RRC Faculty Arrives in Israel for Study Tour to Enhance Rabbinic Education

Members of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College faculty have arrived in Israel to take part in a study tour, the first such excursion since the horrors of Oct. 7, 2023, and the devastating war that has followed. This trip is an expression of the college’s commitment to Israel education as a core component of RRC’s rabbinical school curriculum and reflects a belief that effective Israel education is grounded in experience, knowledge, and relationships.

“We began planning this visit many months ago, because we felt moved to show up to express love, to console the bereaved, and to offer support to colleagues in academia, the liberal rabbinate, and movements for democracy and human rights” said Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph. D., interim vice president for academic affairs. “At the time, we did not imagine that the war would still be going on. It makes the trip feel even more important.”

Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D.
Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D.
interim vice president for academic affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Images of all the hostages line the corridor for arrivals at the Tel Aviv airport in Israel.

After landing in Israel, the first photo Wasserman captured was of the hostage posters lining the airport walkway. “The Israel we are visiting is profoundly different from the Israel we know from past visits,” she said, “we want to learn about how war has changed daily life, culture and politics for Israelis and Palestinians so that our educational program accurately reflects today’s realities.”

The trip includes three days of intensive learning at the college’s program partner in Tel Aviv, BINA, The Jewish Movement for Social Change. BINA runs the immersive summer study program that is the centerpiece of RRC’s Israel study requirement. Developed to address the distinctive needs and interests of students training for the Reconstructionist rabbinate, BINA’s program offers RRC students a direct personal encounter with the society and culture of the modern state of Israel, helping to equip them to lead North American Jewish communities in discussions about the significance of Israel in contemporary Jewish life and about the challenges facing the societies of Israel and Palestine. As an organization dedicated to Jewish learning and social activism, BINA is deeply aligned with the values of the Reconstructionist movement.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College students, participate in a summer program with BINA. Here, they're pictured in Jerusalem outside the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College students, participate in a summer program with BINA. Here, they're pictured in Jerusalem outside the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Faculty will experience some of the highlights of what students learn,” said Wasserman.

The goal is to better integrate the immersive program into the learning that happens at RRC prior to and after students’ time in Israel, ensuring that RRC’s Israel education fosters critical and independent thinking, values-based decision making and is grounded in Jewish text and a Reconstructionist approach.

Reconstructionist rabbis who live in Israel have also been invited to join the RRC faculty during their time at BINA. The study tour will include visiting members of Re’im, a secular kibbutz in the south of Israel, who have been relocated to temporary housing in Tel Aviv. This session will focus on community building in times of crisis.  times of crisis.  

Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D., holding a sign that says in Hebrew, "Agreement saves lives" from the organization Standing Together. Other signs at the Jerusalem march on Saturday night were for the return of the hostages, and end to the war and new elections.
Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D., holding a sign that says in Hebrew, "Agreement saves lives" from the organization Standing Together. Other signs at the Jerusalem march on Saturday night were for the return of the hostages, and end to the war and new elections.

The RRC delegation will also join BINA staff and faulty for a prayer circle and visit to a plaza in Tel Aviv that has been renamed Hostages Square; and a session with BINA’s program directors on “Leading the Leaders in Times of Crisis.” Additional learning will include meeting with the CEO of ACRI, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, to learn about human rights violations in the occupied territories.

On the latter part of the trip, faculty will travel with other North American based rabbis to hear from Israelis and Palestinians directly impacted by October 7 and the subsequent war. This part of the itinerary, led by J Street and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, will include meetings with Jewish and Palestinian peace leaders and change makers on the ground and policy briefings on the “Day After” and the role of American clergy.

We will have a chance to reflect and deliberate with fellow members of the Progressive Israel Network about what these times require of Jewish leaders in the United States,” said Wasserman.

...ensuring that RRC’s Israel education fosters critical and independent thinking, values-based decision making and is grounded in Jewish text and a Reconstructionist approach.

“We aim to connect with and learn from many people,” said Wasserman, who is leading the group that includes faculty members Rabbi William Plevan, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of contemporary thought, Rabbi Alex Weissman, director of community life and mekhinah, and Joel Hecker, Ph.D., professor of Jewish mysticism. Joining them will be Rabbi Vivie Mayer, an emerita member of the faculty who now lives in Israel and teaches RRC students remotely. Rabbi Micah Weiss, associate director for thriving communities and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, will also join to share learning with Reconstructionist Congregations.  

Lastly, Cyd Weissman, vice president of engagement and innovation, will join to capture insights from the study tour and the stories of Reconstructionist rabbis and Ritualwell and Evolve contributors living in Israel. To learn along with the RRC faculty look for future articles below and follow on Instagram and Facebook for photos.

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