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.
Rabbi Tamar Kolberg
Pardess Meshutaf Street
43576 Ra'anana Israel
Kehilat Ra’anan has committed
itself to effecting social change in the spirit of Progressive Judaism
within Israeli society.
Ra’anan is an IMPJ congregation
founded 18 years ago in Israel’s Sharon plain. Several years ago
the congregation moved to it’s new exquisite home in Ra’anana, The
Samueli Center for Progressive Judaism.
Thanks to the
indefatigable leadership of Rabbi Tamar Kolberg, the congregation is
making an impact on the overwhelming secular community of Ra’anana way
beyond the number of people on its membership list. The ratio is
impressive: for every one of the 80 member families of Kehilat Ra’anan,
five non-member families receive a service or have some sort of need
met as part of the congregation’s Outreach program. 5:1 is quite a
hefty ratio for a congregation that is still in the “developing”
A very special Shabbat at Kehilat
Ra'anan - January 28th 2006, or
about the multi colored strands of modern Judaism
The greatest impact
perhaps, in terms of numbers, is the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Last
year, ninety teenagers and their parents were exposed for the first
time, for most, to an introduction to Judaism, in a 12-lesson course
deemed an inseparable part of the ceremony for ideological-theological
reasons by the congregation. These secular, upper-middle class
families, initially drawn by the attractiveness of the Samueli Center
for Progressive Judaism as a venue for the event, go away with, as one
parent put it, “a sea of knowledge crammed into a limited period of
time”. And if we’re talking about first-time exposure to a
Progressive Judaism, figure in the 50-or-so guests at each Bar/Bat
Mitzvah, and the numbers are mind-boggling.
The greatest impact, however, in political and social-action terms,
is the Kehilat Ra’anan’s olim (new immigrant) program that reached
out this year to approximately 170 adults and 40 children, all new
immigrants. Walk into the Samueli Center on any given afternoon, and
you’re likely to hear Russian being spoken by members of the
conversion class, teenagers babbling away in Spanish or adults
breaking their teeth trying to read the newspaper in heavily-accented
Hebrew. The adult Spanish-speakers come for supplementary Hebrew
classes, vital for integrating into the Israeli workforce, as well as
for a unique support group, called Al HaGesher, which has proven to be
a true bridge to a new life.
Plans for next year include projects for twinning congregant families
with olim and integrating the newcomers into Kehilat Ra’anan’s ongoing
congregational life. Also in the planning is a follow up for the
graduates of Al HaGesher to meet their ongoing social integration and
emotional support needs. Thirty kids met with ten youth leaders
trained by the synagogue’s olim director, Ruth Brumiger, for weekly
meetings of the only youth group for South Americans that has taken
off in town; the congregation also funded camp fees for 10 of these
youngsters. The congregation’s work with olim has received
unprecedented recognition from Ra’anana’s municipal Director of Olim
Two nursery schools (gans) catering to 45 toddlers and their parents
operate in the Samueli Center under the name Gan Renanim. The families
are attracted by the high-quality premises and a curriculum that
integrates Progressive Jewish values and customs so lacking in other
educational formats. Parents register their kids with the
understanding, and desire, that they get this special programming
which includes: a strong emphasis on "experiential Judaism” with equal
participation by boys and girls alike in kiddush, lighting candles and
prayer services; close involvement of the Rabbi in the curriculum and
in educating the staff in teaching Jewish subjects (from a Progressive
perspective); and visits by gan kids to the synagogue and
participation in holiday celebrations in the synagogue. The parents
themselves are encouraged to come for after-hours programming, as part
of a School-Shul program designed to impart the values of Progressive
Judaism and involve them in the congregation. The gan programming is
unique in Ra'anana in that this programming is by our choice and
fulfills our goals as a Progressive congregation to positively affect
Israeli society according to our beliefs.
One final Outreach project deals with local schools. This year,
three completely secular schools in Ra’anana requested to conduct
their annual Bnei Mitzvah ceremony at the Samueli Center with Rabbi
Kolberg. That translates into 120 kids from each school, plus
their teachers and their parents stepping foot into a Progressive shul
for the first time in their lives. Another school, privately run by
parents seeking a quality education for their children, will be
cooperating with the congregation and the Rabbi on integrating Judaism
into their curriculum. The latest project is being set up with the
secular high school located across the street. Thirty high-schoolers,
with their parents and teachers will participate in a national pilot
program sponsored by Rabbis for Human Rights that aims to make Israeli
youth aware of “Civil Rights, Man B’Tselem Elohim and Tikun Olam.
