Chavruta Newsletter No. 2
"Where there is no vision the people become unruly" Proverbs 29:18
April 2000
Nisan 5760

AND YOU SHALL SAY TO YOUR SON AND YOUR DAUGHTER (Not only on the night of the Seder)
By Michael Livni

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
That the State of Israel, the beginning of our redemption, is the result of human action -- action inspired by the Divine spirit and guided by faith and vision.

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
For the realization of faith and vision means you give not for the sake of material reward in the here and now, but in order link your life to life eternal.

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
"In every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he personally had gone forth from Egypt" (The Passover Haggadah).

The generation of our fathers and mothers, the founders of the Zionist movement, rose against two kinds of enslavement:

Against the enslavement of the surrounding society that for the most part did not allow the People of Israel to live an honorable life of self-fulfillment, and in some cases even tried to destroy us entirely.

And against the self-enslavement, by which "the People of the Book" is the "slave of the book, "A people whose soul took flight and became embodied in the written word alone". (Achad Ha'am, Hatorah Shebalev).

Our national poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, wrote against these two enslavements:

"...We are heroes

The last of the slaves -- the first of the free!

Our hand alone, our strong hand

Has thrust off the heavy yoke from our proud neck

And thus we hold our head high to the heavens that seek to impinge upon us..."

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
Enemies arose against the generation of Zionist pioneers at the turn of the nineteenth century. Those who did not believe that it was the right and the duty of a being created in the image of God to create -- that is to say to actively further redemption. The majority of the orthodox camp in those days was convinced that those who try to bring redemption to the people of Israel before its due time are guilty of blasphemy. Our fathers and mothers believed that true worship of the Divine means reform (tikkun) of the individual and the Jewish people in their homeland "in spite of it all." ( Y. Ch. Brenner).

And there were those who opted for a belief in progress and/or in the revolution, and put their trust (in vain) in universal redemption (of all peoples), and thus they turned their backs to the unique within the People of Israel.

But our fathers and mothers, the founders of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, believed that only the establishment of a state "based on the principles of freedom, justice and peace in the light of the vision of the prophets of Israel" (Declaration of Independence) can guarantee a national home to every Jew who desires it. In the circumstances of the modern age, only a national home that acts within the reality of the modern age can ensure the ongoing creative existence of the Jewish People.

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
Our enslavement today, our current Egypt, is our pursuit of material life only. In the race for the material we have caused enormous social-economical-educational gaps. We are far away from the equal worth of all humans. The life in the here and now means the idolization of the material -- that aspect of western society that we should perceive as idolatry. We are indeed dancing around the golden calf.

Might is right -- the force of "might" is determined by money. As far as our values are concerned, we live in a spiritual exile within our national home. Will you, our sons and daughters, know how to free yourselves?

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
And there is yet another aspect to exile, maybe the most difficult of all. Without true peace with our neighbors there can be no redemption -- neither for them, nor for us. Making peace between enemies requires both sides. The challenge faces both peoples.

Further to Newsletter No. 1 - A Glance at The People of Israel -- How to Strengthen The Zionist Partnership
By Osnat Elnatan

Partnership 2000 is a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) aimed at creating a four-way partnership between a city in Israel and its periphery, and two Jewish congregations -- one in North America another outside North America. The project operates by channeling a certain percentage of the money collected abroad to joint projects agreed upon by all partners.

The idea to create partnerships between Jewish congregations in the Diaspora and cities and settlements in Israel is certainly a worthy idea. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that in its execution in the field it is adversely affected by all the shortcomings that can occur in cooperation between local Israeli politics, a weary JAFI establishment and money that flows in one direction always.

There are two kinds of difficulties in implementing the idea of Partnership 2000. There are organizational difficulties -- these can be solved by means of creative thinking and reducing the level of bureaucracy in the system. Secondly there are basic difficulties inherent in the nature of the "partners". These difficulties stem from political processes within the local authorities in Israel, from the degree of interest (or lack thereof) shown by Diaspora Jews in supporting Israel, and from the level of dialogue between four communities very different from each other in many respects.

Partnership as Part of the JAFI System
The partnership actually acts as a project within JAFI Israel department. The principles of the partnership (for instance the principle determining that no project can be supported for more than three years) and the sum to be allocated for the different areas are decided by JAFI. Project coordinators in the different areas are also JAFI employees. This reality makes it hard for Partnership 2000 to take-off, to look for creative channels for realizing the partnership and to advance creative ideas. Many times the committees allocating money to projects in the different areas feel like a small cog in a machine run by JAFI officials, instead of being an independent body with vision and a mission.

The Lack of Voluntary Leadership on the Israeli Side
The Jewish congregations abroad are run as partnerships between the voluntary leadership and professional, who work in federations, in synagogues and in education and welfare institutes.

