"My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...." How appropriate that this week's Torah portion is Lech L'cha, where we read of G-d's commandment to Abram to "Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing" (Genesis 12: 1-2).
I left last night for Israel with two other Greater Hartford professionals and three lay leaders to attend the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly, which will convene in Tel Aviv. At this historic gathering, Jews from North America and Israel will spend time together and share our thoughts, observations, mutual concerns and accomplishments. The theme of this year's conference is "Israel and the Diaspora: We need to talk!" We share a heritage and a future, but we don't always see things the same way.
Much has changed since Abram went forth to establish a great nation in the Land of Israel. One thing that has never changed is our pride in maintaining our legacy as a nation that will be a blessing to the world. Such a legacy carries with it a tremendous responsibility. Being worthy of a great name and a divine blessing demands the highest level of civility, respect, tolerance and cooperation among all parties. This is why we are going to Israel.
Many issues have emerged in recent years that demand honest conversation between Israel and the rest of world Jewry. This year's General Assembly hopes to bridge the gap that has been growing these past years. There was a time when little separated us, though we were geographically far apart. But today, issues of religious pluralism and internal, regional and global politics have created a distance that only honest conversation, active listening and a willingness to consider alternative approaches can transcend.
There is no gap, however, in our unwavering commitment to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, Israel's right to defend itself against all forms of aggression, and a shared dream of peace in our lifetime.
Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv.
President and CEO