LIVES OF ISRAELIS
Strengthening KBY congregations makes progressive Judaism more accessible
to the vast majority of Israelis who yearn for an
alternative to the orthodox approach to Judaism.
THE JEWISH STATE
Contributing to KBY makes a positive statement to Israel about the value,
validity and authenticity of progressive Judaism by strengthening and
empowering the 50+ Reform and Conservative kehillot in Israel.
A beautiful poem:
What is a Congregation?
1/12/2004 - Original
The key idea of Kehillot B’Yahad/Congregations Together (KBY) is to
encourage individual congregants of Reform and Conservative
congregations in the United States and Canada to directly, personally
and individually support Reform and Conservative congregations (Kehillot)
in Israel. This proposal seeks to mobilize and create, at a grass roots
level, individual and institutional connections to Israeli congregations
and to provide the support systems to make these connections real,
effective and long-lasting.
This project, as designed, is practically and purposefully directed
toward supporting both the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and
the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, directly through their
We want KBY supporters to take a personal interest in the welfare of a
specific Israeli Congregation and to be educated about its affiliated
movement. In return we expect Israeli congregations to treat their
overseas supporters as an extension of their congregations and to treat
them in a warm, friendly and familial manner, rather than as impersonal
Kehillot B’Yahad / Congregations Together will be created to act as a
clearinghouse and workstation for participating individual Israeli
congregations in both the Conservative and Reform movements. The
proposed organization will handle the administrative interaction with
overseas supporters and the individual congregations. It will handle
organizational development, web site operation, overseas supporter
development, information distribution, contribution processing, fund
transfers and reporting and annual renewals.
will emphasize the connection between the individual contributor and the
individual Israeli congregation. Our target population naturally will be
the congregants of Reform and Conservative synagogues and temples in
North America. Our approach will be to develop and present our message
and ideas to the Reform/Conservative (R/C) Jewish community through the
communication and contact facilities of the Internet, the web and email.
We will be contacting and presenting KBY ideas and introducing its
program through institutional contacts, Israel committees, press
releases, synagogue leaders, temple newsletters and journals and KBY
field representatives. The KBY web site will highlight the people,
programs and congregations supported and provide a mechanism for
individuals to take action.
Why Would You Support an Israeli Congregation?
As Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of Reform
Congregations, said in the presidential sermon at the most recent
biennial, “…we know that ultimately our extended Jewish family is only
as strong as its shared religious heritage…Therefore our primary task
…is to support synagogues and to promote religious life wherever Jews
are found.” Who can question that without strong Israeli progressive
Jewish movements, our extended family is impacted? He continued, “Jewish
life cannot be sustained without Israel at its core.” The progressive
synagogues in Israel are struggling in an environment that has always
been difficult, and sometimes even hostile.
The Masorti (Conservative) Movement states: ”The State of Israel…’will
guarantee freedom of religion, language, education and culture.’ So
promised the founders of the State of Israel in the Declaration of
Independence in 1948. Yet, more than 50 years later, hundreds of
thousands of Israelis do not have access to rabbis and religious
services of their choice.” Progress has been made, but those battling on
behalf of our movements are facing an uphill struggle. We need to find
an effective way to strengthen their position in Israel and to increase
their support among the largely secular and traditional, and mostly
unaffiliated, Israeli population.
are launching Kehillot B’Yahad to materially increase support for
progressive congregations from individuals. KBY congregations represent
a collective approach to Jewish values and practice that mirrors and
makes whole a stream of Judaism that we accept as consistent with our
own modern traditions. We want to show our support for pluralistic
progressive Judaism and to make sure those institutions that represent
us in Israel have the necessary resources so that they may build a
stronger position within Israeli society. This takes time, it takes
money, and it takes commitment.
Relatively few Israelis who identify with progressive ideology actively
participate in a congregation. The reactions of “secular” Israelis to
organized religion, which most define as orthodox and antithetical to
modernity, are hardly neutral and often negative. The “There is More
Than One Way to Be a Jew” campaign, by the Reform and Conservative
movements, is directed toward this group. There must be strong, vibrant
and solid R/C communities for this type of campaign to be effective.
Strengthening KBY congregations makes progressive Judaism more
accessible to the vast majority of Israelis who do not accept an
orthodox approach to religion. Many of these congregations have been
around for years, but for Israelis they are but a few dots on the map of
a religious universe that is populated with Orthodox synagogues.
