Social Divisions & Politics In Israel Recap

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On Sunday, January 28, the Achshav Yisrael committee of Beth Sholom presented Social Divisions & Politics In Israel with Professor Michael Shalev, a visiting professor and political scientist at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies.

Professor Shalev explained that society in Israel is characterized by diversity, often superimposed on identity issues. How do these social divisions affect ideologies, parties, and voters in the Israeli political system? Shalev first described the various social groups he was talking about, including Haredim and members of the National Religious groups, North African or Arab Mizrachi Jews, African asylum seekers, people seeking work (i.e. foreign workers), Americans, Palestinian Arabs, Jewish settlers, Modern Orthodox Jews, and immigrants from the former Soviet Union (i.e. Russian speakers). He then detailed how these different social groups tend to divide themselves into specific parties and how important coalitions are in lining up political votes.

Shalev pointed out that Israelis vote for the party, not for a particular candidate. No party has ever won over 50% of the national vote. Coalitions are therefore critical, and sometimes small parties can be important players as they are needed to form a majority in a coalition. The President of Israel helps designate a party and encourages the formation of a coalition. As an interesting aside, Shalev noted that, unlike the United States, Israel does not allow Israeli citizens living abroad to vote unless they are diplomats.

Historically, the Mapai or Labor Party has been dominant in Israel. Labor primarily consists of Ashkenazi middle and upper class Jews. In recent years, Shalev explained, Labor has lost ground, and deepening ideological divisions among voters have led to the rise of some new parties as well as a general political shift to the Right.

Below, we've included some snapshots of attendees chatting with one another and Professor Shalev.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: David Agam, Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson

Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat Is Back!

Facebook_FusionFridayKabbalatShabbatCBS is proud to announce the return of Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat service that provides its many participants with a transformative experience that is as moving as it is joyful.

Led by Rabbi Aubrey Glazer, the Shir Hashirim EnsembleHazzan Richard Kaplan, violinist Lila Sklar, and Sheldon Brown (on clarinet, flute, saxophone, and bass clarinet) – will provide participants with an exquisite Friday night service featuring Jewish sacred music from around the world and drawn from Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and Mizrahi traditions. Each Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat will incorporate contemplative prayer, mantra-like tunes, a Jewish/Turkish/Sufi zikr, klezmer and jazz accents, and beautiful Zoharic teachings and meditations by our own Rabbi Glazer. The prayer leaders, music, spirit, and ideas of the Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat series make the vital passage between the rest of the week and Shabbat the extraordinary experience that it should be! Shabbat is a gift. We hope you will celebrate it with us!

Let's sing together on Friday, March 16! The Fusion Friday service is free.

Communities of Inclusion Recap

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On Saturday, October 21, the Achshav Yisrael committee of Beth Sholom presented Communities of Inclusion: Middle Eastern Jews in Israel's Modern Era with Tamar Zaken!

Tamar gave an overview of the Middle Eastern countries from where Arabic Jews, many refugees from persecution, emigrated to Israel and the kind of reception they received there. She talked about their systematic stigmatization in Israel, where Jews of European origin considered them "primitive," uneducated, uncivilized, lacking roots in Judaism, and a burden on Israeli society. The families were sent to the lowest kind of housing in the desert, and the children were often separated from their families so they could learn Hebrew and Israeli customs. They were almost exclusively channeled into vocational tracks in school. Over generations, the value of the Mizrachi culture has emerged and melded with Ashkenazi culture, beginning with music and food.

Tamar brought extremely expressive poetry from three Mizrachi poets and the group reflected on how their meaning reflected their feelings in their new homeland. She talked about the impact on the Mizrahi émigrés, their anger over their treatment, and how the new generations have integrated into the culture. The presentation was striking and engaging, and the audience discussed the challenges and impact of integrating thousands of émigrés from differing Middle Eastern Arabic homelands into modern Israel. One comment also noted the struggle to refocus the language of the Ashkenazi Jews away from Yiddish and onto Hebrew.

As part of the program, Achshav Yisrael also welcomed guest Maya Shemtov from the group JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa). Maya informed the group about resources to educate Americans about recapturing the heritage of Sephardic/Mizrachi spiritual traditions.

