Updated June 7, 2023
Dear TBE Community,
We are writing to inform you that we recently received word that Israeli minister Nir Barkat will no longer be in attendance at the event being held by the Israeli Consulate in our building on Thursday evening, June 8. Therefore, ARZA @ TBE will no longer be holding a demonstration outside that evening.
Due to local road closures, all Gan Elohim students must be picked up by 4:00 pm. The building will close at 4:30 pm.
We look forward to gathering as a community at Shabbat services on Friday evening.
Original post from June 6, 2023
Dear TBE Community,
On April 20, the Israeli Consulate contacted the Temple to rent our building for this coming Thursday evening in order to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. After all, we have a beautiful building, a central location, ample parking, and most importantly, we are a Temple community that loves Israel. In addition, this was not the first time we would be hosting the Israeli Consulate. We had done it many years before.
The problem is: this year is not like any year before.
As many of you know, for the past 22 weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, including members of our sister congregation in Haifa, have been protesting the current government and its plans for judicial reform. These protests have spread to America, where many concerned Israelis and American Jews have continued the protests, especially where Israeli government officials are scheduled to speak.
This week, just a few days before the scheduled event, we learned that a member of the current government, Cabinet Minister Nir Barkat, the Minister of the Economy and Industry, will be attending the event as a guest of the Consul General. As a result a protest has been called to take place outside of our Temple building.
We share this information with you to inform you of recent events. It is very unusual that we find protesters outside of our Temple building, even though a robust debate is consistent with Israel’s vibrant democracy and our Jewish tradition.
The event will take place this Thursday, June 8, from 7:00–10:00 pm. The building will be open until 5:00 pm for our regular programming. Bethel Road will then be closed to the public for the evening.
Please know that we are working closely with the Wellesley Police Department to ensure that all are safe. It is important to me that the Israel Consulate is able to celebrate Israel’s Independence, while members of the Jewish community can make their voices heard outside of the Temple building.
Personally, as long as the protest is peaceful and respectful of our neighbors, I will be outside standing alongside the protesters. I have let the Israeli consulate know. I truly believe that the current judicial reform proposal, as currently stated, is a threat to Israel’s democracy. The current reform takes too much power away from an independent judiciary, something we American Jews have learned to be an important part of the checks and balances of a healthy democratic system. An independent and strong judiciary is necessary to protect the rights of its minorities, whether it be protecting the rights of women or the LGBTQ+ community. Israel’s minorities need to be protected, including its Palestinian citizens and residents, and the members of other religions. The protection for minorities also includes us, the majority of American Jews, who identify with one of the liberal streams of Judaism.
For those interested, our ARZA committee at TBE will be joining the protest. ARZA is the Association of Reform Zionists of America. And for those who would like to be involved but are looking for other ways to make their voices heard, I invite you to attend the upcoming event—How ACRI is Fighting for Our Values in Israel—sponsored by ARZA @ TBE or make a contribution.
Rabbi Joel Sisenwine