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Please join us for a series of learning opportunities led by Reconstructionist rabbis on Israel/Palestine. Guided by the values of justice and the dignity and equal worth of all human life, we seek to promote discussion of the histories and current conditions of Israel/Palestine that challenge the boundaries of current Reconstructionist approaches to Israel/Palestine and re-examine customary assumptions about the role of Israel in diaspora Jewish life. We oppose Israel’s domination of the Palestinian people in all its forms and hope to deepen our relationship with Jews and Palestinians seeking a future of justice and equality in Israel/Palestine. We welcome those who consider themselves Zionists, non-Zionists, and anti-Zionists, and those unsure about how they define themselves, even as we explore the meanings of these terms.

We are committed to conducting discussions with open hearts and minds, respectful listening, and acknowledgement of our shared commitment to the Jewish values of tzedek ve-chesed (justice and compassion) for all. To that end, we have adopted these discussion guidelines. Each one and a half hour session is free and includes lecture and discussion.

Please consider making a donation to advance these conversations and the future of this project. (When making a donation include a note: Israel/Palestine Talks) This series is co-sponsored by the following Reconstructionist congregations: Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Havurah Shalom Israel/Palestine Committee, Kadima Reconstructionist Community, Kol Tzedek, Mishkan Shalom, and Or Haneshamah. (List of congregations in formation.)

Schedule - 8:00-9:30 p.m. EST -- 7:00-8:30 p.m. CST -- 5:00-6:30 p.m. PST

  • Wednesday, January 12 - Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, “Reconstructionism Without Zionism”
  • Wednesday, January 26 - Sarah Brammer-Shlay, Solomon Hoffman, and Rachel Kipnes, "'We Find Ourselves in Tears': A Conversation About Israel/Palestine with Reconstructionist Rabbinical Students"
  • Wednesday, February 9 - Rabbi Brant Rosen, “Decolonizing Jewish Liturgy”
  • Tuesday, February 22 - Rabbi Toba Spitzer, “A New Conversation: A Land for All”
  • Wednesday, March 9 - Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, “From Preschool to Birthright: A Critique of Israel Education”
  • Wednesday, March 30 - Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, “Becoming an Abolitionist: Antiracism and Antizionism”
  • Tuesday, April 12 - Rabbi David Teutsch, “History and Challenge: Reconstructionism, Zionism, and the Two-State Solution”
  • Tuesday, April 26 - Rabbi Brian Walt, “Nakba Denial and Teshuva/Reparations”
  • Wednesday, May 11 - Open Conversation

Speaker Bios
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert is Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She was among the first women ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, where she served as Dean of Students. She is the co-author of Exploring Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach, author of Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition and Whose Torah? A Concise Guide to Progressive Judaism as well as several edited volumes and numerous articles. Her specialization is religion in America, and with a focus on sports, sexuality, and race. She has recently taught courses on religion in American public life; Jews, America and sports, and sexuality in world religions. Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball, was published by Oxford University Press in June 2011. Religion and Sports: An Introduction and Case Studies was published by Columbia University Press in May 2015. An edited anthology with Arthur Remillard, Gods, Games, and Globalization: New Perspectives on Religion and Sport, was published by Mercer University Press in November 2019.

Sarah Brammer-Shlay is in her fifth and final year of rabbinical school at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She currently serves as the Rabbinic Intern at Mishkan Shalom Synagogue and Spring Mill Pointe Senior Living Community. She is a co-founder of IfNotNow where she has done extensive work around action, training, and coaching. She also has been involved in various capacities with solidarity work in Israel-Palestine with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, as well as in other capacities.

Solomon Hoffman is a fourth year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and serves as the Rabbinic Leader of Mishkan Ha'am in Westchester. He also completed a chaplaincy residency in the Mount Sinai Health System and has worked at the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore. Solomon is a composer and musician and is passionate about creating innovative musical prayer experiences.

