year, as the Northerners are here October- June, and the Southerners are here February- November. So why is it so quiet here you ask? Probably because our shnattim are getting to know the weirdest hours of the day- sometime before dawn and heat waves…. Probably because they are so busy and so tired from being so busy…. Bottom line is that they are getting used to pioneering way of life, and hard work.
This coming weekend, the shnattim have organized a weekend about Socialism, led by the group and directed by the lovely Ben W. Ady will join them for this weekend at Kibbutz Lotan, bringing the shnattim some fresh mountain air from Jerusalem and his lovely presence.
Wishing you people a great weekend and great memories.
+ The Sourthern Corner
Weekly update by Noa and Rochelle
Even though we haven't been here for more than two weeks, you can already notice a change in the atmosphere of the group. We are so much happier and so filled with excitement, and it can only be attributed to the magic of Lotan.
Mostly we work on the date fields, waking up at 5am only to get home and end the work day at 2:30. It is tiring and we're covered in cuts and soars and sweat at the end of the day. But I think we can all agree that there is something incredibly rewarding about getting our hands dirty and doing some physical labor for once in our extremely sheltered and privileged lives.
We have also begun to run a lot of peer lead programs that help us engage with wider issues and allow us to develop our leadership skills. The kibbutz community is filled with incredibly inspiring and ideological people and we have made great connections with the shin shins (Israelis on a year of service).
Overall, we are having a great time on kibbutz and we will see you all in 2 months :)
+ Israel Update
Together, We Are Stronger: The World Union for Progressive Judaism Discusses Israeli Politics with Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Noa Sattath
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) sat down with Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), and Noa Sattath, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) the advocacy arm of the IMPJ, to discuss the political climate currently taking hold of Israeli legislation and its impact on Progressive Judaism in Israel and abroad.
Watch the full WUPJ interview with Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Noa Sattath of the IMPJ here
The World Union asked the hard questions – about the struggle for an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, about the changing legislation of the Mikvah bills, and how state budgets impact the state of Reform Judaism in Israel. You can click through to find out not only how these issues impact our global Progressive community, but what you can do to help.
From Generation to Generation By Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
They were dancing on the tables singing Billy Joel’s ‘Uptown Girl’ at the top of their lungs and the joy in the dining room was palpable and infectious.
For a split second, I was tempted to join them.
I had been invited to teach as a rabbinic educator at ‘Mega-Chalutz’, the annual pre-camp for madrichim (leaders) of the RSY (Reform Synagogue Youth) Netzer Youth Movement. So I found myself boarding several trains to the verdant hills and rugged coastlines of Wales where my final destination was a summer camp at the edge of a sleepy village.
What was to follow were four exhilarating days of singing, debating and community-building as almost two hundred young people in their late teens and early twenties challenged and celebrated their Judaism. There were soul-stirring harmonies during the Shabbat services, rowdy renditions of Birkat haMazon (Grace after Meals) and thoughtful, inspiring sessions on topics ranging from gendered peer-pressure and the beauty industry to contemporary anti-Semitism. There was plenty of silliness and creativity too, culminating in a real-life ‘Pokemon Go!’ treasure hunt that was painfully culturally relevant.
Yet what impressed me most about the weekend was the sheer kindness and thoughtfulness exhibited by the madrichim and educators.
For two hundred young people to come together in a spirit of congeniality and solidarity was a gift. There was no bullying, no undercutting or devaluing of each other. People were gracious, open-hearted and both eager to learn and willing to listen. They were responsible, civic-minded and idealistic.
2500 years ago, it was the Greek philosopher Socrates who lamented that
"the youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."
Critiques of the upcoming generation are ancient and universal; not only in our time and place. Yet, the Netzer Youth Movement jettisoned all those stereotypes.
AS I SAT DOWN TO TEACH, SHARE AND LEARN, I WAS STRUCK BY THE CANDOR OF THEIR QUESTIONS AND THE COMPASSION OF THEIR RESPONSES.
Growing up in a world that seems more destabilised and more insecure with each passing day, they know what they value about their Judaism: community, ethics, wisdom, meaning, action, justice. My encounters with them were diverse, ranging from teaching a young woman how to put on tefillin, to encouraging a young man to write songs to engaging in vigorous, stimulating debate on what it means to be a Reform Zionist. Yet they were united in a common purpose and a shared response when I asked them what the Youth Movement meant to them. It was their home and it was the place where they could grow.
Four days later, I left – my energy stores depleted but with a full heart. I reflected on what a great thing it is for our young people to belong to a Youth Movement; this counter-cultural bubble where the primary currency in circulation is kindness. The narrative about the generations of the future can be shifted; we don’t have to be mired in cultural pessimism, narcissism or nihilism. It only takes four days in a remote Welsh summer camp with mediocre British weather to realise how much we have and how little we need: the company of friends, the wisdom of our tradition and a redemptive vision for our future.
Psalm 144:12 launches a counter narrative against this idea of the corrupted, incorrigible youth:
‘Asher baneinu ki’neti’im, megudalim bin’ureihem – benoteinu kezariyot – mechutavot tavnit heichal.’ ‘That our sons are as plants grown up in their youth; our daughters are as corner-pillars carved after the fashion of a palace.’
Our youth can be resilient and strong, flexible and creative. We can build a radical re-imagining of what is to what can be. We can stand by our ideals without being blind to the narrative of the other. We can embrace our Jewish identity without negating the identity of another. We can sing and jump to 1980’s classic hits and still learn Torah in all her depth and richness.
I am hopeful. And eager to send my own young children down their path of growth, compassion and exploration. With all that Judaism has to offer them, my heart is at ease.
Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
+ 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
On RSY- Netzer there is now a change within the movement workers. Here is a short and sweet goodbye letter from Ben Lewis, and a short video- בהצלחה לכולכם!!
After 16 Summer and Winter events, 5 Veidot, a whole load of Hadracha weekends, many Northern Netzer Ventures, some Purim Spiels and other community events, quite a few Mazkirut events, whatever other events I've missed out and a year of working in the office, 'officially' it is today that my RSY-Netzer journey comes to an end.
For 7 years, being part of the movement has been a huge part of my life. I can't overstate how much I've loved that time and how much I've got from it. Being nostalgic and going through a few photos of some of these events recently has really brought home how many amazing people I've had the chance to get to know and how many memories I leave with. You're all the best, but extra special love to Naomi, Camille and Natasha for the past year we've spent together in the office - I couldn't have hoped for a better team.
Saying "my youth movement made me the person I am today" has become a cliché, but I don't know what else to say. Everyone I've come into contact with - whether they led me, we led together or I led them (or some combination of the above!) - has taught me something. I look forward to seeing RSY-Netzer continue to grow and strengthen, with more people getting to "take the chance while they are young" - I'm definitely glad I did!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
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