Monday, July 5, 2010


One of the issues in this week's double parasha concerns the decision of two and a half tribes of Israel to live outside the borders of Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel.  The relationship between those Jews who choose to live inside and those who choose to live outside has been a complicated one.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the newly-created country of Israel believed that once Israel became independent all the Jews from all over the world would enthusiastically come to live there.  That has not happened, although there certainly has been significant aliyah over the past 62 years.

In fact, the Jewish Agency, originally focused almost exclusively on encouraging aliyah, as you can read at this section of their website has recently refocused its energy, as you can read here, toward building Jewish identity and peoplehood among the Jews of the world.

  • Is the decision the two and a half tribes made to live outside the borders of Israel a problem for those who settled inside?  Why or why not?
  • How does living outside Israel affect Jewish identity?
  • How does living inside Israel affect Jewish identity?
  • Is Jewish identity the same as Israeli identity?
  • What is your answer when people ask your identity?
  • How is your answer important?
  • In today's world, would you rather be known as "Jewish" or "Israeli"?  Explain your answer.
  • What would you expect to hear if you asked an Israeli Jew about his/her identity?
  • What if you asked an Israeli Arab?  Would you hear the same thing?  Different?  Why?
  • Why do you think the Jewish Agency has changed its mission?  You can read the entire strategic plan here or read an article about it that highlights its main points here
Finally, I challenge you to think about what Jewish identity means in the world today - in your world, in the world of your children, your parents, your teachers, your students, your particular Jewish community, in the Jewish community as a whole.  
My friends know I believe that in today's world Every Jew is a Jew By Choice, since identity - at least in a free society such as we have in the United States - is largely self-defined.  What are we doing to encourage the Jews we know to identify as such in our world?

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