Make Israel a Personal Issue for Congregation

Elephant in the Synagogue

kurt hoffman

By Asher Lopatin

Published May 15, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Thank God the world is obsessed with Israel! I’m even more grateful that the younger generation of Jews — millennials, for instance — are also passionate about Israel. But you wouldn’t always know it from events that are planned around the Jewish state.

Asher Lopatin
Asher Lopatin

We’ve had numerous Israel Friday night dinners at our synagogue over the past 10 years; however, when they focus on the danger Iran poses for Israel, or on issues relating to Palestinians or Hamas or any other strategic concern — as exciting as our speaker might be — the young people don’t show up.

But when the topic involves friends — friends who served in the Israel Defense Forces, friends who lived through the ‘67 war, friends who just got back from Birthright or from leading it — then young people enthusiastically sign up and shell out $15 for what is a combination social and religio-national event. The food is incidental.

When we tap into Israel as the land we can relate to, the land we all share a love for and as a way of creating friendships, then Israel regains its centrality in the lives of the next generation of Jews. There is no crisis in the depth and sensitivity of Jews of our time toward the Jewish state; the question is, are we allowing Israel to connect with them in the right way. Relationships, not issues, will help Israel feel the love of our youngest Jews, and, in turn, the Israel they relate to will help them become more passionate members of our synagogues and communities.

Asher Lopatin is the rabbi of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in Chicago.

Read the rest of our special coverage of how rabbis talk — or don’t talk — about Israel in synagogue.

Andy Bachman writes Congregation Needs To Be Involved in Israel To Make a Difference

Jacques Cukierkorn says In Kansas City, Backyard Issues Higher on Agenda Than Israel

Valerie Cohen warns Don’t Allow Views on Israel To Overwhelm Congregation

Asher Lopatin says Make Israel a Personal Issue for Congregation

Sam Fraint writes that Rabbis Must Speak About Israel, Warts and All

Ellen Lippmann advises building A Wide Tent on Israel, of Respectful Tension

Pinchas Allouche encourages shuls to Use Israel To Build Bridges Not Walls


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.