At the end of February, Rabbi Rafi and I had the pleasure of going to Israel for several special events, all designed to bring together the rabbis and lay leaders of Masorti Europe. It was our second joint meeting, following a first gathering in Brussels in 2013, and our first ever in Israel.
Highlights of our trip include: studying together at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem; visiting the new Herzl Museum; meeting with the heads of the Israeli Masorti movement at the Schechter Institute; touring the city of Tzipori, where Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi codified the Mishnah (the first book of the Talmud), in the second century CE; spending Shabbat at the Masorti Kibbutz, Hannaton; and taking part in a Jewish/Muslim dialogue workshop in Kfar Manda, an Arab village.
As president of Masorti Europe, I am privileged to work with talented and committed lay leaders from Masorti communities in France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary and Belgium as well as the United Kingdom. With about 25 communities, the Masorti/Conservative movement is relatively small in Europe, but its pluralist approach is attracting more attention; in fact, a new community in the Netherlands has just asked to join us.
The Masorti movement is also growing in Israel. The Schecter Rabbinical Seminary has graduated 87 Conservative rabbis, and there are now over 70 Masorti communities throughout the country. In addition, 260 schools run the Schechter-sponsored TALI pluralist curriculum, reaching 40,000 Israeli children.
Our visit to Israel provided many enlightening educational, cultural and spiritual experiences, not to mention the food, which was both delicious and bountiful! Even further, it allowed us to get to know each other better, and building closer ties between Masorti rabbis and lay leaders from both Europe and Israel will help make our communities as well as the movement grow stronger.