Shavuot and Jewish Geography
ISRAEL IS A JEWISH NATION MADE UP OF JEWS FROM OVER 70 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES

By Rabbi Paul Kerbel
SPECIAL FOR THE AJT

Whether I am sitting on a bus, in the Mahane Yehudah shuk or walking along the street, it is fun to hear the languages, see the dress and costumes, and observe the customs of Israel’s citizens.

While not quite reflecting the diversity of Israeli society, the Shavuot dinner I attended reflected the ingathering of exiles and the love of Israel by Jews around the world and the connections we have with each other.

I was invited to dinner at the home of Jeremy and Clare Bandler.  While I was in college, my parents moved to Silver Spring, Maryland and lived on the same street as Jeremy’s parents and is the same age as my sister who was in First grade when I started my second year of college.

Jeremy and Clare made Aliyah last year. Clare is from Great Britain and is a Jewish educator. Jeremy worked for Hillel International and now works with Yossi Abramowitz who was named one of the Jerusalem Post’s 50 most influential Jews in the world.  Yossi and Jeremy are involved  in bringing solar energy to Israel and exporting their products around the world including Africa and even our own State of Georgia.  Jeremy knows my brother and came up to me a few weeks ago at services at Shira Hadasha to introduce himself.  We bumped into each other in the bus and he invited me to dinner on Shavuot.

At dinner were the following people: a young woman from the US who made Aliyah and worked for my school, JTS, until last week.  Another young woman, a Sabra, who works for Israel Experience, one of the major tour providers for Birthright and USY Pilgrimage.  A reform rabbi from London and his Hungarian partner.  They live six months in Tuscany where he writes and his partner is an architect and live half the year in London where he is a free-lance rabbi more comfortable in  Consevative settings.  A woman who is a writer, editor and translator and used to edit The Jerusalem Report.  Finally,  a friend of Clare’s from England, who has rabbinical ordination but works in business and finance and lives in West Orange, N.J. He was in Israel for a bar mitzvah, a wedding and Shavuot. (Wasn’t that a movie?)

I did not know any of these people, except Jeremy, until Tuesday night.  At eleven o’clock the dinner broke up so that we could all go to a Tikkun Leil Shavuot.  But no one wanted to leave.

We each had so many things in common and so many connections and mutual acquaintances that we could have continued for hours.  It was a great start to Shavuot.

By the end of the one-day holiday here, I would attend several study sessions, daven at The Conservative Center where I would bump into Rabbi Lewis’s good friend, Rabbi Arnie Resnicoff, Attend lectures at The Hartman Institute onWednesday afternoon where I would bump into the husband of one of my closest friends from college and meet Bernard and Noah Levine at a free jazz concert.  Each of these could be a story in and of themselves.

What brought us all together were the multiple connections of our Jewish worlds and because of that dinner, I now know eight more Jews that I did not know before.  I felt that I made some new acquaintances and friends. Each of them is contributing either to Israel or Jewish life in the diaspora in a meaningful way.  I will never forget that dinner or what turned out to be a very meaningful Shavuot experience.