Rabbi Lyon’s Blog – 02_17_2017

Rabbi Lyon’s Blog – 02_17_2017

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, rabbi, attorney, and Executive Director of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism, is coming to Houston this weekend. The reason for his visit marks the beginning of a movement in Houston, to advocate for the goals of the IMPJ. The IMPJ aims “to strengthen the connection of our People and its loyalty to Jewish heritage, and to reform the State of Israel according to the principles of the individual and social morality of Judaism” (www.reform.org.il/eng/). An arm of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the IMPJ serves the goals of Reform Judaism in Israel.

In the news we hear mostly about Israel’s political and geographic enemies. But, there are also threats to Israel’s well-being deep within Israeli society. Socio-economic issues challenge Reform Jewish values on fair-housing, pay equality, and job security. Religious issues challenge Reform expectations for the right of Reform rabbis to officiate at marriages and conversions. And, civil rights issues challenge Reform Judaism’s commitments to tolerance and fairness across ethnic and religious boundaries.

Unchallenged laws and restrictions will undo the hope that the Land can still be a homeland for all Jews and its non-Jewish citizens. Unfortunately, the ultra-orthodox lay claim to religious authority even though large numbers (www.hiddush.org) demonstrate that their grip on Jewish law is not in the best interest of Israel’s future. Young Israelis leave Israel to marry before they return, if at all. Converts to Judaism are challenged by ultra-orthodox authorities and are often labeled non-Jewish. Socio-economic distress forces Israelis to leave Israel, for better opportunities, and those who wish to make Aliyah, to move to Israel, question the way of life they will know there.

Israel is the Jewish homeland. No longer a driven people, Israel is home to Jews and non-Jews. Failures in civil, social, religious and economic rights shouldn’t be the price they pay for living in Israel. The ultra-orthodox monopoly has overreached its boundaries in Israel, a modern, democratic nation where 90% of the population claims to be anything but ultra-orthodox.

IMPJ has done great work on behalf of progressive Judaism in Israel. To us, they’re unsung heroes, but it’s time to bring them out of the wings and the shadows. It’s time for us to learn about IMPJ from Rabbi Gilad Kariv and his staff. I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Rabbi Kariv in Israel, in preparation for his visit to Houston. This is the beginning of what I believe will be a long-standing partnership between us and our progressive Jewish friends in Israel. The modern, relevant, and progressive Jewish life we love in America, even when we agree to disagree, is not the same for non-orthodox Jews living in Israel.

Rabbi Kariv will tell us where we’re succeeding and what challenges to our collective efforts still remain. Advocacy for Israel and Progressive Judaism is consistent with Congregation Beth Israel’s Israel advocacy work. Please join me this weekend, February 17th-19th, at Congregation Beth Israel, where Rabbi Kariv will spend a full weekend with us.


Friday, February 17th at 6:30pm, Shabbat Services in the Gordon Chapel

Saturday, February 18th, at 9:45am, Torah Study in the Finger Board Room

Saturday, February 18th, 5:30pm, Concluding Program and Havdallah in the Lewis President’s Room

*Sunday, February 19th, Yom Limmud, a Community day of learning hosted this year by Congregation Emanu El. Rabbi Kariv will be a featured speaker. (*note the location)


The Torah and its teachings were given to us so that we may live by them, not die by them. A person’s soul flourishes when it’s given roots and wings. Roots are planted in the foundations of Jewish culture and heritage; wings are the ways the Jewish people continues to be a “light to the nations,” for us and for others, in this time and place.