Worldwide, of course, the Reform and Conservative communities dwarf
Orthodox communities; but in Israel historic concessions to Orthodoxy
have placed our movements at the periphery. These concessions, and in
practice their application, have alienated the majority of Israelis from
organized religious practice. Even today, Reform and Conservative rabbis
cannot perform weddings recognized by the State. Reform and Conservative
synagogues in Israel are not publicly supported, whereas Orthodox
synagogues receive state funding.
progressive congregations offer a few rays of hope. However, scattered
across Israel, they have been historically under funded, restricted by
law and discriminated against in public access and support. The State of
Israel only recognizes Orthodox institutions. No one questions that
progressive Judaism has been adversely affected by an Orthodox religious
monopoly that is politically powerful and adverse to a modern approach
to religious practice. For 50 years we have overlooked the situation
because of other national concerns. It has never been the “right time”
to aid our constituent communities. As the Masorti (Conservative)
Movement declares, “And if not now…when?”
Just a few years ago, the Leo Baeck high school, regarded as one of the
best schools in Haifa, had the opportunity to start a similar high
school in Jerusalem in an existing school building that was slated to be
closed. Jerusalem municipal officials refused to turn the build over to
Leo Baeck and approve the program. This situation occurred primarily
because the operation of the school would be in the hands of the Reform
Supporting KBY congregations makes modern, pluralistic and progressive
Judaism available as an option to Israelis who have never been
effectively given the choice. It is for the individual congregations to
provide services and education and meet the needs of the communities
they serve. But for them to effectively compete for the hearts and
loyalties of Israelis, they need to be unburdened from the fear for
their own economic survival.
Reform and Conservative synagogues throughout the country number about
50, and most of these communities are very small (under 100 families).
These figures compare with 1000+ Orthodox synagogues. With the exception
of perhaps five synagogues, most R/C communities are not financially
viable without outside help. Both the Reform and Conservative movements
provide modest funding for the continuing operations of their
institutions, but even these resources are limited. Our proposal’s
principle purpose is to expand the total resource levels available to
our sister communities.
is time, and perhaps well past time, for Reform and Conservative
congregations outside of Israel to make a positive statement to Israelis
and the State of Israel about the value, validity and authenticity of
our approach to Jewish practice. Our goal is to help the existing
community institutions be stronger and present a viable alternative to
Israelis with no religious affiliation. For Jewish communities outside
of Israel to remain strong, there must exist a place for progressive
Judaism within Israel.
The people committed to Reform and Conservative synagogues in Israel are
amazing in their dedication, tireless in their efforts, and
inspirational to anyone who meets them and understands the conditions in
which they work. They are nothing less than pioneers who work with few
resources and limited support; yet they produce unbelievable results.
For their efforts to bear greater fruit, it is time for us to support
these heroes and their efforts. It is in our own best interests.
There are effective Jewish organizations that in various ways direct
resources to synagogues in Israel, but Israeli congregations are not the
primary focus for any one of these organizations. By all accounts, the
funding level presently received by congregations is inadequate to the
task at hand.
How You Can Help
Here is how to help. Participate in our “Join a Shul in Israel” program
and let KBY make the connection for you.
“Join a Shul in Israel” Program
Your participation in Kehillot B’Yahad is simple. We ask you to
contribute at one of two levels:
A gift contribution at an “KBY Member” level is US$ 360.
A gift contribution at an “KBY Friend” level is US$ 180.
We will ask you for a preference, either a Reform or a Conservative
synagogue. KBY will send your individual contribution, in full and
directly, to a specific congregation, which will then acknowledge and
recognize your gift. Of course if you are already connected to an
Israeli synagogue, you can suggest an association. Our web site supports
You may of course “join” more than one congregation, and we hope you
will. “Join” means offering your financial support, but it means more
Making a Contribution and What You Will Receive…
First, you will receive an information package about the
congregation that has received your contribution. You will also receive
contact names, phone numbers and email addresses of the congregation.
Undoubtedly, a member of the congregation will contact you via email or
As with any group or organization you support, you will receive regular
communication on the activities and programs of the congregation. All
congregations produce regular bulletins, notices and program
information, which KBY will post on our web site. You will receive email
notification that new information has been posted.
