Today is 06/14/2021 -

Congregation Beth Israel

A spiritual oasis for the Jewish community

6 Dundee Park
Andover, MA 01810

(978) 474-0540

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The Leadership’s Corner


Welcome to June and the official start of summer! On behalf of the Board, we truly hope you have a healthy and happy summer, and get to enjoy all the things you weren’t able to partake in last summer.

There are a few exciting changes I would like to quickly note before I delve into my discussion of the month.

As the MA State Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, and more and more people are being vaccinated, you will see that CBI will be updating our restrictions, as well. With the hope of being able to remove most restrictions down the road, you will see us making gradual changes to what has become our norm for the past year. For example, the sanctuary space has been changed, once again, to get us closer to being back in the pews. Also, we will now be allowing people up to the Bimah as in pre-Covid-19 times and will no longer require masks for those who have demonstrated they are fully vaccinated. We plan on continuing to offer Zoom as an option for those who wish to take advantage of it and, to that end, we have had some consultants looking into how to best utilize the space to allow for this in a more safe and unobtrusive way. Look for more information on this from our “Back to Shul Task Force” committee chair in the coming months.

Our Annual Meeting is coming up at the end of June. Two important things will be discussed at that meeting. One is to provide an update on the results of the Member survey calls we had in April and May. Up to this point, between members of the Board and the attendees, we got feedback from almost half of our membership. There are several key themes that came from those conversations.

The other item on the agenda is to introduce the Annual Fund concept which is the last step in our Strategic Plan. As most of you know, we have been operating with an annual budget deficit for the past 10 plus years and as discussed in past annual meetings, that trend cannot continue forever. The last step in the Strategic Plan is to come up with a repeatable annual process to work towards significantly reducing, and eventually eliminating, the annual deficit. The great news is that we are forecasted to have the lowest deficit we have had in many years and will see if we can bring it to zero with all of your help. However, we need to make that repeatable. We are exploring replacing our annual Sustaining Dues concept with that of an Annual Fund Campaign. Instead of having voluntary dues and then many campaigns and various fundraisers along the way, we hope to replace that model with a very flexible annual commitment, building upon your total financial contributions to CBI over past years. We are exploring all of our options.

Now, for the topic I wanted to talk about this month. With the recent unrest in Israel and an article on Henrietta Szold I just read in Hadassah magazine, I was reminded of a Passover Seder theme I use about every 4 years, entitled “The Formation of Israel.” It is a combination of articles and stories I have acquired over the years about some of Israel’s founding fathers and mothers. I hope you enjoy.

Many people think that Israel came about as part of a solution to some of the issues at the end of World War II. Of course, it officially became a nation in 1948, but the formation of Israel started way before the war and even way before the Balfour Declaration which was a public pledge by Britain in 1917 declaring its aim to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. The following people, most of whom never got to witness the formal formation of the State, were pioneers who laid the groundwork and without whom Israel may never have become a reality.

Leon Pinsker was a doctor and founder of the Hibbat Zion Movement. He inherited his strong sense of Jewish identity from his father and, with the outbreak of anti-Jewish riots throughout Russia in 1881, he made a thorough study of Jews and Judaism. In 1882 he anonymously published a rallying cry to Russian Jews in his German language pamphlet, “Autoemancipation”, urging his fellow Jewish people to strive for independence. He died in 1891 in Russia and never lived to see what became of the process he started, although his remains were reburied near Mt Scopus in 1934.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was born in Lithuania in 1858. He was deeply influenced by the European concept of national fulfillment and believed it should be applied to the Jews. At the time, Hebrew was virtually only a written language and not a spoken tongue, and he believed that needed to change. In 1878, he left Russia for Paris to study medicine for three years on his way to Palestine, arriving in 1881. When his first son was born in 1882, he and his wife decided to raise him as the “first all-Hebrew speaking child in modern history.” Ben-Yehuda’s work included the publication of Hebrew newspapers and textbooks and he petitioned to get Hebrew taught in the school system. He completed four volumes of the modern Hebrew dictionary before his death. The remaining 13 volumes were completed by other scholars and became the basis for the revived language. In a 1916 census, 40% of the population spoke Hebrew as their fist language. He died in Jerusalem in 1922. 30,000 people attended the funeral and three days of official morning took place. Obviously, a few streets and landmarks have been named after him, as well.

Aharon David Gordon was born in Russia in 1856. After working a “white collar’ job for 23 years, at the age of 48 he moved to Palestine and passed up an office job instead to work the land (Orange groves). He believed the physical effort on the land would bring about the redemption of the Jewish people. He wrote that if the people did not take to the land, “The land will not be ours and we shall not be the people of the land.” He also wrote a famous essay where he stated “A living people always possess a great majority to whom labor is its second nature. Not so among us. We despise labor…There is only one path that can lead to our renaissance…the path of manual labor, of mobilizing all our national energies, of absolute and sacrificial devotion to our ideal and our tasks…Our people can be rejuvenated only if each one of us recreates himself through labor and a life close to nature.” He became the inspiration for a generation of Labor Zionists and youth movements which became instrumental in the survival of the Jewish people over the following decades. He died in 1922.

