Dear friends of IRAC,
This week in Jerusalem, the Hebrew Union College (HUC) ordained three Israeli Reform rabbis— Rabbi Gila Caine, Rabbi Ariella Graetz Bar Tuv, and Rabbi Yeshiyahu Beloseski. The students in the Israeli rabbinical program are pioneers. They are re-defining the role of rabbi for a society that has grown up with a narrow (and often negative) idea of what rabbis do.
For people familiar with the education and standard career paths of Reform rabbis trained at HUC's three North American campuses, it might come as a surprise how different the program is for their Israeli counterparts. HUC has built a program designed to train our future leaders and provide them with the resources required to navigate the challenging path of Reform rabbis in Israel. When they enter the school they are taking a professional leap of faith. There are rarely jobs waiting for them; most of them have to create their own opportunities in order to work as rabbis. Even the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) often cannot help them because of a lack of funding.
The state of Israel currently recognizes only certain Orthodox rabbis as legitimate, and that means that only those rabbis can legally perform life cycle events that non-orthodox rabbis do regularly abroad, such as marriage and conversions. IRAC has been working to change this reality by demanding that the government give non-Orthodox congregations and liberal rabbis the same funding as their Orthodox counterparts receive.
During the ordination ceremony, Rabbi Gila Caine spoke beautifully about her vision of a rabbi. She does not see herself as an intermediary between Judaism and Jews, but rather as a road sign to help them find their own way. Our rabbis will make an impact on countless areas of Israeli society because they are truly a cross-section of the entire Israeli landscape. Some of them grew up in the movement, while others were completely secular. We have students that are immigrants from North or South America, and still others, like Gila, who grew up Orthodox and had the courage to forge their own paths.
IRAC congratulates these remarkable Israeli leaders. We are truly blessed to have these three new rabbis in our growing Israeli Reform movement. They are entering a world full of both opportunity and uncertainty. We at IRAC are committed to giving them all the support and encouragement we can, so that they flourish in their future careers in Israel.