We Launched Our New Virtual Program, Torah Fund Stands With Israel

Posted on Nov 24, 2021

On October 25, we launched our new virtual series, Torah Fund Stands With Israel,  attended by well over one hundred individuals in the U.S. and Canada. It kicked off with an intricate Dvar Torah presented by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, followed by an update on current dynamics in the Middle East presented by Itay Milner, Consul for Media Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York. 

Rabbi Artson began his Dvar Torah by speaking of Israel as being part of our identity. Some of us wear a tallit that has a thread of blue in the tzitzit, the dye of which comes from a particular aquatic snail found only in Israel.  When the Jewish people were exiled from Israel, the use of this dye became non-existent; but now that we are back in the land, we again have access to this particular dye, connecting us to the land. 

Rabbi Artson then spoke of the shmita year in Israel, when no one can harvest anything all year; then, in the jubilee year, all debts are absolved, and the land goes back to everyone for harvesting.  Rabbi Artson spoke of this phenomenon as social and economic justice, and one of the ways we are connected to the land – we are rooted in the land of Israel and it belongs to all of us. 

Itay Milner began on an optimistic note, saying, “Israel is doing great!”  He did, however, admit that 2020 was an awful year for everyone, but noted that Israel had fewer casualties than most other countries in the world, and ended the year as one of the twenty richest nations in the world.  Still growing, Israel presently has 9,210,000 people. Israel signed four peace agreements with Arab neighbors, partly as a result of its successful technology and cyber security industries, which are beneficial to many.  Milner reported that U.S.-Israel relations are better than ever, and each country has a good understanding of the other. 

On the other hand, Milner added, “Not all is great.”  He elaborated.  Iran is racing toward nuclear supremacy, which is bad not just for the Middle East, but for the world. Iran sponsors terrorist organizations and between Hezbollah and Hamas, there are now 200,000 rockets pointed directly at Israel.  Israel is under a constant threat of isolation and countries try to make Israel appear illegitimate. Milner shared that there are problems in Israel, and the fact that there were four elections in the past few years has created a situation where some groups do not speak to others. Israel has a new government, and there is more diverse representation, but that does not solve the whole problem.  Reform and Masorti movements do not feel at home, but there are those in this new government who plan to slowly fix that. They are trying to diversify rabbinic services and have more than one organization carry out inspections for kosher certification, and they are hoping to allow and accept non-Orthodox conversions. According to Milner, this will all take time. 

He then answered questions from the audience, and several other points emerged:   

  • Opening a consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians does not seem to be a possibility because Israel will not allow an embassy and consulate to be in the same city.   
  • Antisemitism has gone up 150% in the last year. We need to protect ourselves from right-wing, anti-Israel activists. It seems that too many young people are leaning toward these organizations and we need to educate our youth. 30% of youth in the United States under the age of 18 are not even aware of the Holocaust. 
  • Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is of concern. It is believed by many in the U.S. to be legitimate and that anyone who is a Zionist is not acceptable. Again, education is needed. 
  • The two-state solution is still not a viable option at the present time. The new Israeli government is fragile – some parts support this and some do not. They need to work on building trust. 

Please save the date for our next Torah Fund Stands With Israel virtual event on Monday, January 24, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. ET. 

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