Arthur Ruppin was known as the “father of Zionist settlement” and “the father of Jewish sociology.” He was born in Germany in 1876 and went on to study law and economics. In 1907, he was sent by the Jewish Agency to Eretz Yisrael to assess the possibilities of creating settlements there. He was responsible for acquiring land and establishing Jewish settlements all over the country in both urban and rural communities. In 1926, he joined the faculty of Hebrew University and assisted in settling the mass of German and Yemenite immigrants prior to his death in 1943.

Rachel Bluwstein was a Hebrew language poet who immigrated to Palestine in 1909. She is known by her first name “Rachel”. Her writing was attributed to inspiring many people to immigrate to the land she focused on in her poetry.

Vladimir Jabotinsky was a Zionist activist, soldier, orator, writer and poet who founded the World War I Jewish Legion. Born in Odessa in 1880, he greatly influenced a large section of the Jewish people and was head of the Betar movement, inspiring thousands of Jewish youth throughout Eastern Europe. After working hard to liberate Palestine from Ottoman rule, through his petitions and followers, the first Battalion was established in England in 1917. This was followed by an American Battalion and one in Palestine in 1918. These 3 became the “First Judean Regiment” and they wore the menorah as its insignia. He became a Lieutenant in the British Battalion and was decorated for being the first to cross the Jordan. The refusal of the Zionist Congress in 1931 to accept his proposal to define the aim of Zionism as “the establishment of the Jewish State” induced him to start the New Zionist Organization in 1935. He went around Europe discussing with governments the way to solve their Jewish minority problem and a controversial plan to move 1.5M East European Jews to Palestine. After the Arab riots of 1936, he supported the underground defense, “the Haganah” and violent retaliation against the Arab population. He died in 1940 and his remains were moved to Mt. Herzl in 1965.

The much more famous Theodor Herzl was born in Budapest in 1860. While at the University of Vienna, he first encountered anti-semitism that would shape his life and those of Jews for years to come. He published Der Judensaat (The Jewish State) in 1896, arguing the essence of the Jewish problem was not individual but national. He proposed a program for collecting funds from Jews around the world to work towards the creation of a Jewish state and eventually became the first president of The World Zionist Organization.” He died in 1904 and his remains were moved to Mt. Herzl in 1949.

Henrietta Szold (1860-1945), a Zionist, philanthropist, and creator of the Hadassah women’s movement, was one of the most important Jewish leaders in the 20th century. She is the only American in the group, born in Baltimore. She was a scholar and well versed in French, German, botany and mathematics. She won permission to study at the male-only Jewish Theological Seminary on the condition that she didn’t pursue rabbinic ordination. To her, Zionism was “an ideal that can be embraced by all, no matter what their attitude may be to the other Jewish questions.” She travelled back and forth to Palestine and fell in love with the land but was appalled by the conditions of the people. She presented her ideas to an all-woman study group and on February 24, 1912, 38 women constituted what would later be called Hadassah at its first convention where she was elected President. She reached out to friends and travelled the country to spread her message and establish new chapters. She also worked at the Jewish Publication Society from 1893 to 1915 and became the defacto editor-in-chief and edited the “American Jewish Year Book” for 10 years which allowed her to get her message out about anti-semitism in Europe. With the help of the Hadassah organization and the money it raised, she established the infrastructure for medical health in Palestine, creating hospitals and clinics throughout the country. She worked tirelessly to make the Jewish experience a better one at the expense of her own personal needs. On her deathbed, she remarked, “I lived a rich life, but not a happy life.”

The only one of the foundation leaders to witness the formation of the State of Israel was David Ben-Gurion who lived from 1886-1973 and was the first defense minister and prime minister of Israel. He was born in Russian Poland and was a leader of a Zionist youth group at age 14. After the Balfour Declaration in 1917, he worked with Jabotinsky in the formation of the Jewish Battalions to liberate Palestine. He led the united worker’s movement to prepare the state for mass immigration and worked on all levels to promote workers’ conditions and the concept of unemployment provisions. In 1937, he accepted a proposal to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, but it was later abandoned. In 1939 he was involved with the negotiations of what became the formation of Britain’s anti-Zionist policy (the “White Paper”) which placed restrictions on Aliyah and Jewish rights acquiring land. He actively led resistance against the “White Paper” and organized financial support, the acquisition of arms, recruiting of military thinkers to form the Israeli Army. His opinions were decisive factors in determining the Israeli borders, including the Negev in October 1948, the Sinai retreat in January 1949, and the occupation of Eilat, March 1949. He formed a coalition government and in 1949 declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. In 1951, he launched the first Israel Bond drive.

As we think about the battles that are taking place between Israelis (Jews and Arabs) and between Israelis and nonIsraelis, and hope for peace throughout the region, remember that the formation of Israel was not just the result of a quick solution to solve the Jewish problem at the end of the war. It was actually the culmination of a lot of hard work and labor for almost

For the Board, Jonathan Brody