April Events Update!

Please RSVP to all events!

Falafel Friday: This Friday at 6:00 pm-Israel Independence Day

Spartanburg Earth Day: Celebration at Unitarian Universalist Church, Saturday, April 21

Sunday Speaker Series: Sunday, April 22 with David Alvis:

“Michelangelo’s David and the Politics of the Chosen People”

Sisterhood Board Meeting: Sunday, April 22 at 12:00

Hadassah Meeting: Wednesday, April 25 at 11:00

Rabbi’s Brown Bag Lunch: Wednesday, April 25 at 12:00

Kabbalat Shabbat: Friday, April 27 beginning at 5:30 with refreshments.

Saturday Service: April 28 at 9:30 am

Sunday School: Sunday, April 29 beginning at 9:20 with Hebrew


Three Ways to Celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut


Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, begins April 18. This year, we’re celebrating the 70th anniversary of statehood and the vision of Zionist women like Henrietta Szold and Rose Halprin, who played powerful roles in building support for Israel and the creation of the Jewish state.

Three Ways to Celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut

  • As part of our celebration, Hadassah will host a special Yom Ha’Atzmaut Seder led by Dr. Etti Serok of the World Zionist Organization. Join us online on Facebook Live at 11:00 am (ET) — and learn about the Zionist Seder plate, Hadassah’s contributions to building and helping the State of Israel flourish, and more.
  • To commemorate this major milestone, Hadassah is asking you to share with us a word (or two) that embodies what you love most about Israel. Email us your words, and you might just see yourself on our social media. Happy Yom Ha’Atzmaut!
  • In honor of Israel’s 70th birthday, consider hosting a Zionist salon. Bring together friends, decorate with blue-and-white flags, eat some hummus, shakshuka or other Israeli foods and use author-historian Gil Troy’s The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland—Then, Now, Tomorrow — featuring excerpts from Hadassah Zionists past and present. Our customized Hadassah study guide (coming soon!) gives you everything you need to host a lively conversation and make your celebration meaningful. These salons are a great way to introduce potential members to Hadassah’s special kind of Zionism.

7 Decades of Innovation in Israel: Computers and Software Technologies

Today, Israel is known worldwide as a leader in science and the hi-tech industry. During its second decade (1958-1968), the still-young nation laid the groundwork that eventually would enable its advanced institutions and hi-tech companies to flourish, creating a global center for innovation.

No list of Israeli innovations would be complete without computer hardware and software technologies that have become ubiquitous, including cell phone chips and instant messaging apps. The corridor between Tel Aviv and Haifa has even earned the nickname “Silicon Wadi” – a mash-up of the name of California’s tech locus and the Arabic word for valley.

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa plays an outsized role in the growth of Israel’s tech industry. Founded more than a century ago, the university still was rapidly expanding and diversifying in the 1960s. This growth was especially true in the faculty of electrical engineering, one of the university’s most storied and currently its largest department.

Here’s why.

At the time, information theory, which provides much of the theoretical underpinning for how computers and the internet work, was a new discipline – just about as old as the State of Israel. Several Technion researchers, who previously had worked in Israel’s national defense research and development program, had learned about and taken an interest in the field. As a result, the electrical engineering department grew to include a top-tier computing research program that produced graduates who would go on to revolutionize communications and digital technologies.

One partnership within the electrical engineering faculty in the 1970s proved particularly historic. Yaakov Ziv, one of the Technion researchers, and Abraham Lempel, who had received a doctorate from the Technion in 1967 and later joined the faculty, developed a set of data compression algorithms known to computer scientists as Lempel-Ziv. The algorithms are the building blocks of the ubiquitous .PNG image format and .ZIP compressed file archives so widely used today.

During the 1960s, Israeli researchers also were making historic contributions in other realms of science, including fundamental physics. One researcher, Asher Peres – who received a Ph.D. in physics from the Technion in 1959 and was appointed to a professorship shortly thereafter – has a list of research achievements that reads like a “who’s who” of influential physics principles and theories. (Among them is the cool-sounding “quantum teleportation.”)