On the Israeli side of the partnership there is no parallel voluntary leadership. The result is that the Israeli leadership of this project is composed of political representatives and officials in local authorities. The heads of these authorities are subjected to the day-to-day economic and political pressures. The result is that often it seems (and sometimes it is indeed so) that the only interest the Israeli side has in the project is to finance, with the money the project provides, activities already promised by the local authority, and not to develop new projects.

The partners from the Diaspora realize that in order to create a meaningful dialogue they have to look for partners who are not employees of local authorities but a "voluntary leadership" like them. This kind of leadership is hard to cultivate in Israel. Wherever it does exist (parents' committees in schools,chartwered societies, extra-parliamentary movements) it is not a part of process in Partnership 2000.

One would think that one of the goals of such a partnership should be introducing the concept of voluntary leadership into the process. In my opinion, this is unrealistic because of the culture of centralized authority, and the difficulties of mayors and heads of local councils to forego their status in the project and the funds it generates.

The Difficulty in Creating a Dialogue
The difficulty to create true partnership between people and organizations exists everywhere. Yet, Partnership 2000 has particular pretensions to maintain a long and meaningful process of dialogue over the years between four groups of people different from each other in almost every possible aspect. Day-to-day life of the Jewish community in North America is composed of questions such as: the ability to mobilize more Jewish money during the annual campaign, the need to strengthen community processes and prevent the disappearance of the younger generation into the non-Jewish American reality -- mixed marriage.

In regard to those questions the Jews of Israel are not considered to be meaningful partners. On the Israeli side, the relations between urban center and the rural periphery often suffer from alienation and competition. Issues relating to the allocation of land, transport, and cooperation in educational systems and particularly in special education are all fertile soil for disagreements and competition. The Jewish communities outside of North America are probably the weakest link in this four-way partnership, and it is even harder to maintain a dialogue with them. Often they do not have official representation in Israel, some of them are far away (Australia, South Africa) and partnership with them is difficult.

Partnerships for What?
In order to overcome so many objective obstacles, the partners have to be highly motivated. This kind of motivation has to result from practical motives (all partners must feel they gain from the project) as well as vision (ideology). Looking at things from the practical angle, it seems that we are still caught up in the old pattern of "givers" (of money) and "receivers". There is no sense of partnership.

Ideologically, no meaningful vision that can stimulate action has been built around Partnership 2000. In those places in which meaningful relations have been formed between partners (such places do exist) the ruling motto is "People to People". The weakness of "People to People" attitude is that it gives no answer to the "what for" question.

Meaningful personal relations can be created between people from anywhere, everywhere. What is so special in the relations between a resident of Beit-Shemesh and a Jew from South Africa that is worth the effort of creating them, in-spite of all the enormous objective difficulties? In other words, what is the project of the Jewish people in this era? Are we all partners in the same project?

These questions can hardly be discussed when trying to build the partnership, because they threaten the very existence of this partnership. On the one hand, we need a vision, and that alone can justify efforts such as these needed in building a partnership. On the other hand -- the questions posed by an ideological debate threaten the very prospect of creating good relations -- People to People. Such a debate immediately raises the familiar controversies: Judaism -- religion or nation, one center or two centers (at least), the appropriate conditions for acceptance into the Jewish people -- conversion, Jewish identity according to the father, mother or some other path.

In order to improve Partnership 2000 project we have to advance on two parallel paths. The organizational path should reduce the established and routinized aspect of the project and widen the creative and cooperative aspect. The ideological path is meant to develop the rationale behind the project. In this way we can examine the extent to which the partnership serves the needs of the Jewish people in our time.

* Osnat Elnatan, a member of Kibbutz Tamuz in Beith-Shemesh, runs "The Center for Cooperative Learning" -- the chartered society of Kibbutz Tamuz.

And You Shall Say to Your Son and Your Daughter
By Michael Livni

There is one stream in Judaism whose obligation to combine Judaism and democracy is, on the face of it, absolute. It is the Reform Movement. The reason is plain. Reform Judaism regards the Halachah as a source to be studied together with other sources, but it does not consider the Halachah and its arbiters (Poskim) to be authority. Authority resides in the individual conscience and in communal democracy. Furthermore -- the heritage develops--the Jewish people develops. The interpretation of the heritage is not bound by the Halachic emendation only.

The integration of democratic principles into Judaism has educational implications. First, such an approach espouses equality and value equality between the sexes, in any religious-cultural event in the educational institution. Second, the school should be an educational community constituting a democratic learning community.

In an educational framework, a creative attitude towards the heritage allows young people to experiment with innovative process. For instance, spiritual sensitivity can be developed by means of creative prayers, which combine elements of traditional prayers with modern literature. Above all, we can impart the feeling that every generation not only receives heritage, but that it also has the right and the obligation to contribute to the way of life of the people. In fact -- cultural Zionism sees this as the reason for the establishment of the Jewish State.