Rachel Kipnes is a fourth year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She is an educator with ten years of teaching experience and currently works as the Education Director at Hinenu Baltimore. She also organizes as a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and Havurah Network, and she is a movement chaplain, supporting justice movement communities to create sustainability through spiritual grounding, accompaniment, and care work.

Rabbi Brant Rosen was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1992 and served congregations in Los Angeles and Denver before moving to the Chicago area in 1998 to become rabbi of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. After wrestling with his relationship to Israel and questioning his lifelong Zionism, he became a prominent Jewish presence in the Palestine solidarity movement, co-founding the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza. In 2015 he became the founding rabbi of Tzedek Chicago, a non-Zionist congregation. Rabbi Brant's writings have appeared in many journals and publications. He is the author of a curated collection of blog posts and reader comments, Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity (updated edition, 2017). He is also a prolific poet and liturgist whose prayers and poems can be found on his blog Yedid Nefesh. In 2020 he was named a Topol Fellow in Conflict and Peace at Harvard Divinity School.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer has served Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, MA since her ordination in 1997. From 2007 to 2009 she served as President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the first LGBTQ rabbi to head any national rabbinical organization. Past president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Spitzer has been named among top rabbis in both Newsweek and The Forward. A longtime activist for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine, she has been a member of New Jewish Agenda, co-chair of the Boston rabbinic cabinet of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, associate director of the Jewish Peace Lobby, and a board member of T’ruah. In 2015 she received the Elizabeth Wyner Mark Peace Award from Americans for Peace Now. Her writings on process theology and on social justice have been published in The Reconstructionist Journal, Evolve, and in the anthology Torah Queeries.  Her book God Is Here: Reimagining the Divine will be published in March by St. Martin’s Press.

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman has served Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in Madison, WI, an affiliate of Reconstructing Judaism, since 2003. In 2021 she published “‘No Palestinian House Is Without Tears’: Disrupting American Jewish Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” in the Journal of Jewish Ethics. In 2015 she published a curriculum for children and teenagers entitled Reframing Israel: Teaching Kids to Think Critically About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. She served on the Board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association from 2008-2012 and co-chaired the Joint Campaign for the Reconstructionist Movement from 2009-2013. She has been an active member of Reconstructionist Educators of North America for almost 20 years. Now on sabbatical, she is writing a book on engaging Jewish children, teenagers, and college students to think critically about Israel/Palestine. 

Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari is the senior rabbi of Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia, PA. He is a White, queer, trans person, of Ashkenazi and Italian descent (he eats baked ziti on Rosh Hashanah!). He was ordained by the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. He has worked as a Jewish educator, Hebrew School director, and prison chaplain. Ari Lev trained at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City, teaching, preaching, and providing pastoral care for congregants of all stripes while developing programing for people 55+. Ari Lev serves on the faculty of SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva and hopes to make the wisdom of the Talmud accessible to everyone.

Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D. was the founding director of the Center for Jewish Ethics of RRC and is a widely known author and organizational consultant. His most recent book is A Guide to Jewish Practice: Shabbat and Holidays the second in a proposed three-part series from the RRC Press. The first volume of the series, A Guide to Jewish Practice: Everyday Living, won the Myra H. Kraft Memorial Award, the National Jewish Book Award for Contemporary Life and Practice. He is also the author of many other books and the editor in chief of the ground breaking seven-volume Kol Haneshamah prayer book series. He is a past president of the Academic Coalition for Jewish Bioethics and of the Society of Jewish Ethics and was a board member of the National Havurah Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Previously he served as rabbi at Ramat Shalom in Spring Valley, NY, executive director of the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot (subsequently the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation), director of special projects and vice president of the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, and president of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College from 1993 to 2002, following appointments as executive vice president and dean of admissions.

Rabbi Brian Walt was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1984. He is the founding rabbi and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia and was the founding executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America. He was a fellow of the Dorothy Cotton Institute and led a delegation of American civil rights leaders to the West Bank in 2012. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. 

 

Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782