I just recently returned from the Jewish Federations of North America Rabbinic Cabinet Mission to Budapest, Hungary and Israel. As the chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet I was especially excited about our trip, as I had helped to plan the agenda and set up a number of our meetings. It was important that the trip be successful as it was the first time in a number of years that the Rabbinic Cabinet traveled together on a mission such as this to visit a Jewish community in Europe and to see the work that is done by the representatives of the American Jewish community overseas, the JDC (Joint) and Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).
On a personal note, it was also especially meaningful and a sense of coming full cycle as my very first trip overseas with the Rabbinic Cabinet was in the 1980’s to Budapest when Hungary was still under communist control.
I look forward to sharing with you in upcoming weeks and months some of the powerful vignettes we witnessed and amazing stories we heard as we saw a Jewish community struggling against so many odds to preserve the precious legacy and rich traditions that is Judaism.
We were moved by everything from davening in a crowded apartment for a Shabbat morning service with a group of young people to a spirited havdalah at the newly opened Israeli cultural center with enthusiastic young Jews, many of whom had only recently discovered they were Jewish. Coupled with an amazing off-the record top level briefing with the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s senior adviser, Ron Dermer, as well as hearing the inspiring vision of Natan Sharansky, visiting the school in Beit Shemesh that was the epicenter of the clash between religious Jews and seeing the work done at a center for the disabled, the trip was filled with rich experiences. Our week-long agenda was packed – with only 1½ hours of free time in Israel. Couple all of this with the tremendous collegiality that developed among the 30 rabbis from all branches of Judaism and from across the country, and it was an amazing experience.
Also published on Medium.