Being new in the neighborhood, means having to answer many questions.
People who drop in to see what we are all about or families who avail
themselves of our extensive Bar / Bat Mitzvah program or any of our
other activities are curious to know what we stand for. They ask about
our congregational life as well as our affiliation with the Israeli
Reform Movement They want to understand what it means to belong to our
Kehila and what there may be for them to be interested in.
It takes a lot of courage to create the societal framework that
reflects your vision of Jewish life in modern Israel. Our congregation
is doing just that: step by step it is forming patterns of communal
life as well as frameworks for individual spiritual growth.
We have adopted and adapted the three pillars upon which the Jewish
world stands and upon which we see our Kehila being built:
the pillar of study and learning (Torah);
the pillar of spirituality (Avoda);
the pillar of social action and care for others (Gemilut
We will concentrate our efforts on each of these
areas – both within our community as well as in ever increasing
circles, through outreach programs.
There is a challenge out there which we perceive
and wish to meet:
To live as
Jews connected to the reservoirs of strength which are hidden in our
heritage yet to draw upon these from the point of view of present
understanding, of present values and dilemmas.
To provide the missing link
between both the individual and the family unit on the one hand, and
society at large on the other hand. A community is able to provide
the source of strength needed to deal with the tasks of living:
raising children, facing life cycle events and points of transition,
mourning loss and celebrating the joy of living.
The agenda of today as well as the concern for the
future point us to the need for a stronger and richer continuity with
the past. The unique and very traditional Jewish blend of memory
and of vision that links one generation to another is the path we
travel as we face each new day.
Congregational Bulletin (not available)
Shabbat and Holiday
Evenings: 5:30 PM
Shabbat and Holiday Mornings: 9:00 AM
Rabbi Tamar Kolberg
Every child dreams about what they want to be
when they grow up. I no longer remember these dreams of yesterday,
but I do not think I ever dreamed of saying "Hello, I am Rabbi Tamar"!
The memories I have of my youth belong to those early years of the State
of Israel, when there was little to be had yet so much to be proud of.
In my hometown, Hadera, every orange grove and eucalyptus tree told a
tale of survival, courage and belief of founding families in love with
the land and the nascent Jewish state.
My parents came to Hadera with a group of Zionist friends –
adventuresome dreamers, raised and educated in America. Thus, I was born
in 1951 to an English speaking home, rich in western culture and steeped
with love for this country, but also staunch in its belief in the
My parents soon felt that the school system was not doing enough to
secure a strong Jewish identity for their daughters. Their concern for
their offspring, as well as for their own spiritual needs, encouraged
them to seek a deeper connection with Judaism. We joined a
fledgling reform congregation in Kfar Shmaryahu, led by Rabbi Moshe
Zemer. A few years later we joined the new reform congregation in
Netanya to which my parents still belong.
Going to pray and study became a cherished way of life. I soon
discovered amongst my parents’ books volumes written by Martin Buber,
Abraham Heschel, and Will Herberg, along side books by A.D. Gordon and
My quest for my roots and tradition led me to enroll in the Department
of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University and later at Tel Aviv University
where I completed my Master’s degree.
During these years I married Lou who was raised in a modern yet
traditional and Zionist Jewish home. We faced the challenge of building
a home that would reflect our joint values – our love of being Jewish
and our love of Israel.
Our three children all attended the Tali school system known for its
enriched program of Jewish studies.
Professionally, I have worked in teacher training since 1980. At a
crossroads in 1990, I made a decision to become a Rabbi. Machon
Schechter (the Rabbinical school of the Conservative movement) offered a
program of study that appealed to me because it combined a yeshiva style
learning with intellectually challenging academic study and professional
training. I was ordained in 1997.
In July 2001, I was asked to be the congregational Rabbi of Kehilat
I now find myself standing at the threshold of an open gate – beyond
which lie both curiosity and many questions, but most of all the vast
openness of the future.