Israeli involvement in fundamental scientific research has continued to grow in the decades since. In 2012, for example, the science community’s excitement about the search for the Higgs boson particle was so infectious it spilled over into everyday media. The largest experiment conducted in human history, it involved 6,000 scientists worldwide, including numerous Israelis. Among them was Dr. Eilam Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science, who was profiled in the fourth installment of this six-part report in The New York Times.

Israel’s early investment in science and technology resulted in tremendous innovation during its earliest decades and incubated a culture that lasts to this day. Across an enormous range of projects – from computing technology and physics to environmental science and cutting- edge medicine – Israel’s research and technological advances will remain at the forefront of solving the world’s most challenging issues.

This post is the second of seven designed to inform and inspire readers about scientific and technological advances in modern Israel in each of the decades since its founding in 1948. Visit the 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy website to read the other posts as they become available.

Sci-Tech Israel, the newest program in the Union for Reform Judaism’s suite of Israel experiences, offers opportunities for Jewish teens to explore Israel through a lens of science, technology, and innovation. Visit nftyisrael.org to learn more about teen travel to Israel.

Dan Garwood is the Union for Reform Judaism’s North American Coordinator for NFTY in Israel. A member of the NFTY in Israel team since 2009, Dan has been involved bringing more than 4,000 teens to Israel on URJ Teen Travel Programs. He holds a degree in Jewish studies and philosophy from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Amy, and their cat, Archer.


How Golda Meir Helped Make the State of Israel Possible

Golda Meir


Last month at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv, our guide off-handedly mentioned that if we wanted to read a great speech, we should read the speech Golda Meir gave in Chicago. Immediately, I Googled the speech.

It was January of 1948 and the Jews in Palestine already were fighting neighboring Arabs on a regular basis. Convoys of cars going up to Jerusalem were being ambushed; skirmishes were breaking out all through the country. To help finance the fighting, David Ben-Gurion sent Golda Meir to the United States to raise funds from the American Jewish community, the strongest and wealthiest such community in the world.

Although Ben-Gurion himself wanted to go, the executive council of the provisional government voted that Meir should go instead, leaving him to do the groundwork necessary to establish the Jewish State since the British would be leaving the country in a few months. Eliezer Kaplan, the treasurer of the Jewish Agency, had made an earlier trip to raise $7 million, but had failed in his mission.

Meir was relatively unknown within the American Jewish community, but upon her arrival in New York – back in the U.S. for the first time since she had left Milwaukee years earlier to live in Israel – her sister, Clara, suggested she try to speak at the annual conference of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. The body would be meeting that weekend at the Sheraton Blackstone Hotel in Chicago.

Francis Klagsbrun, in her new book, Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, quotes Meir: “‘I was terribly afraid of going to these people who didn’t know me from Adam,’ she recalled. ‘I admit I was shaking. I had no idea what was going to happen.’”

Nonetheless, she addressed the gathering:

Friends… These young boys and girls, many in their teens, are bearing the burden of what is happening in the country with a spirit that no words can describe…. All we ask of Jews the world over, and mainly of the Jews in the United States, is to give us the possibility of going on with the struggle…. We are not a better breed; we are not the best Jews of the Jewish people. It so happened that we are there, and you are here. I am certain that if you were in Palestine and we were in the United States, you would be doing what we are doing there…. You cannot decide whether we should fight or not. We will.… That decision is taken. Nobody can change it.

After speaking, cigarette – but no notes – in hand, for 35 minutes, Meir unapologetically asked for between $25 and $30 million. She closed her speech with these words: “I beg of you – don’t be too late. Don’t be bitterly sorry three months from now for what you failed to do today. The time is now.”

The next day, according to Steve Nasatir, president of the Chicago Federation, with whom I spoke recently, JUF Chicago leaders took out a loan for $5 million and handed it directly to Meir.

