What Does It Mean to be an Israel-Engaged Synagogue?

As the central hub in which most affiliated Jews express their sense of Jewish commitment and belonging, the synagogue is a natural place to deepen the relationship to Israel.

And so, a new endeavor began in Jerusalem yesterday as a group of American participants have come together to discuss, What does it mean to be an Israel-engaged synagogue. Their five day itinerary brings together key people, professionals and lay leaders, from throughout the Jewish community whose work and passion are committed to Jewish life and the synagogue.

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes that “The land is a text.” Their journey begins with the belief that the Land of Israel embodies Judaism, and stands as a dynamic and living Jewish text. Their seminar is built around the understanding that this Land/Text must be hugged, accessed, read, and contended with in the same way that we hug, access, read, and contend with Torah.

“They begin the journey in Jerusalem. Yet, a conscious decision was made to create distance from this holy city. Jerusalem is inspirational, illuminating and, ultimately, importable. Its holiness inspires while walking its streets, but can be paralyzing while trying to utilize its aura and incitement to envision the place of Israel in synagogues outside of its boundaries. From Jerusalem they will travel through history and geography, “from Jerusalem to the Galilee,” to the ancient land of the Mishna and to modern, suburban Israel. Thus their seminar will mainly focus on the lower northern part of the country where suburban Israel and remarkable history meet to inspire and contribute to their forthcoming journey”.


MAKOM is the Hebrew word for place. It is also a name for God. Resonating with both the earth and the heavens, it symbolizes efforts to renew the place of Israel in Jewish life. Leaders – in education, the arts and travel – are mentored to create the compelling content needed to build the field of Israel engagement for our times. MAKOM is a collaborative initiative of the Jewish Agency’s Education Department, community leadership and philanthropic partners.

…I didn’t kiss the ground
when they brought me as a little boy
to this land. But now that I’ve grown up on her,
she kisses me,
she holds me,
she clings to me with love,
with grass and thorns, with sand and stone,
with wars and with this springtime
until the final kiss.

Yehuda Amichai, “Travels of the Last Benjamin of Tudela,”
(tr. Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)

updated February 27th…

check out Can the synagogue help bridge Diaspora-Israel gap? posted today by the JTA.