Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a pluralistic study session at his Residence on Thursday, July 19, 2018. The theme of the session was Lamentations. This marks the fourth year in a row that President Rivlin has hosted a pluralistic Tisha B'Av study session.
Rabbi Talia Avnon-Benveniste '08, Director of the Israeli Rabbinical Program at HUC-JIR's Taube Family Campus in Jerusalem, represented HUC-JIR and the Reform Movement at the President's Residence. Rabbi Avnon-Benveniste gave a beautiful talk about the poetry of loss and the mourning of Israeli poet Haim Gouri, who passed away on January 31, 2018. Gouri received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem Ordination and Academic Convocation on November 18, 2016.
“We pray that our deeds and our names will not appear in the book of Lamentations," said Rabbi Avnon-Benveniste. "That we will all be able to see beyond our people’s horizons. Further than the possibilities of today. Far into the future. To be the almonds in the trees and not the spiny branches. To ensure that our country is worthy of the life of the Jewish people.”
Rabbi Avnon-Benveniste was among four individuals leading Jewish studies institutions and programs, including Orthodox Rabbi Ya'akov Medan, Professor of Bible at Hebrew University; Professor Nili Vesana, Head of Bible Studies at Hebrew University; and Conservative Rabbi Dubi Hayoun, Rabbi of Congregation Moria, a Masorti synagogue in Haifa. Rabbi Hayoun was taken by police for an investigation the morning of the study session for performing non-Orthodox weddings. President Rivlin, Natan Sharansky, and Isaac Herzog, all of whom were present at the study session, expressed their dismay and concern regarding the investigation.
Rabbi Dalia Marx, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Liturgy and Midrash, represented the Reform Movement at President Rivlin's study session in 2016 and Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, represented the Reform Movement at the 2017 study session.