SPECIAL TO THE LEDGER
Photos by Bert Krasner
PIONEER VALLEY – On Nov. 4 and 5, Rabbi Donniel Hartman from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel delivered three insightful, energizing, and provocative lectures to the Pioneer Valley at a Scholar-in- Residence Weekend honoring the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts’ 90th Anniversary. The community was invited to enjoy programming featuring Hartman at Temple Beth El and Sinai Temple in Springfield, and the Jewish Community of Amherst in Amherst.
Susan Weiss Firestone one of the event’s organizers, stated that “Having Rabbi Hartman here this weekend was a wonderful opportunity to bring community together to hear and learn from one of the foremost Jewish thought leaders in the area of pluralism,” Firestone said. “Rabbi Hartman is the master of nuanced conversation of difficult topics from which we can all learn.”
Rabbi Hartman said his overriding challenge to North American Jewry is to learn how to listen to each other about Israel, to welcome dialogue and discourse, and that by engaging in conversation a future for Israel with engaged diaspora Jewry can be promoted.
One of Rabbi Hartman’s lectures was titled, “The Zionist of Being and the Zionist of Doing,” which hypothesized that the Jewish community has evolved and needs to make sure the “Doing” – such as Tikkun Olam initiatives – remain connected to the Jewish peoplehood and Israel’s relevancy.
In essence Rabbi Hartman said that Jews of the diaspora must be invested in Israel being a light to other nations. At the same time, Jews must also recognize that Israel is a sovereign democracy. Israel exists in “the most dangerous neighborhood in the world” and cannot be forced “to commit suicide for peace.”
Remarkably, Israel was recently rated by Sustainable Development Solutions Network and The Earth Institute at Columbia University, as the 11th happiest country in the world. Rabbi Hartman’s message was that, as a “Start Up Nation” with the fifth most powerful military in the world, it cannot also claim to be a pathetic nation to engender sympathy from abroad. Thus, North American Jews must learn to share Israel’s triumphs as well as challenges and work hard to keep Israel at the forefront of Jewish pride and vitality.
“Our 90th Anniversary weekend with Donniel Hartman is a stellar example of our community’s achievement of providing a forum to look at the challenging issues of our contemporary Jewish world,” said Suze Goldman, president of the Jewish Federation. “My hope is that it will serve as a springboard for further dialogue and community partnerships.”
More than 400 people attended the various speaking events over the course of the weekend. Ann Berezin, who chaired the event, said, “The weekend well surpassed our expectations in attendance and enthusiasm for the speaker and his message.”
The weekend was well summed up by committee member, Sue Kline, who said, “The community is buzzing, and Federation has accomplished a wonderful anniversary celebration. The weekend with Rabbi Hartman was fabulous. He was intellectual, spiritual, incredibly knowledgeable – and charming to boot.”