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July 08, 2010 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-07-08

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Community house leaders Zarchi Shaul of Kibbutz Yifat, Micahel Ben Nahim
of Shimshit and Chen Zefoni of Niggun Ha Lev

Israeli To The Core
While loosely based on American Jewish
practice, the community houses are
uniquely Israeli. Kabbalat Shabbat at
a community house is not a passive
activity. Everyone from the young-
est children to their grandparents is
actively involved in the service. Since
the founding of Nigun Haley in 2001,
there are currently more than 50 such
communities throughout Israel; each
one reflects the nature and personality
of the members who create it.
"There is no master plan for a com-
munity house says Golan Mishali, one
of the founders of Nigun Halev."Each
community house is totally lay led; the
participants determine the content of
the prayer book, the music, the structure,
everything. Each one is as unique as the
community that creates it."
Community house services range
from fairly traditional by American
standards to those that incorporate
meditation and Tai Chi or social justice
projects reflecting the politiCal lean-
ings of a particular kibbbutz or moshay.
According to Golan, "If one community
house does not suit you, try another or
better yet, get together with like-minded
people and start your own."
Today, the community houses have
expanded from Kabbalat Shabbat ser-
vices on Friday night to serve as a center
for Jewish culture and Jewish identity
by engaging in Jewish study and experi-
ence. The community houses now cel-
ebrate and conduct holiday events and
life ceremonies, including Shabbat, Rosh
Chodesh, Jewish holidays, b'nai mitzvot
and weddings.

Confronting The Hurdles
Building secular Jewish identity in
Israel is not without its challenges. Reut
Hammer of Nahalal is a community
house leader and a rabbi ordained by
Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the late leader of
the Secular Humanistic movement and
the founding rabbi at the Birmingham
Temple in Farmington Hills.

Hammern notes, "In America, a
Reform or Conservative synagogue may
use a traditional prayer and alter the
English translation to make liberal Jews
more comfortable with the meaning. In
Israel, we do not have this option. There
is always a tension between preserving
tradition, addressing spiritual needs
and the more secular nature of the
people involved."
These issues need to be addressed,
according to Golan, because "Jewish iden-
tity is one of the most important things
facing the Jewish people."
There is no greater threat to the
Jewish people than the loss of Jewish
identity, according to Natan Sharansky.
Sharansky, the chairman JAFI,
announced the need to shift the No. 1
priority of the 89-year-old agency from
aliyah to Jewish identity. In remarks in
February, Sharansky said, "If we have to
think about the challenge we are facing,
it's how to keep all as one family."
While it is somewhat surprising to
think of a Jewish identity crisis in Israel,
the joint Michigan-Central Galilee
Steering Committee for Partnership
2000 has identified Jewish identity as
the central role of the partnership mov-
ing forward.
"As we face our Jewish identity issues
in Michigan, we have to work with other
Jews from other places and learn from
each other',' said Jeff Schlussel, co-chair-
man of Michigan's Partnership 2000.
"The community houses were developed
by Israelis based on what they learned
from our Jewish community; we need to
see what we can learn from them." ❑

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July 8 • 2010

17

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