Rabbi Conover’s Trip to Israel

Temple Sholom’s Associate Rabbi, Rabbi Shoshanah Conover, just returned from a two-week trip to Israel as part of her role as a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Read about the amazing experience she and her family had and its impact on 2019-20 Temple Sholom programming.
“A person is recognized by their conversaion.”
–Chaim Nachman Bialik
The way that the Jewish people once trekked to Jerusalem three times a year, I go to the “City of Gold” annually. However, while our ancient ancestors went to sacrifce in the Temple for the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals), I go to Jerusalem to learn at the Shalom Hartman Institute where I am a Senior Rabbinic Fellow. Every year, along with
over one hundred other rabbis, I study for ten days with some of Israel’s greatest scholars. The learning always revolves around a theme and we study Torah, Talmud, poetry, philosophical and mystical texts on that topic. This year’s theme was entitled: Between Loyalty and Imagination: Nationalism and Tribalism in a Global Era. The content was as provocative as the title. From Herzl and Ahad Ha-Am to contemporary Palestinian poets and identity politics, we grappled with some of the biggest issues animating the landscape of the Jewish people both in Israel and in the United States. However, one of the most meaningful moments happened to me not in the hallowed halls of the Institute in Jerusalem, but on a car ride with my family as we headed to Eilat for a scuba diving adventure. As we drove out of Jerusalem, we began to see the security barrier that was initially erected during the Second Intafada. Our eleven-year-old son Eli began asking questions which opened a long discussion about Israelis and Palestinians, government structures throughout the Middle East, and the history of Zionism. This was not an easy conversation and that is what made it beautiful and memorable. There was not a question that he asked that we considered o6-limits. And our answers were unvarnished, complex, and infused with our love for the State and the people of Israel—even as our concern for the Palestinian people shone through each response. We hope that Eli and our nine-year-old son Ben will continue to discuss, connect with, and love the State of Israel their entire lives. We pray that they will have many opportunities to learn varied perspectives on Israel from people of diverse backgrounds. We believe that this will strengthen their bonds to the very fabric of our people in the tapestry of humanity.
This coming year at Temple Sholom, we plan to bring this kind of education on Israel to our community. We will engage in a series of “reside chats with Rabbi Jeremy Pappas of AIPAC, Sam Berkman of J Street, Ariella Radda who will speak about her experiences as an Ethiopian Israeli, and Moran Birman who will talk about how his obsession with food has brought him face to face with the complexities of Israel. We will introduce recommended listening to some of the most thought-provoking episodes of Israeli podcasts. Rabbi Josh Weinberg who serves as the Vice President of the URJ for Israel and Reform Zionism, will educate and inspire us from our bimah. At every turn, we will convey an openness to di6erent viewpoints of our congregants and the opportunity for nuanced and civil conversations.  And, of course, some of us will travel together to Israel hiking, rafting, eating, and praying our way through the country. All these experiences will be in service of strengthening our community as we explore and nurture our relationship with Israel.
Looking forward to our continued conversations,
Rabbi Conover