Upon leaving Chicago, she visited 19 other cities across the country, returning to Israel on March 19 with $50 million, enabling Ben-Gurion to buy Jeeps, guns, planes, and ammunition in Czechoslovakia for the soldiers fighting desperately to create the Jewish state. Ben-Gurion later wrote in his diary: “Someday when history will be written it will be said that there was a Jewish woman who got the money which made the Jewish state possible.”

Indeed, less than two months after Meir returned from the U.S., several hundred people gathered in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv to hear Ben-Gurion declare the establishment of the Jewish State on Friday, May 14, 1948. Among the 37 signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence were only two women, one of whom, of course, was Golda Meir.

Thank you, Golda, and thank you, too, to the American leaders who listened to a little-known woman speak in Chicago and heeded her words. Indeed, Golda was right; I’m glad we were not too


Shine a Light: Advancing Progressive Values in Israel This Hanukkah Night 1: The Western Wall

BY CHELSEA FEUCHS , 12/13/2017

Kotel (Western Wall) at night seen from a distance

The walls surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City are lit up at night, a stunning view for locals and tourists alike. As couples sit on park benches overlooking the scene, some close for warmth and others more distant for modesty’s sake, it is easy to forget the arguments that surround this place. Past the external walls and down some winding streets sits another wall, one far more controversial.

The Western Wall, also called the Kotel, stands as one of the last remaining pieces of The Second Temple, the ancient center of Jewish ritual and communal life. Those stones have seen more history than many can imagine; the rise and fall of empires, the development of new neighborhoods, and some of the bravest soldiers who fought in the Six Day War. Since that time in 1967, Jews have had access to this holy place. In reality, though, only some Jews feel ownership over this important site.

The ultra-Orthodox political establishment exercises exclusive control over the Kotel plaza through the office of the Rabbi of the Western Wall. The holy space abutting the wall was divided into two unequal sections, the larger for men and a far smaller one for women. Women are not allowed to hold bat mitzvah ceremonies, bring in a Torah, or dress in a manner judged immodest by the ultra-Orthodox establishment. These non-egalitarian rules hurt many Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora, who feel forcibly distanced from the holiest site to the Jewish people.

There was a glimmer of hope in January 2016 when the Israeli Cabinet reached an historic agreement to expand and grant legitimacy to a new egalitarian prayer space just south of the existing plaza. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu later buckled to political pressure from extreme right-wing Haredi forces to suspend the agreement, dashing the hopes of Reform Jews and our progressive partners.

So, what are we to do now? How does our movement celebrate the Festival of Lights when many things in our world feel dark? How do we reconcile the notion of a Jewish State with a reality that excludes and marginalizes many Jews? We go back to the original meaning of the Western Wall.

When the Temple stood, it served as a meeting place for all Jews – men and women and children made the pilgrimage to celebrate and mourn as a whole community, an inextricably connected kehila (community). Before it became a place of division and derision, the Temple and its walls stood at the center of an entire people. Certainly, this very site has seen far more intense and violent fights, but our goal is to learn from the mistakes of the past rather than to repeat them. We are taught that The Temple’s destruction was due primarily to internal divisions among the Jewish people; let us work toward building and not destruction.

This Hanukkah we will shine a light by continuing to respect Orthodox custom while advocating for recognition of our equally legitimate egalitarian practices. We will learn more about Israel and share our learning with our community. We will connect to Israel with even more passion, insight, and love. From the Western Wall to the deep Negev valleys to the blooming Northern hills, our movement and the values of progressive Judaism will shine.

This Hanukkah, ARZA is working to shine a light on several challenges facing progressive Judaism in Israel. We do so with the intention to generate greater understanding, to increase the investment of Reform Jews in the Jewish State, and to center a connection to Israel in our communities. Each night for eight nights, check in with us to learn more about pressing issues and to advocate for equality, pluralism, and democracy in Israel.

