The polarized discourse between different groups in the Jewish people sharpens the differences in lifestyle, beliefs, and the ability to produce a pluralistic educational discourse out of mutual guarantee.
On Shabbat Parshat B’Halotcha, 15 Rikma MA students took part in a community Shabbat. Rikma fellows are characterized by their diversity of worldviews and lifestyles across the Jewish continuum; between those who hold conservative, reform, liberal, traditional, and secular beliefs. They are Jewish educators who have come to study together and build a pluralistic discourse. The fellows work in all parts of the Jewish Education across the country: in schools, leading pre-army leadership academies, school administration, youth movements, yeshivas, and seminaries. The fellows went to celebrate Shabbat together and learn how a diverse community can produce a shared Jewish way of life.
Early Friday morning we gathered in Jerusalem and drove to the memorial site in Beitanya Illit, in the Lower Galilee, the home of the first settlement attempt of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in the 1920s. We walked together through a stunning trail with the view of the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Jordan river, accompanied by a personal and professional discourse about our lives as educators. After a short dip we drove to the shores of the Sea of Galilee for a shakshuka meal cooked by the students and gathered to meet a graduate of the program, Ron Alter, who runs the informal education department in the area. Ron shared with us a fascinating presentation on intertwining Jewish and LGTBQ identity, and his work leading the informal education system in the region.
Kabbalat Shabbat was led by the group and included traditional prayers and hymns alongside modern Hebrew poetry, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. At dinner, Anat Infeld-Goodman, the program communal facilitator, spoke about the challenges of leadership and the personal example that emerges from the character of Moshe, “the humblest of all men.” In a Hasidic-style tish that lasted into the night, we sang together and heard stories of the educational challenges and successes of the participants.
On Shabbat morning we combined prayer with a joint study of the weekly Torah portion led by Professor Michal Muscat Barkan, Director of the Department of Education and Professional Development and of the M.A. Program in Pluralistic Jewish Education, and Rabbi Professor Michael Marmur, Associate Professor of Jewish Theology. Together we analyzed the highs and lows of the Children of Israel in the desert, as reflected in the portion, and analyzed the educational opportunities facing Moses, Miriam, Yithro, and other leaders and officials.
Later on Shabbat we enjoyed a lecture on Heschel and team-building games. We toured the Kinneret Cemetery and learned about the figures who are buried there and the influence they had on the development of Zionism and the State of Israel. Among them are Moshe Hess, Berl Katzenelson, the poets Rachel and Naomi Shemer. We learned about the painful history of the contribution of Yemenite immigrants to the development of the region and the ongoing discourse on their exclusion from the Zionist narrative. The Shabbat ended with an open session on the place of Shabbat in our lives, on the challenge of creating community and freeing up time for the sake of holiness across our diverse lifestyles. We finished with a group Havdala ceremony.
The Rikma fellows led all parts of the program, the Shabbat together was an experience that reflects the Rikma program, which combines academic study and beit midrash learning aimed at creating a common communal space.
This meaningful Shabbat experience will accompany us on weekdays as well: “Go, my soul, go out my bride, every day to receive the Shabbat Queen” Amir Gilboa, Shabbat