On Monday, May 13, in between Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix, in partnership with the Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix, held an event honoring the lives lost and celebrating the promise of our future. Nearly 90 individuals congregated, embodying a collective eagerness to engage with Israel’s vibrant culture and profound history.

The evening commenced with a stirring opening ritual, led by Rabbi Jeremy Schneider, President of the Board of Rabbis, alongside local cantors and clergy. As attendees gathered, a palpable sense of reverence filled the air, setting the stage for an evening of deep reflection and communal connection.

Throughout the event, participants immersed themselves in a series of enlightening breakout sessions, each offering a unique lens into Israeli heritage and identity. In the first session, Rabbi Emily Segal illuminated the foundational principles of the Zionist movement, drawing inspiration from the wisdom of past leaders. Meanwhile, Rabbi Elana Kanter delved into the evocative power of Israeli poetry, exploring its role in articulating the Israeli experience. Rabbi Aviva Funke provided space for everyone to reflect and grieve together as tears flowed and hearts were opened. And Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz led a lively discussion about differing perspectives within the Religious Zionist movement.

Following a brief intermission, attendees reconvened for a second round of immersive sessions. Rabbi Mindie Snyder facilitated a creative exploration of personal connections to Israel through expressive arts, inviting participants to engage in introspective exercises. Simultaneously, Cantor Noa Shaashua celebrated Israeli culture through the universal language of music, leading a song session full of Israeli music. Rabbi Stephen Kahn honored the legacy of Rabbi Ellenson by examining the evolving concept of Jewish identity within the Israeli context. And Rabbi Andy Green explored the roots of Zionism within Jewish religious texts.

As the evening drew to a close, participants joined together in a poignant closing ritual, offering prayers for the well-being and enduring vitality of Israel. Departing from the event, attendees carried with them not only a deeper understanding of Israeli history and culture but also a renewed sense of connection and solidarity with the land and its people.

Such gatherings serve as poignant reminders of the enduring bonds that bind Jewish communities worldwide, underscoring the importance of continued dialogue and celebration in honoring Israel’s rich heritage. As Israel embarks on its 76th year, let us embrace the opportunity to uphold and cherish its legacy, striving towards a future defined by peace, prosperity, and shared understanding. Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel live on, resilient and thriving as ever.

Check out some of the photos from the event below.


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