Dear Friends,


In my pre-Pesach (Passover) email, I wrote: “The miracle of the 20th century was that two homes of the Jewish people, America and Israel, emerged to become the largest safe havens for our people in history.”


It is beyond remarkable that we have experienced wanderings and persecution over two millennia but in the past decades have known rootedness and freedom in Israel and America. 


This week draws our focus to Israel. It is sobering to write about a moment that should feel like unadulterated celebration: 75 years of Israel’s independence!


Yet most of us are more circumspect.


On the cusp of this milestone anniversary, half of the Jewish population worldwide-the 6.8 million who live in Israel-face existential threats with democracy on the line and hostile Iranian proxies on two borders. This is a historic moment for the Jewish people.


We can be inspired by the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets for the past fifteen weeks to stand up for the values we support in Israel, as stated in our Mount Zion vision of “pluralism, justice, and democracy.” I had the opportunity, along with many on a recent Mount Zion trip, to stand in protest in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well.


These Israelis need our support. More than ever. This is a time to engage, re-engage, and double-down in our efforts to preserve democracy, justice, and pluralism in Israel. Who knows what will emerge in the months ahead?


And by Israelis, I want to be clear that this includes Muslims, Christians, Druze, and many others along with Jews. All need our support including Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians who live in Gaza and in the West Bank as well. Our fates are inextricably linked. Our Jewish values demand opening our eyes and hearts to narratives that may challenge our own. The status quo, fifty-six years after the Six-Day war, I believe is unjust and unsustainable.


Along with Rabbi Adler, Cantor Strauss-Klein, and Cantor Spilker, I am a proud liberal Zionist. We believe with full heart that Israel as a nation-state was and continues to be a necessary way to protect am Yisrael - the Jewish people - in a world that has never fully protected us. And this exists in Eretz Yisrael, the land of our ancestry, the place where Judaism began and where some of our people never left. The vision for Israel is encapsulated in its Declaration of Independence which stipulates that Israel would be an exemplar of a nation that protects its minority citizens in a vibrant democracy. This vision is now at risk. Thankfully, progressive Judaism is growing in Israel. While still a minority, our friends and sister-congregations state clearly, “In the name of Judaism, we defend democracy.”


We have a role as well. As Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Vice-President of the Union for Reform Judaism writes:


  • We, as North American Reform Jews and Zionists, also have a critical role to play in ensuring a bright and vibrant future for Israel as a democratic and pluralistic nation, rooted in the values of freedom (cherut), justice (tzedek), and peace (shalom) as envisaged by the Prophets of Israel and as expressed in the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.

  • We also must continue to elevate Israel and Reform Zionism throughout the Reform movement in North America, fostering dialogue, working for justice and equality, and combatting racism and religious extremism.


As Israel celebrates 75 years this coming week, here are some things we can do:

WRITE: Send your own message to Israel on the 75th Anniversary through the Reform Movement.

SING: Watch this video of HaTikvah, Israel's National Anthem, including our own Mount Zion congregants.

OBSERVE, Monday, April 24: Attend a St. Paul wide service for Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) including our clergy and teens at Temple of Aaron.

OBSERVE, Monday, April 24: Attend a Joint Palestinian Israeli Memorial Day Ceremony Online.

CELEBRATE, Sunday, April 30: Attend a community-wide celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) at the Mall of America.

With prayer, memory, celebration, and action,


Shabbat shalom,


Adam Stock Spilker, Rabbi