‘It’s about showing up for Israel’ say rabbis

A delegation of 13 Progressive leaders have just returned from a solidarity trip to Israel


Nova festival site at Re'im, which the delegation of Progressive rabbis visited on their solidarity mission

Progressive rabbis have spoken of the importance of “showing up” for those in Israel whose lives were torn apart on October 7.

Speaking after leading a delegation of 13 Reform and Liberal rabbis on a solidarity trip to Israel, Rabbi Aaron Goldstein of the The Ark Synagogue in Northwood said: “One of the most important values that underpins our Jewish People is showing up for each other. For our group of rabbis in Israel, showing up meant bearing witness to the pogrom of October 7.

“This was not macabre tourism but about being able to relay the memories of those murdered or held hostage. Their parents, siblings, children demand that… and we honour them. To sit and listen to those directly affected enabled us as rabbis to share their message in our congregations.”

The group spent time at the sites of the October 7 terrorist attacks and met with the communities and families of those still being held hostage by Hamas, who, said Rabbi Goldstein, thanked the group for the support they had received from the UK Jewish community, including those who had “adopted” hostages as part of the Board of Deputies’ scheme.

They visited Kibbitz Nir Oz, where 20 residents were murdered and 80 were taken hostage by Hamas and saw death notices and missing posters amongst burnt-out buildings, debris and bullet holes from the attack. They also visited the memorials at the Nova Festival in Re’im, where 364 people were murdered, many more were injured and 40 were taken hostage.

Rabbi Goldstein said that “showing up” also meant supporting their colleagues, Israeli Reform rabbis, who, on some days, “officiated or attended 10 funerals, who were supporting the bereaved and traumatised, whilst themselves being traumatised and bereft and trying to be ‘normal’ for their children”.

Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu from Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue recited the memorial prayer during the trip, revised by Israeli clergy to include victims of October 7.

She said: “The magnitude of the terror inflicted on Israel on October 7 is matched only by the depth and the power of the people’s response.

“Sitting together with rabbis, teachers, human rights activists and students, all of them active in Israel; participating in tefillah - prayer that is gentle, inclusive, musical and deep - I did not expect prayer that is so powerful in this shattering moment.”

The clergy on the trip were Rabbis Aaron Goldstein, Alexandra Wright, Daniel Lichman, Danny Rich, Gershon Silins, Jordan Helfman, Lea Mühlstein, Mark Goldsmith, Nathan Godleman, Rachel Benjamin, Shulamit Ambalu, Thomas Salamon and Warren Elf.

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