You can arrange a “virtual aliyah” to honor a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a wedding
or an important birthday. An Israeli member of “your congregation in
Israel” will stand-in for you or a member of your family to accept an
aliyah in your honor. Of course, you may accept the honor in person.
Yartzeits of your family and loved ones will be commemorated publicly at
your congregation in Israel.
Why we encourage contributors to let KBY direct their contribution
KBY wants to distribute, both fairly and equitably, contributions to
participating congregations. However, we ask you not to pick a specific
congregation, and here is why...
It is natural for those who are familiar with Israel to want to support
congregations where there is some association. Keep in mind, however,
that if you are a visitor to Israel and have attended services at a
Reform or Conservative synagogue, it was probably one in Jerusalem, Tel
Aviv or perhaps Haifa. Further, it was probably one of five out of a
total of 50 R/C congregations in Israel. Please let KBY place your
Of course, everyone has many reasons for participating in the KBY
project. You are the one to decide.
All renewal contributions will naturally go to your affiliated
synagogue, if you agree to continue your support.
How is your “Synagogue in Israel” Chosen
Here is how the distribution of new KBY contributions will work, if
a donor does not specifically direct the gift. The donor will choose the
movement and KBY will select a congregation and deliver the contributed
funds to it. In all cases, one hundred (100%) percent of any individual
contribution will go to one specific congregation.
KBY will allocate 50% of new contributors to Israeli congregations in a
ratio proportionate to the size of a congregation relative to the total
membership within each movement. The remaining 50% will be directed to
individual congregations consistent with priorities set by KBY. It may
be that one year a specific congregation is building a building and the
movement wants to direct additional funds to this effort.
When a North American congregation has 10 KBY Associates (a minyan) who
support the same Israeli congregation, KBY will define a twinning
relationship and send a written acknowledgement and certificate.
We will develop a twinning program in which North American and Israeli
congregations can create a partnership that will allow them to share
information, materials and personal experiences.
The funds required for KBY operations will be raised independently
Charitable contributions from KBY Supporters will be dedicated to its
charitable mission of supporting Israeli congregations. We expect to
raise funds to support KBY administrative and operating costs as a
Below is an estimate of the costs of the initial year’s expenses:
Initial Operating Cost Estimates
Training Seminars for Presenters
Web Site Development & Maintenance
Printing (cards, postcards, etc.)
Non-profit Development Consultant
Foundation Operating Expense in U.S. & Canada
Organization Development Tasks and Notes
Build the KBY Organization
- Seek endorsements from the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
and the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel.
- Contact and develop contacts and cooperative relations with
movement affiliates in Israel.
- An initial task will be to solicit endorsements and sponsorships
from synagogue and community leaders who support KBY. Contact and
recruit Sponsoring Congregations and Sponsoring Rabbis.
- Solicit and recruit KBY Field Representatives, people who would
make local contacts, organize and host events. This process can be
developed co-incident with the development of the email contact list.
- Contact the Israeli R/C Congregations and explain the program.
Develop Training Program for Overseas Supporter contact people within
Develop a Contact Email List
- Maintain the usual contact information and email for everyone
associated with, recruited for, contacted by or referred to KBY.
- Develop an information distribution network, with the ability to
reach specific subsets of the list: Field Representatives, Israel
committees, Rabbis, Congregational Leaders, KBY supporters, etc.
- Develop “the list” of interested Israel supporters: Rabbis,
Cantors, Educators, Synagogue Leadership, and Interested Congregants.
Use initial list to propagate an expanding list. Request interested
parties to “pass along” email addresses of other possible supports to
Create a Speakers and Presentations Center
- Create Opportunities for Presentations at R/C congregations in
North America when Israeli Rabbis, Cantors, Congregational Leaders and
selected members are traveling and have time to contribute for KBY
- Develop a PowerPoint Presentation and a Meeting Format.
- Train speakers to deliver an effective presentation and ask for
- Train Field Representative in meeting/presentation planning.
- Coordinate Travel Plans to maximize effectiveness and minimize
- Develop a catalog of Personal Stories from Congregational
Accumulate Articles and Useful Quotes.
Distribute Press Releases to Jewish newspapers, magazines and Israel
Committees. Post release on the web site.
