Rabbi Nir Barkan '07
Congregation YOZMA, Mod'in, Israel
What is your mission as the rabbi of your congregation in Israel?
As senior rabbi of Kehillat YOZMA, the Reform community in Modi’in, I view my mission – indeed, my privilege – as guiding my community forward in its continued growth and development. I am working to realize the vision of providing all-inclusive ritual, cultural and educational services from “womb to tomb” (extending from early childcare through older adults), with support for all life-cycle events.
How does your work strengthen the Jewish community in Israel?
We understand that unfortunately the general Israeli public does not feel that they have a home in Judaism. We feel that it is important to help them see that they do. At YOZMA, we have worked tirelessly since our founding 25 years ago to offer a modern, relevant alternative to Israel’s all-or-nothing approach to Judaism. We offer local Israelis the opportunity to be a part of our vibrant pluralistic and egalitarian Jewish community and to connect with their Jewish heritage in whatever ways they choose. Through engagement and outreach, we are succeeding. After 25 years, YOZMA is a well-respected and influential organization in Modi’in and has become a vibrant center for Progressive Jewish life in Modi’in and the surrounding area – touching the lives of some 1,000 families weekly.
How did your education at HUC-JIR prepare you for your career?
HUC-JIR opened my horizons, deepened my Jewish knowledge, aroused my interests, gave me guidance and consistent teaching, and taught me where and how to wonder, search, and seek for answers.
What impact are you having in advancing Jewish identity, education, and engagement?
YOZMA now includes a thriving synagogue, an early childhood center with some 150 children in six classrooms, a YOZMA Elementary School with some 325 students in grades 1-6 and Bet Arbel (an independent-living housing option for young adults with special needs). Our Noar TELEM youth group is the largest branch in the Reform movement in Israel. We offer bar/bat mitzvah workshops as well as adult education Batei Midrash study groups. We place great importance on social action and social justice. Hundreds volunteer in our flagship programs which include the adoption of the Bet Eden group home for developmentally-challenged children and our YOZMAN tutoring program. We offer support groups for single families and bereaved families and a community refrigerator and pantry.
Describe HUC in one word: Greenhouse or in Hebrew, חממה.