Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z”l,  a former President of the (then) Union of American Hebrew Congregations made headlines when he called on Reform Jews “to revive the ancient tradition of pilgrimages to Israel as a religious obligation.” It was a bold move since early Reform Judaism had renounced a connection to the Land of Israel and many of those reformers (although not all) were opponents of the budding Zionist Movement. Rabbi Schindler maintained that visits to Israel should be seen “not as mere trips to an exciting land, nor to a place endeared by memory and affection, nor even as a means to be linked to its people and to bolster the confidence [of our fellow Jews in Israel]. They should be conceived rather as a sacred journey, a quest to be spiritually invigorated….” (“The Religious Implications of Zionism,” 1993 ARZA National Assembly Address)

I could not agree with these words more!

We have had a number of our students and adults venture to Israel for tours, for B’nai Mitzvah, for work, for continuing learning (like our ECEC Director, Jenifer Friedman), and even to help guide our Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Kesher Committee’s efforts to advance connections and support initiatives in Israel (welcome home Sheryl Blechner, Rhonda Povlot, Terry and Gene Carasick, and Denise and Barry Straus).

Whomever goes to Israel return feeling inspired, empowered, grounded, and ready to do more. This coming year, there are two tremendous opportunities to make your pilgrimage to Israel.

 If you have never been to Israel or the last time you were there was so long ago (and it is time to return) the join me for our next Temple Beth Tikvah Tour to Israel February 16-26. This will be a wonderful opportunity to journey to Israel with old friends and make new ones from our congregation. We need 20 people to make it happen.  If you are interested in joining me, please contact Michelle at michelle@bethtikvah.com or call the office. I will be glad to stay in touch with you about our plans.

 If you have been to Israel in more recent years and want to go and learn more of the contemporary issues facing Israel, our Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is sponsoring a Community Wide Mission to Israel on June 8 to June 16, 2014. For preliminary information, contact Cheri Levitan at 404-870-1604 or clevitan@jfga.org.

Often when I share plans with people about traveling with me to Israel, I hear a common theme: “It’s my turn.” Going to Israel is a rite of passage and I hope some of you will join me. Whether you are a first-timer or a veteran traveler, a single, a couple, I promise you ten days you will never forget. We will have several opportunities prior to departure to gather together and to get to know each other, and to learn together about the land and people of Israel to make for a more meaningful, personal trip. So join me and 20 friends for a journey that will open up your mind, touch your heart, and replenish your soul!