This year – despite the pandemic – we have befriended an amazing group of Women’s League members at Congregation Bet Israel in Netanya, Israel. Last May, our Program Committee reached out to the women of Bet Israel, suggesting that we might collaborate on future programs and share holiday celebrations and cultural exchanges. The project’s goal was to culminate in a joint Yom Ha’Atzma’ut celebration for April 2021.
For the past nine months, our “Israel Sisters” committee has held monthly zoom meetings – and exchanged countless emails – with Bet Israel’s Women’s League leadership. We have discussed families and backgrounds, learned about each other’s interests and activities, delved into current events, and become familiarized with our mutual synagogues and communities.
Despite the seven hour time difference, our Israeli sisters have tuned in to watch our Women’s League monthly programs, book reviews and Shmooze sessions. In turn, we have joined them for virtual guided tours of Israeli sites as well as special lectures and concerts.
This year’s cultural exchange will culminate in a gala Ha’Atzma’ut zoom celebration on Monday, April 12 at 12 pm. As we mark this annual milestone in our shared history, representatives of both congregations will come together for a special tribute to the State of Israel and its people. The celebration will feature music, dance, and inspiring stories.
Preceding the April meeting, the committee has arranged a series of three lectures by Rabbi Dr. Ervin Birnbaum, Rabbi Emeritus of Bet Israel and founder of Shearim Netanya, an award-winning program that provides spiritual, educational and economic assistance to Russian olim. Now 91 years “young,” Rabbi Birnbaum recently delivered the lectures in which he shares his personal story as a teenager who led a group of 90 orphans on board the largest refugee ship to land in British Palestine. In remarkable detail, the Rabbi describes daily life aboard the ship among 4,500 Holocaust survivors and explains why the Exodus earned the title, “the ship that launched a nation.”
Our congregation will have the opportunity to watch the two lectures as part of Temple Emanu-El’s Wednesday Night Live Adult Education program. They will be streamed on March 31 and April 7 at 7 pm. Zoom links will be sent out prior to the programs.