It is not a matter of teaching "Jewish consciousness". It is a matter of inculcating a tradition of Jewish doing at home and in public and not only in the ritual realm. No doubt the holiness of the people and the holiness of the land call for an active program in the relation of a Jewish-Zionist learning community, both in the social and in the environmental realm.

Telem Sits on the Fence
Yet the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism (Telem) sits on the fence. For instance, the initiative to establish a junior-high school as a succession to the Jerusalem Bait Vagan school, has not taken-off. Parents of children who are supposed to register do not feel that the movement gives them any backing. "Backing" means additional financing of several thousands of dollars in critical moments within a complex political process. In addition to that, there is no backing of practical educational leadership. A different example -- IMPJ establishes many congregational pre kindergartens and kindergartens. There is no long-term strategic educational thinking. What will be the fate of these children after they have finished kindergarten and elementary school?

Telem's Priorities
Telem is set upon mobilizing millions of dollars from the Diaspora in order to build synagogues in Israel cloned from the Diaspora. But it is unacceptable that the contribution of Progressive Judaism to the Zionist enterprise should be mainly future archeological artifacts.

From the aspect of the cultural development of the Jewish people, it would be a historic loss of opportunity if we don't integrate democracy (the equal value of all humans) into Judaism. TELEM has the mandate. Yet it demands a revolution in the traditional Jewish outlook. Such a revolution demands not only parents, who are willing to register their children to such a school, but also an educational strategy, cognitive and experiential, from kindergarten to 12th grade. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist Labor Movement and all its steams understood this perfectly. Following them, the Yeshivot (Talmudic colleges) and Merkaz Harav of Orthodox Zionism begat Gush Emunim.

The confusion reigning in the realm of values and content in the formal (secular) educational system in Israel can serve as an opportunity. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef knows that. Will TELEM wake up in time?


"...Let my people go, so that they may serve me" (Exodus 9/1)

Achad Ha'am -- FLESH AND SPIRIT (1904)

The only view that really has its source in Judaism, (is) the view of the Prophets in the days of the first State, and that of the Pharisees in the days of the second. If, as we hope, the future holds for Israel yet a third national existence, we may believe that the fundamental principle of individual as of national life will be neither the sovereignty of the flesh over the spirit, nor the annihilation of the flesh for the sprit's sake, but the uplifting of the flesh by spirit.

Berl Katzenelson (1934)
Excerpt from CHEVLEI ADAM, Am Oved, Tel-Aviv 1945, pp.214-215

We are now in a period wherein we are engaged only in constructing the frame of the building. Our thoughts have not yet turned to furnishing the house, to its interior decoration. We are expending the greatest efforts to make the frame strong and spacious so that it will be able to accommodate al those who want to come in. We ourselves do not yet know how to enjoy living in the building. We have not known such an edifice since the days of the Babylonian captivity. We do not as yet have the leisure for profound spiritual life...but the day will come. Some day there will be many Jews in the country and they will give us no rest. What is made light of today -- due to hard labor of to dulled spirits -- will become a cause of great spiritual distress for those who come after us. And as we now struggle with questions of Hebrew time to come they will struggle with questions of our cultural fate.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver(1950)

We bring the words of Abba Hillel Silver, a part of the minority in the Reform Movement that supported Zionism in its time. He became the outstanding spokesman of the political Zionism in the 40s. After 1948 Silver called for a renewed balance between Herzl and Achad Ha'am. Two years after Zionism, to which he devoted so much, achieved its main political goal, he said:

"It was fortunate that the sound political vision and program of Theodor Herzl governed the course of the movement until the State was established. A premature overemphasis of the concept of a spiritual of cultural center would have found the Jewish people unprepared for the final political and military struggle without which the State could not have been established...

But Israel's political triumph now paves the way for the vision which was Achad Haam's -- that of the radiating center in a reconstituted Jewish State which would also serve as a unifying influence for world Jewry...

The Jewish community of the Diaspora will look eagerly for all stimulating influences which might emanate from Israel. But Diaspora Jewry need not remain a mere passive recipient of outside cultural influences. It can become, as indeed so often in the past it did become, creative in its own right, whichever the religion, language and literature of the Jewish people were fostered.

This is a good program for Jewish survival from here on. Israel and the Diaspora should remain interdependent, spiritually inseparable though politically separate and apart. Both should be helped to become strong and creative."


CHAVRUTA -- CHAZON L'ISRAEL, is an independent national chartered society for spiritual-cultural and social-political reform.

CHAVRUTA: CHAZON L'ISRAEL, Mailing address: P.O. Box 1308, Eilat, 88112

Editorial Board -- Editor: Dr. Michael Livni (Kibbutz Lotan); Board members: Osnat Elnatan (Kibbutz Tamuz -- Beit-Shemesh); Binyamin Ma'or (Hod Hasharon); Yoram Nidam (Tel-Aviv). Articles represent the views of their authors alone.