Beth Sholom and Achshav Yisrael will be hosting another event on Saturday, November 11. Join us for Jewish State or State of the Jews: The Role of the Conservative/Masorti Movement in the Israeli Religious & Cultural Leadership of the State featuring Yizhar Hess. Click here to learn more and to purchase tickets.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: David Agam, Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson

Communities Of Inclusion

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Buy your tickets for our upcoming Achshav Yisrael program!

"Communities Of Inclusion: Middle Eastern Jews In Israel's Modern Era" will take place on Saturday, October 21, 1 - 3 p.m., in the Sanctuary. The program will follow a community kiddush lunch (12 – 1 p.m.), which all program attendees are invited to.

Half of Israel’s Jewish population are immigrants from or the descendants of those who came to Israel from the surrounding Middle Eastern countries or North Africa. They brought with them their unique and beautiful cultural and religious heritage.

Join Achshav Yisrael for a special interactive program about the story of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish Israelis. We will be guided by wonderful Israeli educator Tamar Zaken. Questions and conversation to follow.

Tamar Zaken has spent over a decade directing Jewish Service Learning programs at Memizrach Shemesh, the Center for Jewish Social Leadership based in Jerusalem. She graduated from the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and received a Master’s in Social Work from Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in New York. Tamar is an educator, organizer, and community worker. When she is not teaching or mentoring students, she spends time translating Sephardic rabbinic texts to expose English-speaking audiences to their inspiring message of inclusion and justice.

Adults advance registration: $15
17 & under (or still in high school): FREE
Advance registration required for all ages (below or call 415.221.8736).


Those wanting to attend who can not afford the standard admission fee due to financial hardship should contact the CBS office in advance to work out an exceptional fee.

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, and Maureen Samson

Learning About Israeli Economics & Poverty

Prof.-Eran-KaplanThis past Sunday afternoon, February 12, the Achshav Yisrael committee of CBS presented its ninth program, "Inequality & The Politics Of Inequality In Israel."

Just below, Achshav Yisrael committee member Eileen Auerbach provides a report and shares some photographs taken during the event.

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Our speaker, Professor Michael Shalev, is a political scientist, an emeritus professor in the Departments of Sociology and Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and also a visiting professor at UC Berkeley's Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. Professor Shalev discussed the history of stratified benefits in Israel, which date prior to the creation of the state, and also highlighted factors which currently contribute to poverty in Israel.

In all cases, the lowest economic group consists of Mizrachi Jews and Arab citizens of Israel. The demonstrations of 2011, headlined as "The People Demand Social Justice," emphasized a significant drop in economic status of the middle class, younger generation. Most Israelis think it is the government's role to intervene in economic issues, but the government has cut benefits since the 2000s and pursued policies that have contributed to rising affluence at the top of the economic scale (e.g., benefits for the Israeli high tech industry). By 2011, many young, middle class adults could not afford a place to live and the price of food had been steadily escalating. Although the younger generation is currently accommodating themselves to a lifestyle less affluent than that of their parents, the issue has not provoked a continuing social outcry.

Professor Shalev is continuing to analyze the effect of politics and market forces on inequality in Israeli society.

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Check out some photos from the program below.

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ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ovid Jacob, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, Lucia Sommers

Announcing Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat!

Facebook_FusionFridayKabbalatShabbatBeginning in 2014, the CBS community has gathered on the third Friday of each month to welcome Shabbat with uplifting song. This spirited 3rd Friday Musical Kabbalat Shabbat service has grown in popularity over the past two years, providing its many participants with a transformative experience that is as moving as it is joyful.

This year, CBS is proud to announce Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, an exciting new iteration of our 3rd Friday series!

Led by Rabbi Aubrey Glazer, the Shir Hashirim EnsembleHazzan Richard Kaplan, violinist Lila Sklar, and Sheldon Brown (on clarinet, flute, saxophone, and bass clarinet) – will provide participants with an exquisite Friday night service featuring Jewish sacred music from around the world and drawn from Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and Mizrahi traditions. Each Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat will incorporate contemplative prayer, a Jewish/Turkish/Sufi zikr, klezmer and jazz accents, and beautiful Zoharic teachings and meditations by our own Rabbi Glazer. The prayer leaders, music, spirit, and ideas of the Fusion Friday Kabbalat Shabbat series make the vital passage between the rest of the week and Shabbat the extraordinary experience that it should be! Shabbat is a gift. We hope you will celebrate it with us!

Let's sing together on Friday, May 19! The Fusion Friday service is free, but pre-registration is required – please take a quick minute to sign up below.