Chelsea Feuchs is the communications and social media associate for ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. After studying for a year in Israel as a Dorot Fellow, she now works and lives in New York City


“Hatikvah:” One of the Greatest Anthems Ever Written


As we approach Israel at 70, it is appropriate to consider the country’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” a famous piece of music that was not officially adopted as the country’s anthem until 2004. There are other surprises connected to this piece. Most notably, the music is not original, and the words were penned, more than 130 years before they became the anthem, by a troubled poet who died in utter poverty in New York City in 1909.

The melody of “Hatikvah” comes from no one source. Samuel Cohen (1870-1940), a Zionist who emigrated to Palestine in 1888, had read Naftali Herz Imber’s poem, “Tikvatenu,” and was inspired to set the words to music. He did not compose an original melody, however, noting, as translated by the music scholar Edwin Seroussi, “In my home country [in northwest Rumania today], we used to sing in the choir the Rumanian song ‘Hâis, cea!’ (‘Right, Left!’ which was the refrain of a song entitled ‘Carul cu Boi’).”

Indeed, the melody of “Hatikvah” was inspired by Eastern European folk music. Its pattern is familiar to singers and scholars, and finds its way into many European songs and instrumental music. In sum, it is an old melody that originated somewhere in Europe and made its way to Palestine. That is the dynamic and destiny of many melodies: they travel. The music for America’s anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for example, has its origins in a British drinking song.

Although we can’t source the melody, we certainly know who wrote the words. In Zloczow, Galicia, in 1856, Imber was born into a Hasidic family. In his 20s, he found his way out of the shtetl, venturing first to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and in 1882 to Palestine. He became a well-regarded poet who, in 1886, published a collection of poems called Barkai (Morning Star). Among those poems was a nine-verse opus entitled “Tikvatenu,” two verses of which found their way into Cohen’s setting. Slightly altered, they are the verses we sing to this day.

Imber was a complicated, flawed individual who nevertheless encapsulated the dream of a Jewish homeland in an unforgettable poem. Although he claimed that he, and not Theodor Herzl, was the real father of Zionism, Imber eventually spent some years in the United States, fighting alcoholism and accusations of heresy, and was married for a year to a Protestant self-proclaimed doctor.

Imber’s lyrics are a problem for the Israeli left and the Israeli right. The left maintains Israel is also the home of Arabs, including non-Jewish Knesset members, so how can Israel require them to sing or stand for an anthem that includes the words “nefesh Yehudi” (Jewish soul)? Don’t Arabs also have souls? The first non-Jew appointed to the Israeli cabinet, Saleh Tarif, would not sing the anthem. And as recently as 2012, Salim Joubran, an Arab member of Israel’s Supreme Court, refused to join in singing “Hatikvah” at an important official occasion. The right, on the other hand, cannot understand how there can be a Jewish anthem that doesn’t mention God!

What is indisputable about “Hatikvah,” however, is its power as an anthem – its stateliness, tempo, the sure confidence of the setting (a perfect marriage of words and music), and the melody’s incredible shift from a minor key to a major key. The past, the 16 measures depicting our history, is in minor. On the words “Od lo avda tikvateinu” (Our hope is not yet lost) it leaps to the major key – a leap of faith that says: we dreamt this dream and we are going to make it come true!

Indeed, juxtaposing minor and major keys is at the heart of Jewish music and the push-pull between the major and minor scales symbolizes the push-pull of the Jewish experience itself. Think as far back as the early prayer modes, then think ahead a millennium or two to “Jerusalem of Gold.” In that sacred continuum, the relatively unknown Samuel Cohen, in a moment of musical inspiration that changed history, set Imber’s words to music, using the same incredible shift.

Artistically and politically, “Hatikvah” is one of the greatest anthems ever written in western culture, ever a beacon of hope for all who understand what it is to be denied the rights to which they are entitled as human beings. As we sing it in 2018 and forever after, let’s remember how it came to be, an improbable but wonderful story!

Cantor Marshall Portnoy and Rabbi Geri Newburge are members of the clergy team at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA.


Published: 12/04/2017