Numerous times each week I stroll through the Michigan Room on my way to the chapel to pray or meditate. I take in the lake and acknowledge Rabbi Levy, whose portrait hangs on the wall. I’m a great admirer of Rabbi Levy, z”l. I have great respect for his legacy.
One of the contributions of Rabbi Levy’s leadership I appreciate most is his service as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and in particular, his decisive vote on the CCAR’s Columbus Platform of 1937.
There are many elements in this platform that make it so transformative, but perhaps none more important than its stance on the creation and sustenance of a modern state of Israel:
"In the rehabilitation of Palestine, the land hallowed by memories and hopes, we behold the promise of renewed life for many of our brethren. We affirm the obligation of all Jewry to aid in its upbuilding as a Jewish homeland by endeavoring to make it not only a haven of refuge for the oppressed but also a center of Jewish culture and spiritual life."
Rabbi Levy anticipated what a strong Reform presence in Israel would mean, and his vision has become prophetic. On the website for the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), I counted over 50 associated congregations and organizations. That’s amazing! Not only that, but the very first woman ordained in Israel, Rabbi Naamah Kelman-Ezrachi - whom some of us at Emanuel have met - is the grand-daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. Levy! And, there, their great-granddaughter Rabbi Leora Ezrachi-Vered is the 100th Reform rabbi ordained in Israel. Wow! What a family! What a vision!
That said, there is much work to be done to push forward Reform commitments to democracy, equality, and pluralism. The IMPJ continues to do important work in integrating Jewish tradition with the “realities of modern life” in Israel. Through study and reflection, Reform Jews in Israel have the opportunity to shape their own Jewish practice, emphasizing mitzvot, religious tolerance, equality between men and women inside and outside the synagogue.
Kol ha-kavod to the IMPJ, but there is one more step we must take today to ensure the success of Progressive and Reform Judaism in Israel. That is, we must vote in the World Zionist Congress election. There are sixteen days left to vote, and when you do vote, do so for the Reform slate. Your vote will go a long way in assuring that liberal streams of Judaism get the necessary financial support to thrive in the Jewish state as a collective force for good, just like Rabbi Levy predicted.
Am Yisrael Chai! Long live Reform and Progressive Judaism in Israel and throughout the world.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!
Rabbi Craig Marantz