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September 20, 2012 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-09-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Dear Esther,

Many secular Israelis enjoy biking on Yom Kippur.

Options Broadening

On Yom Kippur, secular Israelis pray
with modern songs, ride bikes, study.

Ben Sales

JTA

Tel Aviv

W

ith its lively beaches,
all-night clubs and res-
taurants serving ham and
shrimp, Tel Aviv is a city known more
for its Speedos than its spirituality.
And while the Orthodox may spend
Yom Kippur praying in synagogues,
secular Jews are more likely to spend
the Day of Atonement watching videos
and biking through the city's empty
streets.
Options are opening up across the
city and the country for non-Orthodox
Jews seeking a meaningful way to
observe the holiest day on the Jewish
calendar.
Secular Israelis who attend syna-
gogue usually go for Kol Nidre on Yom
Kippur eve or Neilah, the holiday's
closing service. But the services are
rarely meaningful to Jews who hardly
ever enter a synagogue during the rest
of the year, says Eran Baruch, head of
Bina, a secular Tel Aviv yeshivah.
"Most young people usually don't
feel connected, don't know how to
pray," he said. "They usually have some
alienation to what's going on."
Bina has been countering that
alienation since its 1996 founding by
crafting a Judaism with prayers, texts
and values that secular Jews can appre-
ciate. On Yom Kippur eve this year,
the yeshivah will host study sessions,
discussions and a rooftop service that
Baruch says will attract 400 people.
The service will feature some clas-
sic selections from the prayer book,
such as the Kol Nidre prayer. But the
service-cum-study-session also will
include recent texts, such as poems
by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai or
American Jewish musician Leonard
Cohen's song "Who by Fire:' which is
inspired by U'netaneh Tokef, a High
Holidays prayer that describes the
process and consequences of divine
judgment.

The service also will include an
opportunity for personal confession;
Bina will hold confessional services the
following day and night focusing on
community and nation.
Yom Kippur lacks an element of
national heroism central to such holi-
days as Chanukah and Purim, which
many secular Israelis observe. But
while Bina does not ask its students to
fast or perform any particular rituals,
Baruch says the ideas of self-improve-
ment and forgiveness should resonate
with everyone.
"There are many traditional texts
that ask very deep questions — Job,
Jonah and Ecclesiastes," he said. In its
study sessions, Bina's students also
will read Abraham Joshua Heschel
and the diary of Hannah Senesh, a
Jewish paratrooper killed by allies of
the Nazis.
The Jerusalem-based organization
Elul also aims to engage nonreligious
Jews in Yom Kippur by fostering dia-
logues and discussions between secu-
lar and religious Israelis. Like Bina,
Elul will hold study sessions mixing
traditional and religious texts leading
up to the holiday, although it will be
closed on Yom Kippur itself.
Roni Yavin, Elul's executive director,
says that most secular Israelis observe
the holiday, although their Yom Kippur
may not include prayer or ritual.
"They will celebrate Yom Kippur by
reading books, by meeting friends, by
having a study session:' she said. "It's a
meaningful day for study, for thinking
about identity, for thinking about what
happened this year, what I want for
next year!'
Yavin says that since 1973, the day
also has become an opportunity for
Israelis to commemorate the Yom
Kippur War.
The most popular Tel Aviv-area Yom
Kippur activity remains bicycling. Tel
Aviv bans private vehicles from the
road on the holiday, meaning that the
city's streets and even its highways fill
with cyclists. ❑

Thank you for all of our wonderful
years that we have spent together.
You have always been a loving
wife and dear friend.
Together we have raised
3 beautiful children and
have been fortunate to
watch our 4 loving
grandchildren become
such wonderful, young
adults. Hope we make
another 55 years
together.

Love,
Sam

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JI11

September 20 • 2012

55

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