For my congregation, Israel is not the most important matter on the agenda. Oh, members care about Israel, want it to succeed, pray for it, support it and sometimes visit it. But it’s not our central focus.
So when people ask me how I handle the many divisive feelings around Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I invite them to travel to Israel and make up their own minds. If they find they are absolutely in love with Israel, I tell them they should consider moving there and being part of its life firsthand.
But before they go — whether with me or alone — I tell them that Israel’s existence is a daily miracle that needs to be nurtured and protected. And I tell them that when we can, we should stand with Israel, though there may be times when the government of Israel does things or adopts policies that we simply can’t support.
For me and my congregation, though, the larger issue is living out our Jewish values wherever we are, whether in Israel or in Kansas City. I tell my people that they need not move to Israel to be true Jews. In fact, I tell them that if they can’t be committed Jews in Kansas City, they can’t be committed Jews anywhere, including in Israel.
Jacques Cukierkorn is the rabbi of Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City.
Read the rest of our special coverage of how rabbis talk — or don’t talk — about Israel in synagogue.
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