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CJ Shorts: News in Brief about Conservative Judaism

New Training Offered for Israel Advocacy

“We’re in an information war, but it’s an information war we can win,” says Gary Acheatel, founder and president of Advocates for Israel. In response, MERCAZ, the Conservative movement’s Israel advocacy arm (www.mercazusa.org), is training a core group of advocates to mobilize their synagogue communities at special Israel training seminars. So far three seminars have been held, in Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles. MERCAZ partnered with both the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the World Zionist Organization to produce the training seminars, at which representatives from more than 50 Conservative synagogues across America participated. As participants follow up with organized activities in their home communities, the MERCAZ advocacy initiative will reach hundreds of thousands of Conservative synagogue members.

To learn more about future seminars, contact MERCAZ USA at 212-533-2061 or info@mercazusa.org.

Calling All USY Alumni

Remember USY? Regional kinnusim, swimming in the Dead Sea, late night sing-alongs with friends, spending Shabbat with a family you just met, or davening at sunrise at the Grand Canyon? This transformative Jewish program, now 60 years old, is as strong as ever, connecting thousands of young people a year to the joy and meaning of Jewish life. You can help support these programs so that all of our teenagers can have the opportunity to enjoy the USY experience. The USY Alumni Association has launched its first annual campaign, with the goal of creating new leadership development programs and scholarship opportunities for our young people. You can support the campaign in two ways. First, you can make a donation at www.usy60.org. Second, you can share this information with other USY alums. Your support will give more teens the chance to strengthen and celebrate their Jewish identity, acquire leadership skills and build lifelong friendships. Just like you did.

Cantors Assembly Takes Historic Trip to Germany

Last summer, about 200 people traveled to Germany and then on to Israel with the Cantors Assembly on a trip that evoked some of the magic and majesty of the German Jewish culture that flourished before the Holocaust. The highlight of the trip was an interfaith concert at the Berliner Dom, one of Europe’s most magnificent churches. The president of Germany was among the guests, together with members of the country’s flourishing Jewish community, who enjoyed a program of Jewish and Christian music.

A haunting service and memorial program took place at Dachau, as well as a special program in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The Germany trip is part of a long-time vision of the Cantors Assembly to take Jewish musical and religious traditions to corners of the world with interesting and especially difficult histories. “We must never forget the Holocaust and the many tragedies that have befallen our people through the centuries,” noted CA President Cantor Jack Chomsky. “But we must not lose sight of the richness of our history and culture that preceded those terrible events. We were inspired by the many Jews who have chosen to make Jewish life possible again in Germany today – and tomorrow.”

Inclusive Simchat Torah Flags from Masorti Olami

There is a 300-year history of Simchat Torah flags being used to celebrate the giving of the Torah. But as religious life in Israel has become dominated by the fervently Orthodox, it has become impossible to find flags that depict anything other than men and boys or male rabbis. Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, executive director of Masorti Olami, decided to change that with a new flag emphasizing the Masorti values of inclusion and Zionism.

The look of the flag reflects the values of our modern day kehillot as grandparents, parents and children dance together in a circle that represents the passing of our tradition from one generation to another. All are included regardless of race, gender or disability. On the right side, past generations witness the centrality of the State of Israel – from Moses to Herzl. Twenty countries where there are Masorti kehillot – in Europe, Latin America, North America, the FSU, and Africa – are represented by their flags.

Over 17,000 flags were sold in the first five weeks, 10,000 to North America and the rest to Israel and other communities around the world. The flags were shipped with a kit for educational activities using the flag as a trigger for discussions about Jewish identity, Am Yisrael and Jewish history. Flags for next year will go on sale at the beginning of 2013.

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