Produce a postcard and business card sized piece that contains the web
site address and contact information for KBY.
Design a KBY pin and refrigerator magnet.
Organizational Preparation – NY and Canada
- Create Non-profit
organizations in U.S. and Canada to process the contributions and
forward the funds to Israel.
- Request from
participating Israeli Congregations the required documentation to
substantiate non-profit status in Israel and substantiate
tax-deductible nature of funds contributed with U.S. and Canadian tax
Web Site Development and
- Design Web Site, with
automated contributions processing.
- Think about Login,
with name and email for all entering site.
- Develop Graphic
Designs for Print and On-line Materials.
- Implement Web Site,
using as much material already available through the movements.
- Post each synagogue’s
monthly bulletin on the web site and email supporters the highlights
and a link to the entire bulletin.
- Summarize and
translate into English any bulletin in Hebrew.
- Links to the IMPJ and
Masorti web sites will appear on the main KBY page.
- Post descriptive
information of congregations and their programs. From each
congregational page include a link to “Join this shul” which will
process the contribution transaction.
Participating Congregations in Israel
- Direct overseas
supporters to and through KBY. Provide email and synagogue contact
lists for overseas supporters to KBY.
- Inform KBY when a
synagogue rabbi, cantor, leader or member is traveling to the U.S. or
Canada AND is available to give a presentation (formal, informal,
lecture or concert). Include the dates available and locations that
are convenient. KBY will contact field representatives in the area and
synagogues within range.
- Recognize KBY members,
regardless of which congregation they support, as important visitors
when they are in Israel.
- Develop a personal
approach to individual “overseas supporters” of the congregation.
Personal notes, individual emails, letters mailed from Israel. Send
them a candy bar to indicate the sweetness of the association. Share a
description of a synagogue program that went well, including pictures.
- Work station for
supporting Israeli congregations.
- Handle administrative
functions for participating congregations.
- Manage regular email
- Send holiday cards on
Rosh Hashanah and Pesach and Hanukkah.
Duties of Field
- Make local contacts
and discuss the idea and program with other synagogue members,
community leaders, and other interested parties.
- Help to develop our
email contact list (“the list”).
- Help place press
releases in local Jewish publications.
- Organize and host
presentations by visiting KBY rabbis, cantors and members willing to
share their experiences in Israeli congregations. These will be held
at synagogues, community centers or homes as venues are offered and
Other Ideas to Keep in Mind
- Fundraising for
administration independently of individual contributions. One hundred
percent of funds contributed go directly to the congregation in
- Plan meetings with
Israeli Synagogues to define what an “overseas supporter” needs/wants
from a congregation in Israel. How to respond to a contributor? What
you can offer to a North American congregant or congregation.
- Visitors to Israel,
who are members of Kehillot B’Yachad, who attend any participatory
synagogue in Israel, should be welcomed as members.
- Regularly send an
email to all participants concerning their travel plans to Israel, and
the travel plans of their families.
- Request short meeting
with participants on UJC and other missions to Israel.
- Keep track of Bar/Bat
Mitzvah age children and when they will celebrate their Bar/Bat
Mitzvah. Offer to have a congregation Bar/Bat Mitzvah aged child
stand-in for the celebrant and accept and Aliyah and Mishabayrach in
honor of the occasion.
- Item 6 can be done for
other important personal events. Wedding anniversaries, “big”
- Contributions made
directly to KBY for smaller amounts will be accepted through the site,
and funds will be disbursed to congregations in the aggregate defined
- Gift Contributions –
give a contribution as a gift.
- Develop a “Builders’
Program” for contributions over $1000 to building funds or building
Still to Do
The paintings above are
offered as a small reward for your working through this long document.
They and others like them can be found on the
Israeli Artist Auction site.
- Rosh Pina Landscape --
- Rishon LeZion
Landscape -- Jacob Gilder
- Kinneret Landscape --
- Tsuba Landscape --
SUPPORT A CONGREGATION IN ISRAEL
Join KBY as an Associate
Your gift supports one progressive synagogue in Israel. KBY will
connect you to a synagogue in Israel. Or express your support for a
congregation you already know. State your commitment to Israel and
progressive Judaism fully.
Support KBY as a Friend for $180.
Your contribution will permit KBY to fund progressive synagogues and
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