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

Social Divisions & Politics In Israel

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Buy your tickets for our upcoming Achshav Yisrael program!

"Social Divisions & Politics In Israel" will take place on Sunday, January 28, 2018, 3 - 5 p.m., in Koret hall.

Achshav Yisrael presents Professor Michael Shalev, a visiting professor and political scientist at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. He is also Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology and Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Society in Israel is characterized by diversity, often superimposed on identity issues. How do these divisions affect ideologies, parties, and voters in the Israeli political system? Political camps are split by multiple cleavages: nationality (Arabs vs. Jews), religious beliefs, and ethnicity (based on countries of origin). As in the United States, class and gender also play important roles.

This talk will provide an overview of the Israeli political map in relation to social divisions, explain what underlies the varying political influence of different groups of Israeli citizens and residents, and discuss why this matters for elections and other political processes.

Professor Shalev’s presentation will be followed by facilitated breakout group conversations. A light Israeli appetizer buffet will be included.

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: David Agam, 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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Sheila-Baumgarten-(L)

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

Inequality & The Politics Of Inequality In Israel

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Buy your tickets for our upcoming Achshav Yisrael program!

Shalev "Inequality & The Politics Of Inequality In Israel" will take place on Sunday, February 12, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m., in Koret Hall.

Join Achshav Yisrael and and Professor Michael Shalev to consider economic inequality in Israel. Professor Shalev is a visiting professor and political scientist at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. He is also Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Sociology and Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Economic inequality in Israel is amongst the highest in the developed world, and follows national and ethnic as well as class lines. Professor Shalev will discuss these parameters and will pose two puzzles arising from the Israeli case. First, why do economic issues play such a modest role in Israeli politics, and why has there never been a unified counter-movement of the disadvantaged? Second, what drove an exceptional case – the 2011 mass protests in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis demanded a more interventionist and redistributive state? He will also review what has happened since the protests.

Professor Shalev's presentation will be followed by facilitated "break-out" group conversations. The lecture is designed to lay a foundation of knowledge for future Achshav Yisrael events on social issues in Israel.

An Israeli appetizer buffet and refreshments are included.

Parents, please note that childcare for kids one year and older will be available on-site for the cost of $5 per child. This fee can be paid on the ticket sales page. Childcare reservations must be made at least one week in advance.

Tickets are $10 per person. Sign up just below (via EventBrite).

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, and Lucia Sommers


Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged Recap

facebook_yehudasolomonduvidswirsky_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016Almost two hundred people visited the CBS campus this past Saturday evening to mark our entrance into the final days of preparation for the Yamim Noraim ("the Days of Awe"). A joint production of CBS, the Mission Minyan, and The Kitchen, Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged made for a special night (and early morning!) – deeply affecting, joyous, and fun.

The centerpiece of the night was a communal singalong featuring Yehuda Solomon and Duvid Swirsky of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav. Yehuda and Duvid were joined by prayer leaders and hazzanim from CBS, the Mission Minyan, and the Kitchen – together, they led the crowd in giving voice to Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and penitential piyyutim (liturgical poems). According to Ashkenazi tradition, the recitation of Selichot begins after midnight on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah (or the Sunday prior, if Rosh Hashanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday, as it does this year) and, although our service didn't wind down until 2 a.m., there was no shortage of energy and ruach in the CBS Sanctuary! Attendees danced, stomped, and swayed with the music and singing, awakening to the urgency of this moment and our need for teshuvah.

Speaking of teshuvah and the related seasonal demand for chesbon hanefesh (a rigorous "accounting of the soul"), Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan shared some moving words during the film panel that occurred earlier in the evening. Following a screening of Fire On The Water, a short film dealing with the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) that Rabbi Aubrey Glazer made during his days as a student filmmaker, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan spoke earnestly of his anxiety about the lack of communal sacrifice experienced by Jewish Americans in the last 50+ years. What loss has our society felt, he asked, as we wage an ongoing war in Afghanistan? Too many families lose their sons and daughters, of course, and our federal coffers are steadily drained, but the majority of Americans are insulated from the war – it remains a background abstraction, and there is little to no sense of communal commitment, contribution, or sacrifice. Even during the Vietnam era, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan argued, despite the anti-war movement and the greater public awareness of the body count (on both sides of the conflict), our culture experienced the 1960s and early 1970s as a period of economic growth and general prosperity. He contrasted this with the American experience during World War II, when all citizens were required to ration foods, fuel, and many consumer goods. We haven't experienced anything like that since the 1940s. "When will the bill come due?," he asked the audience.

Rabbi Dorothy Richman responded to Rabbi Wolf-Prusan and quoted the 20th century sage, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Some are guilty, but all are responsible." With so much racial strife, ongoing overseas wars, ugly partisanship, and reactionary politics, she said Rabbi Wolf-Prusan's anxieties about our lack of sacrifice hit her hard. Doubtless, many people in the room were similarly stirred.

This sort of earnest, challenging soul-searching is what the High Holy Days are all about. Observant Jews devote the entire Hebrew month of Elul – which began on September 4 this year – to the spiritual heavy lifting of teshuvah. And what exactly is teshuvah? Depending on which Jew you ask, you'll get different answers. Most resources translate teshuvah as "repentance," but many rabbis scorn this translation, and instead frame teshuvah (which literally translates as "return") as the work of returning to relationship with God. Given contemporary Jews' varied conceptions of deity, that's too vague a formulation for many. However you translate or characterize it, though, teshuvah is about working to develop and improve our character – and it's meant to be hard.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the need for a commitment to teshuvah becomes increasingly urgent, but it is likewise important to balance the moments of reckoning with moments of joy. Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged provided both.

Thanks to all of the panelists, performers, and prayer leaders who made the evening so moving and fun. Thanks, too, to all of the friendly folks from the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen who trekked out – in some cases, carpooling (kol hakavod!) – to the Richmond to make this memorable evening that much better. Todah rabbah, and l'shanah tovah u'metuka (for a good and sweet year)!

A selection of photographs snapped during the event are included below.

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